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On our travels this summer I’ve been surprised to see that wintry favourite, Jerusalem artichoke, on a number of menus where seasonality is usually observed. Perhaps chefs are somehow confusing them with the splendid globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) the handsome architectural member of the thistle family that is a cultivated form of the cardoon, and in season now.
For years I’ve been banging on about the shortage of good Irish-made non-alcoholic drinks - and, specifically, a quality commercially produced elderflower cordial that would be available all year round like the imported ones.
Although there are other edible members of the ancient radish family, Raphanus sativus - which includes white radish (daikon or mooli, used widely in Japan) and black radish - it is the jaunty little red globe that’s in season now that we all know and love, and that we are most likely to see on sale or harvest from our gardens this month.
One of the new the season's first crops, spring cabbage was a favourite vegetable before the days of all-year everything as it was such a welcome change after the heavy winter vegetables.
Also know colloquially as ‘ramsons’, this attractive bulbous perennial (Allium ursmum) is a member of the onion/garlic family that grows prolifically in woodland and along hedgerows in spring, often carpeting the ground and reaching a height of about 50cm/20in high.
No, we’re not suggesting that you should be eating seed potatoes, but it’s the ideal time to plant them (see Michael Kelly’s GIY column) and it’s worth thinking carefully about the best variety before you put the work in. You might consider a heritage variety, for example, as some of them are not only particularly well suited to the Irish climate, but also have natural blight resistance.
Cultivated since ancient times, the best-known citrus fruits are the oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes and tangerines. Citrus plants hybridise easily and kumquats are among the many related fruits. The trees and shrubby plants are sensitive to cold but can be grown here fairly successfully in tubs if they are given protection in winter.
Under rated for decades, root vegetables - broadly categorised as plants with edible underground parts, but most often referring to those with tap roots and tuberous roots such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes - have been the mainstay of traditional northern European diets for many centuries.
As much a part of our Christmas as the turkey or the plum pudding, cranberries are borne on evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines (subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium). A major commercial crop imported from North America, they thrive in acidic bogs and the sharply flavoured red berries have antioxidant qualities which have led recently to their reputation as a ‘superfruit’.
Closely related to the carrot, this creamy coloured root (Pastinaca sativa) has been used as a vegetable since antiquity and was cultivated by the Romans. Like carrots, parsnips are valued for their natural sweetness and they are a good source of antioxidants and dietary fibre, and also high in vitamins and minerals, notably potassium.