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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A little Side-Dish

Jerusalem Artichoke. This plant used to grow in several different places down in Deep Fork bottoms. The best places to find it were the swampy places up between the Allen's and Mrs. Mann's or down around Horseshoe Lake. I actually grew up just calling them Pig Weed for the simple reason that wild pigs seemed to really like them. I didn't find out the real name for them until years later. There were several plants that fell in the pig weed group and all for the same reason. For some odd reason I went through a stage when I thought that any plant a pig liked must be OK to eat. I'm not sure where I came up with that idea but I did find out the hard way that it wasn't true.

Back to the chokes. The leaves, even the young ones, have a really better taste and I never really found any way you could use them for food but the roots aren't too bad. You can fix them kind of like cat tail roots by boiling them and using them as a make-believe mashed tater. They're really just a thick root and don't look a thing like taters and they're kind of stringy even once you get them mashed but they do have kind of a nutty flavor and work pretty good as a side dish for fish, squirrel or rabbit.

Depending on the size of the roots and how many you're feeding gather as many as you think you might need. Since they tend to grow in muddy ground cleaning them can be a pain. Cut the plant off right at the top of the root and wash them as best you can with cold water, Next, drop them into a pot of boiling water and stir them around for three or four minutes. You're not cooking them yet, just getting the rest of the dirt off. After you fish them back out and dump the water you can clean them while you re-heat another pot of water. I found the easiest way to clean them is to just scrape the hide off with the edge of your knife while they're still warm. Once you get them clean you can chop them into pieces a couple of inches long and drop them back in the pot.

Since the only way I've every cooked them was over an open fire I'm not sure how long you boil them. I just kept poking them with my knife until the felt pretty soft then drain the water off and mash them. After the first couple of times I started adding salt and pepper after I mashed them and I found that if I added a few chopped, wild onions ti improved the flavor quite a bit.

Now, I'm not going to lie to ya, they are not taters and no matter what you add to them it ain't gonna make em taste like it, but they are filling and it's better than just eating a chunk of meat. As far as side-dishes go, I'd rate them as "good as most and better than some"


                                                     
                                                         Jerusalem Artichoke