It’s funny, and nice, how certain aromas can transport you to other times and places. With school starting up again, I can smell road dust mixed with fresh mowed hay about to land on my brand new leather loafers.
There is a different smell in the air in the early fall, hard to describe. Think garden bounty, tons of tomatoes, corn and more. Roadside bounty is staghorn sumac, chickory, wild grapes, goldenrod, groundnuts, so much more…and my favorite, Jerusalem artichokes. These are all early fall scents, later on we will get the scent of fallen leaves and pumpkins. We can’t do it anymore, but years ago everyone burned their leaves and the air was filled with this delightful aroma.
Harvest is a busy time because there is so much to deal with so quickly, so much to pick and preserve. Luckily there are many ways to preserve what we have grown or bought in bulk—pickling, canning, freezing, and don’t forget, drying.
A wonderful, wild fall salad contains scrubbed, not peeled, Jerusalem artichokes. In Indian country, we call them “sunchokes.” They are not only delicious, but are of the sunflower family, and come with a pretty yellow flower so you can easily identify them in the wild. But don’t dig or pull for them then, wait until the flowers die back to give the tuber more time in the ground.
Wild Wonderful Fall Salad
2 cups sunchokes, cooked, chilled and diced
1 cup wild onion (ramps or scallions), minced
½ cup wild carrot root, cleaned and grated
1 cup firm apple, cut in small pieces
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly with a fruity dressing. I use raspberry vinaigrette or a little orange juice concentrate and a light vegetable oil.
2 pounds sunchokes
6 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 dried chili peppers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
Wash and peel sunchokes if you want, but they don’t need to be peeled. Cut into 14-inch sticks. In a non-reactive pot, bring water and vinegar to a boil. Add all other ingredients to this and simmer about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let it cool naturally, then put in containers. Pickled sunchokes will last a couple of weeks or a little more.