Along the Grapevine


Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

DSC01298We have had a few light frosts already but the ground is wet and unfrozen. This means it’s the best time to harvest some of my favourites, among them sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. I have written several posts on these tubers, but if you are not familiar with them, refer to this post.


The wonderful thing about sunchokes is that they taste just like actual artichokes. Also, they grow easily and are available from October till April at any time the ground is not frozen solid. They are inexpensive and if you have your own source, they are free!

On the downside, they do not store well. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but are best very fresh.  Once cooked, they have to be consumed within a day or two, and never try to freeze them. I have found drying and fermenting the best way to preserve them – until I came up with my latest sunchoke recipe, a pesto made with herbs, roasted sunchokes and roasted almonds. This kept well in the fridge for a week, and after that I froze the remainder, and neither the taste nor the texture suffered as a result. The artichoke flavour came through perfectly, and the lemon flavour and herbs were a delicious combination. Pine nuts, walnuts or filberts would work just as well, and as for herbs, use what you like and have on hand.


Sunchoke Lemon Pesto


1/3 cup roasted sunchokes

1 cup lightly packed herbs (I used half and half mint and basil)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup roasted almonds

juice of 1 lemon

a strip of lemon rind (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil


Chop the nuts and herbs in a food processor. Blend in  the other ingredients, except the oil. Once everything is combined, add the oil slowly until you have the right consistency.

Like all pestos, this goes well with any kind of pasta. No need for cheese here, unless of course you really want it.


Spread on crackers or bread, it makes a super and easy little snack.


And it stores well!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #95

Related posts: Jerusalem Artichokes

Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

Jerusalem Artichoke Tea Biscuits

Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Sunchoke Dip








Anise Hyssop and Peach Ice Cream

We have already had our first light frost here in E. Ontario, and have lost some of the ‘delicates’ of our harvest. I am therefore gathering and using all the herbs I can, some of which I will preserve, but most I hope to use fresh while I can. One discovery I have made is that mixing herbs with any sort of dairy base is a great way to bring out the flavour, as it draws out the oil. Also, considering that herbs can be paired with so many fruits in salads or sweet dishes, there are so many more ways of using them than I have previously done. So with this in mind, I decided to make a herb and fruit ice cream, this time with peaches and anise hyssop, to share with Angie and guests at this week’s Fiesta Friday.



Anise hyssop, or licorice mint, is a hardy perennial of the mint family, and once you have it established, you are guaranteed a regular annual crop. Its leaves look like catnip leaves (same family) and its tall purple flowers which bloom in the late summer also resemble that plant. It is not exactly a weed, but like mint can be invasive, and therefore I include it in my list of backyard forageables. It has a deliciously sweet licorice flavour, and makes a wonderful tea, cordial, marinade or addition to many dressings and sauces. And because it does not have the bitter flavour of some herbs, you can use large amounts with impunity.

If you  already have a favourite ice cream recipe, you can incorporate it into that if you like, as long as you can infuse some of the liquid you are using before making the ice cream. I made a simple custard based recipe because I find it stores best, as the eggs prevent crystallization.

Anise Hyssop and Peach Ice Cream

  • Servings: 6
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1 cup milk

2 Tbsp chopped anise hyssop leaves

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen peaches

1 cup heavy (35%) cream

1/3 cup sugar

3 well beaten egg yolks


Put the milk and herbs in a saucepan, heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Allow to stand another ten minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the peaches and put them aside.

Make the custard by heating the cream, sugar, and strained herb milk mixture until it almost reaches boiling point. Gradually pour this mixture in a slow stream into the eggs, stirring while you do it. When about have the cream mixture is mixed into the eggs, return it to the pan with the rest of the cream. Continue to heat and stir until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about five minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then add the chopped peaches. Put it in the fridge to cool, then finish in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


This recipe can me made with other fruits and herbs, although hard fruits like rhubarb and apple will have to be cooked first.


Lavender Honey Babas


F0r Angie’s First Fiesta Friday challenge calling for a recipe using yeast and a herb, I have made one of my favourite desserts with some modifications. The cake is a recipe I have used many times for baba au rhum, but decided a spring version was called for, using the flavour of lavender, sweetened with honey and made pretty with wild flowers of the season.  The lavender is from my garden, and the foraged flowers are from my lawn/fields. For the lavender infused sugar, simply mix dried lavender with sugar and allow to stand at least a week. If you have lavender infused honey, that would work too.



Babas are easy  to make – really just a cake with yeast which gives it a spongy texture, perfect for soaking up any syrup you choose to use, although you will be hard pressed to find a recipe calling for anything other than the rum syrup traditionally used. There is no kneading involved, and the rest times are short – around 20 minutes. The syrup can be made in advance, but should be heated before drizzling over the hot babas. The batter filled 6 individual moulds and one small bundt pan, but you can also do all in one big pan or about 12 individual ones.



Lavender Honey Babas

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 tsp yeast

2 cups bread flour

2 tsp sugar

1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together. You will have a cake-like batter. Let it rest, covered with a tea towel for twenty minutes (more or less depending on the temperature of your kitchen). The batter should look spongey when you stir it. Stir it thoroughly to get rid of all the bubbles. Fill the mould/s about half full, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 20 min. They will have doubled in size by this time.

Bake in a 350 F. oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the moulds, and 30 min. if using one bundt pan. They should be golden in colour and feel cooked to the touch.

Remove them from the pans and pour syrup over them, slowly, allowing the syrup to soak into the cakes. Scoop up any that runs off and reapply it to get as much syrup into it as possible. When cooled, sprinkle with more lavender sugar, garnish with whipped cream to which lavender sugar has been added and, if you like, wild edible flowers as available or preserved flowers.

Lavender Honey Syrup

1 cup liquid honey

1 cup sugar syrup (made by 2 parts sugar to 1 part water)

3 tsp finely ground lavender-infused sugar

Just before the babas are baked, heat the honey, syrup and sugar.




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