Remember the Florida Betony root I’ve been pulling out of my front garden bed by the dozen? We ate some a few weeks ago in a root vegetable stew, and they were pretty good. Turns out there’s a very similar root from China, which made it’s way to France, and even has traditional preparations. There’s even a Mother Earth News article about growing it commercially! It’s a shame I wasn’t gardening here in 2004, when they had a brief stint of fame. I could’ve dug up my yard and made some intrepid young chef very happy.
So in the spirit of adventure and eating what’s here all around me, I had to find something else to do with all of this betony root. It’s free food!
I started thinking about the flavor and texture. It’s crunchy like water chestnuts, or a dry cucumber. Betony roots even taste somewhat like water chestnuts, but even more like the stems of romaine lettuce. What can I do with these roots that would highlight their mellow-bitter crunchiness?
Pickles! I enjoy bread & butter pickles, so I started my search at Punk Domestics ( of course!) for a bread & butter pickle recipe. I found this one and adjusted it slightly for what I had and my personal tastes. I only had 2 lb of roots, only enough for 3 small jars- too little for water-bath canning- so these are refrigerator pickles.
Bread & Butter Pickled Betony Roots
2 lb Betony roots, carefully washed
1/3 c kosher salt
1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1 c raw sugar
1 tbl mustard seeds
1 tbl coriander seeds
1 tbl peppercorns
1 tbl whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 hefty pinch of turmeric
Plan on using the roots no more then 48 hours after digging them up. They quickly develop soft black bruises after being washed and wilt if not refrigerated. Pinch off any shoots or blackened ends and wash the roots very carefully. I found the best way was with a brand new sponge with a scrubby side to get the sand out of the grooves.
Put all of the roots in a large bowl and toss with the salt. Leave for at least an hour. Drain and rinse the salt off. Boil your jars in fresh water during this time.
Combine vinegar through turmeric in a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Add the roots and bring back to a boil and then turn off the heat. Pack the roots into the jars with tongs like green beans, then ladle in the hot liquid and spices. Put on the lids and rings and leave out until room temperature to the touch, then refrigerate.
I will open a jar in a month and let you know how they taste!