In conjunction with this dietetic view of the matter, one of the objects I have in writing is to direct attention to the great neglect there is of vegetables, especially those of the more unknown varieties, as an agreeable, desirable, palatable, and salutary element in the Australian food life. One need not be a vegetarian to properly appreciate the valuable properties of vegetables, and most people will fare better and feel the benefit of a modification of their customary dietary if they decrease the amount of meat they indulge in and proportionately increase their vegetable allowance. Now, there are many vegetables besides those ordinarily in use which might be easily cultivated, and serve to form a pleasing variety at table. Once the demand arises for kinds other than those usually grown, the inducement for market-gardeners to supply them would be no longer wanting. A reference to the catalogues furnished by the seedsmen and plant-merchants of the different Australian metropolitan cities will show that special attention is called to many of these vegetables, and yet I am informed that, although they are continually inserted in the new issues as they appear from time to time, no notice seems to be taken of them whatever. I propose, therefore, briefly to describe some of these comparatively unknown vegetables, and to point out their merits and their claims for recognition.
The globe artichoke might be more frequently grown, as it is really a good vegetable and easily cooked. It constitutes the flower head of the Cynara scolymus (one of the thistle family), and is gathered before the flowers expand. The ends of the flower scales attached to the disc, and the central disc itself, are the parts that are eaten, and they constitute a delicately-flavoured vegetable. It is extensively cultivated in California, and is there to be met with in nearly all hotels and restaurants. Another thing in its favour is that it is peculiarly one of the vegetables which diabetics may indulge in without fear. It does well in the cooler parts of Australia, and should certainly be more generally grown.
The Jerusalem artichoke is not to be confused with the preceding, as it belongs to a different vegetable genus altogether. It is a species of sunflower, as its name denotes, the prefix Jerusalem being in reality a corruption of the Italian word Girasole, a sunflower. It resembles the potato in that it is a tuberous-rooted vegetable, and grows readily enough - in fact, perhaps it grows too readily, for once it takes possession of the soil it is difficult to eradicate it. The Jerusalem artichoke, however, is comparatively common here, and when cooked properly it is a most delightful vegetable, although it may not be sufficiently appreciated at first. It often happens that these artichokes are of a bad colour, and too crisp when brought to table. This is easily prevented, however, by washing and paring them like potatoes and then placing them in a bowl of clear water, to which a few drops of fresh lemon juice have been added. When boiled with sufficient water to just cover them, and a liberal allowance of salt, for 20 min. to 40 min., they come out a snowy white and quite tender. They are especially delicious when served up with melted butter and egg sauce.
Although this delicate and luscious vegetable is of the easiest culture, and grows readily along the coast, yet to our shame be it said that it is usually too much of a luxury for ordinary mortals to afford. Now, it is for the most part such a general favourite that one may well ask why it is not more cultivated. The demand for it in America is so great, and it yields such a good return, that some growers make 100?. and upwards yearly profit for each acre. Is it not a severe reflection upon our market gardeners to find that the imported preserved varieties of asparagus are so esculent that the very stalks are as luscious as the heads of the vegetable ? In its fresh state it should be eaten as soon after cutting as possible, and, like the globe artichoke, is readily allowable to diabetics. It is somewhat curious, too, that the asparagus and the globe artichoke are the only vegetables which the British race eat as a single dish.
Brussels sprouts are the most delicate of all the borecoles, and it is a thousand pities that this delightful vegetable is not more often to be met with. These miniature cabbages, however, require some little care in their rearing, and hence amateurs often fail to reach perfection in their cultivation. They may be boiled like cabbage, in abundance of water and a little salt for 15 minutes, then drained, dried, and finally tossed in butter with a little pepper and nutmeg. They do well enough, as does the Lorecole or kale itself, in all the cooler parts of Australia.
The cardoon, like the globe artichoke, belongs to the thistle family, yet it is more hardy and robust than the latter. It is readily grown, particularly in the cooler districts, and, like many other of the more unknown vegetables, is too much neglected. Its leaf-stalks should be at least an inch and a half thick before they are ready for cutting. They are then blanched, and when cooked recall somewhat the flavour of the globe artichoke. These tender leaf-stalks are used in soups and salads, and it may be boiled also in a similar manner to sea-kale, in which latter form it is especially palatable.
The celeriac or turnip-rooted celery is a very choice vegetable, and is much cultivated on the Continent. Its nutty root is not at all unlike the solid root portion of common celery in taste, which by many is considered superior in flavour to the other parts of the latter plant. The celeriac is greatly esteemed, and is known as the celeri-rave by the French, and as the knoll-sellerie by the Germans. The latter, indeed, are so fond of it that they can barely talk of it without moist eyes and watery mouths. It is hardier than celery, and possesses an advantage in that it can be taken up and stored similarly to carrots and beets. The celeriac may be boiled as a table vegetable or used for flavouring soups, or it may be sliced for salads. It does well in all the cooler parts, and might be cultivated with benefit, mingled with gratitude.