Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Clever & Easy Garnish for Potato Soup...and dividing irises

When recently making creamy, redolent-with-herbs Potato Onion Sausage Soup, I remembered an idea for garnishing potato soup from Tumblr which I had shared at my G+ streamInstead of discarding the peelings, reserve some for a tasty, attractive, and nutritious topping: shoestring French fries. 

If you are so fortunate as to locate a variety that is good for both soups and fries, then use them, if not, all-purpose will be a decent substitute. Scrub potatoes very well, discarding any bitter, green skin.

Lovely Prospero potatoes with their slight rosy tint, dill, parsley & dill from the potager

Use a paring knife instead of a purpose peeler to get thicker than usual peels.

Super sharp ceramic knives are excellent for precision slicing

Reserve the peelings in a bowl of cold water--to prevent discolouration and loss of moisture--and continue making the soup.

About fifteen minutes before the soup is ready, drain the peelings and slice into thin strips. The more uniformly skinny they are, the greater chance of getting them to an equivalent level of crunch at the same time. Dry well with paper towels as oil and water as you well know don't mix!

Pour about a quarter inch of vegetable oil (other than olive) in a skillet. Heat for a couple of minutes over moderately high heat. To test if it is hot enough, carefully sprinkle a few drops of water onto the oil--they will instantly splutter and sizzle.

Mine took about seven minutes to get relatively crunchy. Test one to see if it is to your liking. Be careful not to scorch them and be prepared to fish them out quickly. Blot them well with a paper towel.

The versatile metal skimmer/strainer was bought at a brocante (second-hand market) for one Euro!

Shoestring fries brings a textural and delicious flourish to potato soup.

In the garden, the colours of autumn continue to deepen and delight.

Maple, Box Elder, Aucuba, & Laurel in background, Rose of Sharon, Japanese Anemones, and Lilacs in foreground

I would have been happy with just blueberries, but surprisingly blueberry plants turn mahogany and burgundy!

Mums being supported in an old cold frame; the silvered, weather-worn wood adds a pleasing accent

The major task at hand continues to be dividing many, many, many irises. When I was preparing the beds by pulling off dead foliage and clipping the remaining leaves to about six inches from the ground, I was surprised by a praying mantis. I am glad I noticed it before taking my shears to its resting spot. Invisibility may come in handy at certain times, but one time is not when a shears-yielding human is furiously hacking away!

It obligingly moved onto some already clipped leaves. Such a cutie!

The several iris beds are four years old and need a good thinning. In our climate where summer can easily go into November, I find mid-October prime time for dividing them. In climates with shorter summers, it's better to divide in late summer which will give enough time for roots to get established before frost arrives.

The terracotta tiles should be parallel to each other, but for those pushy irises!

Irises flourish in our garden because their rhizomes can bake in the sun for many a month. So far, there has not been a borer infestation.  Irises usually need no fertilisation, though they do appreciate an occasional watering.

Though laborious to divide, Irises will reward your efforts with a profusion of blooms

Unearthing such tightly packed rhizomes requires determined and decisive spading--I held the spade perpendicular to the soil and drove it into the woody mass, slicing right through. It helps for the soil to be somewhat moist, but not sodden.

The soil clinging to the clump was loosened with a hand fork and as much soil as possible was returned back to the bed. Once the first clump is removed, it becomes progressively easier to work a crowded bed.

If you can bring a potting table close to the transplantation area, your back will thank you for the consideration. Looking for fresh growth and a firm rhizome with one or several leaf fans, I made the necessary cuts with a sharp, sturdy knife, discarding the woody centres of the clumps which were put on the slow compost heap.  Any soil left on the table was collected in a crate and dumped back onto the bed.

Gently and firmly pull out the freed rhizome including any roots

The fan of leaves can be trimmed accordingly so the division will not be top heavy when replanted, and the roots can also be trimmed if they are longer than six inches.

Let the cut side scab over for about a day before replanting, but not much later as to  prevent drying out

The distance between irises when replanting is based on a couple of considerations.  There should be enough room so division will not be necessary for several years, but not so much room that it takes awhile for the bed to appear full. I find that a foot apart is doable and additionally, planting them in a triangle where the growing part (the bit containing the leaf fan) is aimed towards the centre of the triangle works well.

I applied a light dose of a balanced NPK fertilizer as I suspect the soil could be depleted after hosting so many thriving irises. Select moderately sized segments with several roots at least four inches long. Smaller ones could be placed in a nursery bed if you are focused on increasing your iris bounty as much as possible. Using a hand trowel, make a moat several inches deep around a central mound.

Place a rhizome on the mound, spreading its roots downward into the moat and cover lightly with soil. Firm down the planting and water well. The light covering will eventually be washed away and the rhizome exposed. Continue to water if there is no rain until new growth can be seen then water less frequently.

À la prochaine!


Pastry Joe extolling the virtues of fried foods
Pastry Joe explaining why some used frying oil should be added to fresh to ensure excellent browning 
American Iris Society Guidelines (Includes a photo of planting Bearded Irises in triangle formation)