Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall's First Fruits

We are finally getting some frosty weather here in Knoxville, MD.  That was a signal to take in our first harvest of Jerusalem artichokes.  The flavor of the tubers is supposed to be improved by a little cold weather.  I wasn't sure how many to expect.  From what I've read, yields are high and it is important to dig out all of the tubers; otherwise the plants will spread throughout the garden.

View to South Mountain from the southern end of Pleasant Valley in Maryland in early November.
Foliage is about a week past peak.
A mass of 4 Helianthus tuberosus
'Stampede' in mid-September.  

I selected the cultivar called 'Stampede' (from Oikos) because the tubers stay close to the base of the plant making them easier to harvest.  This was generally the case, however there were a few longer runners with large tubers at the far end.  While this cultivar was supposed to be early maturing, it did not begin to bloom until late summer, a bit later than I expected.  The plants grew to about 12 feet in height.  They were holding themselves up OK until a big storm hit in early October.

As you can see in the photo the yield of tubers from the four plants gave me a wheelbarrow full, well over 20 pounds.  Now we need to find some recipes for how to prepare them.  One caution about these tubers is that the form of starch in them is inulin.  This is not easily digestible by most people, resulting in some gastro-intestinal discomfort (to be discreet).  One article suggested eating small amounts of them at first to help your digestive system adjust.  This is a warning not to serve heaping portion at a dinner party to uninitiated guests.

These tubers will keep for about 3 months if stored in a cool dry location.
We need to find some ways to prepare them soon,
or at least some folks will to take them off our hands.

I've eaten a few slices raw and am surviving.  The taste is slightly sweet and refreshing.  They are crispy like jicama, but much more flavorful.  Soaking them in vinegar keeps them from turning brown like a potato.

As I mentioned above, keeping these plants under control is a concern for the gardener.  They are large and prolific plants that can take over if they escape.  There are a number of things that can be done to control there spread in and around the garden.

First, as already mentioned, harvest all the tubers each year to reduce the number of plants in the ground. Don't allow bits of the tubers to be spread while tilling the soil. Second, Helianthus species are generally not self-fertile.  So if you only have one cultivar (clone) and there are no wild plants growing nearby, you will not get any fertile seeds.  If you do have potential mates, cutting off the flowers before they set seed is the way to go.  Lastly, the deer around here really like to eat the stems and leaves of Jerusalem Artichoke.  I planted a few tubers outside of the garden enclosure and these never got taller than about 8 inches due to deer browsing on the young shoots.  After the deer broke into the garden, they ate all the leaves up as far as they could reach.  So I would expect any plants that escaped the garden to fall to a similar fate.

These seeds from 'Stampede' are really  hollow husks.
If they were viable, the entire seed would be full and firm.
Some other fall vegetables that I hope to harvest soon are from my Collards and Swiss Chard.  These are plants that I started in the spring.  They have survived the beetles and a deer attack and are now putting out some fresh leaves.

1 comment:

Curtis said...

Besides eating these raw, we had very good results roasting them in the over at 400F with Olive oil, salt and pepper (30-40 min). We've also made pickled sunchokes ( that were very good.