In Praise of Jerusalem artichokes
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) looks nothing like you run-of-the-mill artichoke. It has an edible root, sort of like potatoes but better for your blood sugar:
A really delicious edible root – and once established they are awfully hard to kill. We've dedicated a raised bed to them, and are considering adding another. They even make masses of flowers suitable for cutting.
Perennial vegetables this good are hard to find.
Here is the range the plant is native to in North America (source: USDA Plant Database)/
This plant can be sown in parks of wild areas, for neighborhood use and decoration. When commuted to New York City I intentionally flung the seeds at the intersection of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway. the area is now carpeted in flowers for about two or three miles on each side of the road.
Enjoy it, grow it, but cut those flowers and use a raised bed since it can be invasive.
I have quite a good area of them now (about 20' x 15'). I stored maybe three pounds in a plastic bag in my refrigerator last year and they seemed to keep fine all winter. Have you tried storing in a traditional root cellar? Just wondering how that works and if there are any special precautions needed.
I'm going to look for your artichokes next trip to NYC. It will give me a good feeling to find them realizing now how they came to be there.
Thanks for all your interesting information and thoughts.
I think Jerusalem Artichokes are a classic case of "eat what you can grow" rather then "grow what your familiar with eating". I found some in a neglected bed this spring while working things up. I'm not familiar with how to prepare them but the ones I forked out of the ground were pretty good micro waved with butter despite having been in the ground all winter (Despite the polar vortex, atypically cold down to -20 F, I don't think the soil froze under leaf mulch and an atypical snow fall with almost 120 inches for the season, 12 to 18 inches on the ground throughout the winter). I gathered up some bits and pieces of tuber and tucked them into their own bed and walked away. I haven't weeded, watered or fertilized them and they seem to be doing just fine (6 to 9 feet tall). Almost too easy. I plan to leave them in the ground with the idea that the stalks will make them easy to find and fork them up over the winter (if this winter is anything like the last, and the word is it might be, I may be working in my garden on snow shoes).
I've been experimenting with dry beans over the last couple of seasons and I've been finding them unsatisfactory. They require substantial weeding and I've been losing a substantial amount to premature germination, probably related to high humidity and rain. On a whim this spring while grocery shopping I picked up a pound of black eye peas and planted them in a test bed. Wow! I'm impressed! The plants are vigorous, seem to be self weeding, the seed pods stick up from the top of the plants and don't seem to be subject to early germination due to high moisture levels so far. I also tried a heritage French runner bean that I planted both on poles and among a corn test plot. Jury's still out on that one but the seed pots are six feet off the ground, so far so good.
I think I'll try peanuts next year.
Just east of the southern end of Lake Michigan, zone 6.
I transplanted some jerusalem artichoke roots (rhizomes?) from the wild a few years ago that took off splendidly and have been growing vigorously ever since. One use I've found that is similar to comfrey is that I plant them around young fruit trees and use them as growing mulch. When they start blocking out sun from the trees, I simply chop and drop the leaves which are quite large and serve well. They just keep growing happily.
We are zone 4-5, though more 5 now with warming and all.
Speaking of warming, my daughter found a copse of black tupelo (nyssa sylvatica) trees in a woods along a golf course that has swallowed many of my golf balls over the years. I had heard that they grow around here, but we are, or were, the northern extreme of their range. They're an attractive tree that birds like.
Think I'll try to find or buy a couple saplings to transplant.
I'm excited to have some tubers on the way for fall planting. I'm going to stick them in a far corner of our field.
cnbbaldwin, No, I do not store Jerusalem artichokes in a root cellar. We live in the Deep South and it is really hard to make a root cellar when you have a high water table and semi-tropical heat. We are planning on building a stone pump house which will act as a cool room but it will still be a humid environment. So we just leave overwinter veggies in the ground; we do that with carrots, celery root, sweet potatoes. and parsnips. Unless there is a really hard winter we have eight or nine months of 80 to 100 F weather, a month-and-a-half each of Fall cool-down and Spring warm up and maybe a month of "winter." Even with a hard winter we just leave things like leeks under some mulch and harvest as needed.