Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Yummy Native Plant

Day 227
The Daily DuBrule

My gigantic Jerusalem artichokes are in flower this week. These are 6-7' tall perennial sunflower plants that form edible tubers. Native to North America, they are now often called Sunchokes. They are not from Jerusalem and they are not even related to artichokes. Nonetheless, they are quite a fast growing, vigorous edible and ornamental crop for your garden-if you have the room.

Trust me, these spread fast. The best way to contain them is to dig up their roots every fall and eat them! They can be eaten raw (think water chestnut substitute). They can be boiled, roasted, mashed, and stir fried. They are often made into flour and pasta. Incredibly nutritious, Jerusalem artichokes are high in iron, potassium, and niacin. They are important for people with diabetes as they store carbohydrate as inulin which is processed by the body for energy much differently than sugar. The flour is excellent for those with wheat allergies. They help keep the good bacteria healthy in your digestive tract.

Let's see, what else is cool about Jerusalem artichokes? They bloom in October which is a bonus. How many gorgeous, six foot tall stands of yellow daisies do you have flowering in your yard this month? They supply much needed nectar for migrating butterflies and all sorts of pollinators. You can cut the flowers for long lasting bouquets. 

You are supposed to wait until a hard frost to harvest them but I couldn't wait. I pulled up a few stems to see how they grew this year. All signs point to an abundant harvest. Mine are growing in my mixed habitat border. They will overtake slower growing plants so give them lots of elbow room and thin them every fall by digging out as many tubers as you possibly can. Even the smallest pieces left in the ground will resprout and grow next year. The native Americans were really on to something when they encouraged this plant. It was a big part of their diets- perhaps you might make it a part of yours.

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