As I prepare for another thanksgiving in North America ( the most important of all holidays in reality), I am searching for how to make it healthy and local (Ohio River Valley). Well there is Jerusalem Artichokes out back on the swale I suppose. Ten tubers bought four years ago at Whole Foods has produced an onslaught of a very vigorous growing plant that despite attempts to control is uncontrollable. And for that, I am thankful today, the abundance that is inherent in Nature.
It’s amazing to see just how much one tuber can produce. I remember the first year I planted them I was amazed just how much they grew from that initial “seed”. Its hard to judge each year now despite the heavy harvesting. But the slideshow below is from 2010, only six months later, this is the harvest from just two of the 10 tubers.
From there they have become a dominant feature in a few sections of the 100 foot
swale that is in the suburban backyard of my folks. They grow quite tall every year, over six feet (two meters) and flower yellow at the end of the season. I return the organic matter, which I believe is a nice bridge between the fungal and bacterial shift to more resilient soils either directly to the bed, in relative location to a paw paw tree, or in the compost bin. The spongy pith seems to be able to feed both bacteria and fungi and has an incredible amount of edge making it a delicious soil food web treat.
Helianthus tuberosus is a native North American herbaceous plant that is multi functional and helps to form guilds in our permaculture systems. Eric Toensmeir, in his book Perennial Vegetables, points out that the tuber is rich in Inulin. He says that research shows that this an important wild carbohydrate that helps with calcium absorption. Plant growers know that when calcium is low in plants their cell walls weaken and other cellular regulation is imbalanced. This of course causes disease. So having this fall delicacy in your diet is an important part of healthy living in my humble opinion. This I believe is the link between diabetics and this plant, increasing calcium.
Once the first frost (or cold temps like we have at my other garden in Portugal but no frost) has hit they get sweeter and the best way to store them is simply in the ground. They can be eaten in lots of different ways and tonight I will be roasting them with herbs and onions with the skin on. It takes some time to wash them of our heavy clay but once you get your hands unthawed all is good.
So here is the harvest from this year. Hope you are enjoying some of this super food today or sometime soon. Perennial vegetables are great to have in the garden as they really extend seasons, early like Asparagus and French Sorrel and late like the J-choke. Remember they run so I believe they are a zone 2-3 plant and are one element that helps to support the food production function.