"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our Ever Evolving Sunroots (Jerusalem Artichokes)


We have been growing Jerusalem artichokes, I prefer to call them sunroots, for more than a few years now and I am always amazed at how they change in size and appearance from year to year depending upon where they have been planted. This year's sunroots grew into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, some were very smooth and oblong while others much more spherical, and then there are the funky monstrosities pictured above. I grew a few of my extras in a brand new location that had Joe Pye Weed growing in it the previous couple years and ended up with huge multi-knobbed tubers. There were about 8-12 tubers per plant compared to the anywhere from 15-50 smaller ones we are normally blessed with. Here is how the majority of them looked the previous fall. Personally I prefer the smaller ones but they do seem to have a mind of their own.

Anyway, I thought perhaps the Joe Pye Weed might have some nitrogen or other soil building qualities that I was unaware of but have been unable to find any evidence to support that theory other than my big rugged tubers. A fellow gardener just did a post on these tubers as well, you can read her thoughts and see how her variety looks at Emma's coopette.com blog.

Yes, this is only one sun root...how on earth am I supposed to eat that? :)
This is a new variety that we are growing this year, the size of these is more to my liking.

42 comments:

Emma said...

I like the look of the purple ones :)

Tomek said...

I just wanted to send my thanks to you on creating this wonderful and inspirational blog. Your photos and posts are so informative and interesting.

One day soon I hope to also carve out a small organic oasis (in Australia!) You have shown what is possible with a little effort and love.

All the very best.

A fan from Australia.

The Gingerbread House said...

I've never even seen those before! I tell you what, how your going to eat those!! widdle them down to your size :o) Peel them and do what ever you usually do with them. they look interesting, I've copied the name so I can try them out. Good eating to you...Ginny P.S. Now I'm jealous :o)

Mr. H. said...

Emma - The purply ones look like little martians from another planet but do taste the same as the others. I wonder if any of the numerous varieties vary in flavor...hmm.

Tomek - Thanks, and I am glad that you enjoy our little blog. I hope you do get the opportunity to carve out your own organic oasis someday soon...of course you will have to let me see some pictures of it, I love seeing pictures of others gardens and farms.

Ginny - They are a very interesting vegetable and fairly trouble free to grow. I will be whittling down one of those hunks of tuber this evening to go with dinner tonight.:)

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

That's a pretty impressive tuber! How do you eat them Mr H? I'm thinking raw...and what would you say they taste like? They look like they'd taste similar to a turnip and radish????

kelli said...

interesting! i've read of jerusalem artichoke syrup, a low-glycemic sweetener, but have never seen the tubers. how do you prepare them? (as you would any other root veggie, i'm guessing?=)

Wendy said...

wow, what a crazy looking sunroot! Do you peel these guys before you eat them?

The purple ones look like little cartoon creatures.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

The first time I saw sunroots was in our community fruit & veggie swap this year. At first glance, I thought it was ginger but it was not as big as yours. I should have find some space for growing them when we received tubers. Your purple coloured sunroots is very interesting,

vrtlarica said...

I have seen them before, but just like others, I am very interested in how you eat them. Can they be eaten like a potato, or is it more like celery root?

Leigh said...

My husband wants to plant Jerusalem artichokes here, but my big question is where. They became a real nuisance in a previous garden, spreading everywhere! Part of that problem may have been because we could leave them in the ground all winter, due to our mild climate.

We do like them though (prefer cooked to raw). I recently saw (just can't recall where) of a new variety that's less knobby.

Interesting observation about the Joe Pye Weed (also on my list to plant in 2011). Dave Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens, vol 2 has all those charts showing nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators, I wonder if Joe Pye weed is listed on any of those(?). I use library editions of his books, so will have to wait until my next trip to town to look that up!

Mr. H. said...

Diane - They are not at all like turnips or radishes but have a slightly sweet flavor and can be used not only grated raw over a salad but in any manner you can use a potato. We often use them cut up and slightly browned in a fry pan on each side with a little salt and parmesan sprinkled on top.

Kelli - How interesting, I have not heard of them being used as a low glycemic syrup sweetener. That makes sense though as the inulin in them breaks down to fructose that is much more user friendly for people that have to keep their blood sugar levels down as in the case of diabetics.

They can be used in any way a potato or parsnip is used and are much better raw than a potato is.

Wendy - The purple ones do look like some sort of crazy cartoon characters don't they.:) They do not need to be peeled before using and are a great addition to stir fry dishes. They cook up really fast too, much faster than potatoes.

Malay-Kadazan girl - Now sunroots would be a perfect plant to grow on the other side of that fence of yours.:) They don't need too much water and thrive in both full or partial sun...some of ours do well in really shady locations.

Vrtlarica - They maybe could be compared to a cross between a parsnip, potato, and water chestnut. They are definitely slightly sweet and maybe a little nutty in flavor but cook up much like a potato does...just a lot faster.

Leigh - The nice thing about them is they will grow just about anywhere, but yes they do spread quite readily. My trick is to be very diligent in pulling all of the tubers when I want to remove them from an area. We always miss a few but they are fairly easily weeded out. We leave ours in the ground all winter too. I have heard that they will survive -50°below weather. We still cover ours with leaves though just to give them a little protection.

If you ever read anything about Joe Pye weed being good for the soil I would love to hear about it. Joe Pye is another extremely hardy plant that can take all kinds of abuse and still thrive...they spread too.:)

Sense of Home said...

I think I bought Sunroots at the grocery store once, but I can't even remember what they taste like. That large root would be hard to get clean so that it is ready to cook. There are so many vegetables I would like to become more familiar with. Thanks for sharing your vegetable experiences.

-Brenda

Ohiofarmgirl said...

oh hey - you can feed them to chickens? i'll have to read up on that. and good in bad soil.. hummm i think i just found my new favorite thing! but that purple one is a little funny looking
;-)

did you get/are you gonna get that snowstorm thats hitting the Puget Sound?
- ofg

Heiko said...

I must try and find some starter tubers of these some time so I can try them out. They look great,even if a bit wonky...

Carolemc said...

Inspirational as ever! I must admit I tried Jerusalem Artichokes and then gave up, as they gave me heartburn. But I am tempted to try them again, as they are so easy to grow and so prolific!!

Kumi said...

This is the first time I hear about sunroots, but it sounds like a really nice addition for a backyard farmer! I love that you can have them raw, too. Thanks for this post!

villager said...

All I can say is - I love sunchokes but they don't like me! I've still got some in the ground from this year.

Mr. H. said...

Brenda - We cooked up one of those big knobby ones yesterday and it was a bit challenging to clean. That's one of the reasons I like the smaller smooth ones. It really is amazing how many different veggies are out there, and I would like to try them all.:)

Ohiofarmgirl - They can be fed to the chickens and pigs are supposed to really like them. We are getting a bit of a snow storm/blizzard as I type this and it is supposed to get down to -15 tonight I think. it's all good though as we are ready for it. I even bought a brand new oil heater for our basement so the veggies don't freeze if it gets too cold out.

Heiko - You would have a lot of fun with these sunroots. There are so very many ways to eat them and I read somewhere that they make a good German sunroot liquor out of them too. They might grow well up on those terraced gardens of yours as they are pretty forgiving when it comes to heat, water, and cold rainy weather.

Carolemc - They certainly are prolific, I hope you give them another try. I highly recommend eating them in small amounts and raw for a little while until your body adjusts to them.

Kumi - They are very good raw, grated over a salad or used to add a little crunch to another dish. Hope You get a chance to try them. They are also a wonderful addition to soups or stir fry dishes.

Villager - What we try to do is eat them often and in smaller amounts and over a period of time your body adjusts to them. They same thing works with beans, if you eat a particular type of bean often there are no issues but if you only eat them occasionally or even switch to a different type of bean then you sometimes deal with gastronomical difficulties. Also, believe it or not, I find them to be much more easy to digest if they are eaten raw in a salad...especially after they have been chilled for a couple days outside or in the fridge.

LynnS said...

Love your wonky-knob "variety" there! Wonder what happened....

Do you know I've not dug up our patch yet? After the deer got in and ate most of the greenery in June, I knew they had a set-back so I've let them continue on. I was planning to dig them up in another week or so, hoping to give them a bit more time since this fall has been a better growing season than summer was for us. Maybe our wicked weather will give us super-wonky ones, too!

(How much snow did you get hit with??)

Alison said...

Just a quick note to say how inspired I am by your blog. I think I've read the whole archives in the last 24 hours! I don't even remember where I found the link.

Anyway, thankyou for reaffirming my belief in a self-sufficient lifestyle, and for encouraging me in my efforts go go above and beyond in the next 12 months.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - It's good that you have left them in the ground as they do most of their growing during the last month before the ground freezes. Wonky-knob, I like that. Perhaps I will rename our variety.:)

Speaking of which, the ground is frozen solid here and I think we have about 4-6" of snow with more expected, nothing to serious but it is getting chilly out. It is hard to tell how much snow because it has been a bit blizzardy out and everything has been blown about...ah yes, the fun challenges of winter have arrived a bit early. We have both decided that we like it though as no one at all is out and about when we go for our walks...the world is once again ours for a few months.:)

Alison - That is so very kind of you to say and I am happy to hear that you have enjoyed reading the posts. How exciting that you will be making lifestyle changes in the next 12 months and I hope that everything goes as planned.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey buddy! hows the snow? my pal in Seattle said the city has ground to a halt. here? i'm in shorts and a tshirt... we'll be getting ours soon enough. stay warm!

Faith said...

Never had one of those but they sure look delicious. Wish we could grow them well up here in AK.

Mr. H. said...

Ohiofarmgirl - We are trying to manage the cold, everyone is bundled up inside as the temperatures are in close to being in the negative digits...but we are still enjoying the solitude that this weather brings to the outdoors. I just saw on the news how very bad the weather in Seattle is...doesn't look good and I am glad that we are not stuck traveling. Hope you have a good Thanksgiving!

Faith - They are not too bad at all, as versatile as a potato without the calories. I would still pick a spud over a sunroot though...you just can't beat a good potato.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thank you for the idea. We might try it next year then in partial shade or shade.

kitsapFG said...

We are hunkered down with the cold here in western washington and I know that eastern washington and Idhao are getting more blizzard like conditions. Definitely makes you glad for all the food that has been put by and the wood stove and stacks of seasoned firewood. Snug and ready.

I like sunhokes but they disagree with my tummy and so I don't grow them. I guess that is a fairly common eperience from what I have read.

angie said...

Hi Mr. H,

Long time lurker here. I made a delicious sunchoke bisque this fall(we call them chokes instead of roots). I followed a Deborah Madison recipe or you can find the recipe over on my blog.

http://3flatacres.blogspot.com/2010/11/sunchoke-bisque.html

Ms. Adventuress said...

This is great...a special component is involved and one just has to find it to solve the mystery!

Mr. H. said...

Malay-Kadazan girl - The nice thing about this plant is that one tuber has the potential to turn into so very many under the right conditions. Our average plant gives us anywhere from 15-50 tubers and I have heard of some people having over 100 per plant...pretty amazing.

Laura - Yes, we are all hunkered down too and hope it does not get too cold out. We are prepared for -15-20°temperatures but anything lower than that starts to become an issue. Hope you stay nice and warm and enjoy the holiday.:)

Angie - I have saved your bisque recipe, it sounds very good. Thank you so much for sharing it, we are always looking for new ways to use these tubers and I can't wait to try this one.

Ms. Adventuress - It is a bit of a mystery and I will be curious to see if they grow in a similar manner in that same location next year.

Mrs. Mac said...

We are loving our first crop of sunchokes. I planted about 1-2 pounds of roots and ended up with (I'm guessing) at least 30 pounds or more. They do taste a bit like an artichoke heart in flavor. This is one of the best surprise crops of the year! I sneak them into everything .. soups, stir-fries, mashed potatoes. They come fairly clean when using a garden hose with a nozzle .. but that's a little hard to use currently with sub freezing temps ;) Thanks for sharing!

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Mac - I'm so glad that you are enjoying them. They really are quite the versatile vegetable and can be used in so very many ways. I am looking forward to trying out Angie's bisque recipe↑.

I bet you are accumulating a nice amount of snow up there on the hill. Stay warm.:)

michelle said...

That's very interesting how the roots vary when grown in different locations. I love the look of the purple roots. Are the flowers, or the rest of the plant for that matter, are they different from the white rooted plants? I might try Emma's method of growing them in pots next year.

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

Mr. H - your sunroots look the size of my sweet potatoes! Mine are a lot smaller - although I threw some in the compost pile, and they did not compost - OF COURSE!!!!- but grew rather big - have not unearth them yet as we have not had really cold weather yet so I may have some monsters too. In last year's post you call them subsistence food - well, in France during WWII they certainly sustained a large part of the population!

Do you cook them before you give them to your chicken? or just dice them?
Stay warm. I have no doubt you'll be well fed what your amazing garden!

Mike said...

You guys are amazing gardeners. I know your years ahead of us in farming experience but I hope to be as successful in the near future.

Mr. H. said...

Michelle - Other than the size, shape, and color of the underground tuber there are no discernible differences between the two varieties. If you do grow some in pots next year it will be fun to see how they grow for you.

Sylvie - They will supposedly put on a lot of their tuber growth in the month before hard frost or the ground freezes over so you may indeed have some monsters too.

Very interesting information about the the French using this to help sustain themselves during the war. I just looked it up and apparently they loathed sunroots for many years afterwords having overdosed on them during the war.

We either cook them whole or grate them raw into pieces the chickens can eat before feeding them to the flock. They seem to like them either way.

Mike - Thanks, I have no doubt that you will do much better than us in the not too distant future. I can tell from reading your posts and the comments here how much you enjoy this type of self-sufficient lifestyle.

Barb and Steve said...

I've been growing sunchokes for three years but have yet to eat them :-). I think if I didn't grow so many potatoes, we probably would. I love your blog. Very informative.
Barb

Mr. H. said...

Barb and Steve - It would be hard for me to choose a sunchoke over a nice potato too.:) Wow, after three years you must have quite a patch of them and will certainly have some on hand if you ever need them.

meemsnyc said...

Sunroots? That is a vegetable I never heard of. What does it taste like? A turnip? It's really cool looking.

Mr. H. said...

Meemsnyc - They could be compared to a cross between a parsnip, potato, and water chestnut. They are definitely slightly sweet and maybe a little nutty in flavor but cook up much like a potato or parsnip does...just a lot faster.

AJK said...

oh my goodness!!! You have an AMAZING pantry of preserves! If only I can can that much, you and your wife are my heroes! How large is your root cellar to hold so much? Absolutely jaw-dropping awesomeness!

Mr. H. said...

AJK - We have a fairly large basement that is more like a dungeon. Our house was built in the early 1930's...yeah it's that old.:) Anyway, the room that we store potatoes, carrots, and beets in use to be a coal room. They would dump coal down a chute into this room and the coal was used to heat the house from a stove in the basement. The rest of our veggies are stored in what used to be the furnace room.

Sometime in the 1950's or 60's the original owners switched to oil heat and installed a huge furnace down there. We removed it many years ago and now use this area for storage.

There is also a well room, with an actual well that we no longer use. This room is also used to hold many of our potted plants. Long story short, our really old basement makes an excellent root cellar...lucky us. :)

Elizabeth said...

Morning!
I answered your migraine question on my blog below your post!
Thanks for stoppin by, I love looking for your comments.
Peace to You and Your Beautiful Family,
E

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