Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Sunchokes


This past week has brought us some cold days. Our first frost, a hard frost, snow, and low temperature down around 17 F. There are rumors of some warm weather on the weekend -- maybe a chance to do some clean-up. At least the snow didn't stay yet.

This post is really a year-end review of our sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes / Helianthus tuberosus). This is our first year with this plant of the sunflower genus. We planted tubers in mid-May as soon as we got them. Over the season they grew 9 feet tall, provided wonderful flowers, and have yielded an abundance of edible tubers. On to the details...

We planted 1 lb of tubers on 5/13/2009; cut into sections to make five plants.

(Helianthus tuberosus: sunchoke seed tubers)

A suitable site was found away from other beds -- just in case they spread. The first shoots appeared early June after about 25 days. Next year they should be much earlier as the native stands (in the ground since last fall) seem to have emerged a month sooner.

(A 5x2' bed; First sprouts June 7)

It was a cool spring, but the plants grew to 1' after 40 days.
(Growing up June 22)

Early July the plants where a foot taller...reaching Dakota dog height.

(Sunchokes at least 2' by July 10)

By August they were forming a nice screen at 4 feet. They were as tall as our chain-link fence.

(Climbing to 4' - August 9)

Two more feet were gained by September (5-6' total).

(Sunchokes - September 5)

Early to mid-September flower buds were forming at about 115 days. I was excited that we would have a chance for flowers. The sunchokes in the park were already in full bloom.

(Buds on September 13)

Mid-September the plants were towering at 7-8 feet. That shade was a favorite resting spot for Dakota...

(Sunchokes 8' - 9/13/2009)

In fact, she decided to dig a little and exposed some tubers near the surface under the grass mulch.

(Sunchoke tubers near the surface)

Later in September the plants peaked in height ranging from 7.5 to 9 feet tall. They finally began to flower after 131 days. Again, I expect next year they will flower a month sooner.

(Sunchoke flowers - September 26)

We had a great display of the plants in near full bloom at the start of October. The plants shut down after a hard frost around 10/10/2009. I'll have to post a picture of the plants after hard this hard freeze.

(October 6)

After the frost I harvested 2 of 5 plants. We will save the others a little longer and come up with some storage options. We will place a few tubers right back in for next years crop. I did notice that maybe our ground was a bit too hard as the tubers were in a very tight block. Conveniently contained, but hard to separate. We will see next year if this was due to soil or the variety (after digging the soil should be much looser next year).

(Sunchokes lifted from ground - 10/11/2009)

Those 2 plants gave 9 lb 13.2 oz of tubers....that's a yield ratio of 24.56:1 based on 1 lb planted! Compare that with our 5 lb of potatoes that yielded 31.31 lb for a ratio of 6.26:1. That's also not considering that the sunchokes took maybe half the space of the potatoes and no additional water or maintenance.

(Half bucket of sunchoke tubers)

As a food, the tubers have tasted great so far. They have a similar number of calories as potatoes from what I could find. We haven't been too creative yet...tried boiled, microwaved, and baked and fairly plain with just some butter and salt they have a potato-like flavor. I tried baking some as chips and noticed that the skin seems to have more sugar than potatoes and can caramelize and burn (didn't taste so good). So for chips I still like the potatoes, but we have a lot more to experiment with.

(Clean tuber)

That's it. A fun experiment for the year and a plant we will keep forever in the garden....not that we likely have a choice :-)

24 comments:

Connie said...

Great post, Chris. I concur with your last statement...."not that we likely have a choice." They'll be back!!....no matter how carefully you dig them there's always a few tubers left in the ground to grow back.
They make a great screen and the flowers are pretty. I think you're right about them blooming sooner next year, giving you more time to enjoy them. We like them raw in salads.

Cheryl said...

Brrr.....snow, frost 17F, no thank you.....

The flowers are lovely, magnificent height....I agree with Connie, they make a fabulous screen......

Roses and Lilacs said...

You are the first person I know to harvest and eat them. I have several stands of wild plants on the property. I'll have to dig one and try baking it.

Hope you get some Indian summer weather. It's been cold here but only down around 25-degrees. The forecast is for temps in the 60's next week. Sounds good.
Marnie

ChrisND said...

Connie...At least I *want* them to come back. I did like them raw when I tried them. We'll have to try a few recipes and see how we can use them up.

ChrisND said...

Hi Cheryl...maybe we will get up to 60F one last time... but the cold is here. I was happy with the plants this year -- they held up well in the wind too.

ChrisND said...

Hi Marnie...It was fun to try. They are a little harder to dig than potatoes, but we were happy with the taste.

Well, we haven't had all nights in the teens but still cold. Maybe one 60F day left in the season. Time to start baking more.

perennialgardener said...

Okay that is just too cold for me! Brrr.... ;) Pretty blooms & edible tubers, that's a versatile plant indeed!

ChrisND said...

Perennial Gardener...yeah it does get a little cooler here. I like the sunchokes because they do have those multiple functions -- and they are virtually no work.

Q said...

My Father used to grow these in his backyard. He enjoyed them so very much. I used to cook them up my stir fries whenever he shared some with me. I have not grown them in my gardens...Just no room!
I think they are very pretty as well as a great food source! I wonder if they are native to North America? You kept great records. Gardening can be fun!
Sherry

ChrisND said...

Sherry....So far they are great. I really loved them in a soup. I think that they are native to North America -- in fact it is said Lewis and Clark ate some in North Dakota!

Randy Emmitt said...

Chris,

My first time visiting here. Excellent post on chokes. Meg's house that she rents has them everywhere, we have not even tasted them, do enjoy the blooms. I used to buy them pickled and they were yummy.

ChrisND said...

Hi Randy...thanks for commenting! The blooms are nice bonus...I should find a recipe and try pickling some -- I bet they would taste great that way. I am going to see how well the tubers keep in storage over the winter, but there are plenty left in the ground.

Gloria Bonde said...

Hi Chris - I too have Sunchokes. I put them outside the garden fence. I once read that because of the type of fiber in them, they are great to help regulate blood sugar. And keeping your insulin levels without spiking helps keep your weight down. If I remember right, it was just a small bit per day. I like them. Great pictures - Also, I am from South Dakota, so we are neighbors. Come visit - Gloria

ChrisND said...

Hello Gloria...I have read the same thing...that the inulin has a low impact on blood sugar and is also pre-biotic. This is our first season, but we are enjoying them.

Ah Ngao said...

wow..,they looks like ginger.will they thrive in tropical climate?

ChrisND said...

Hi Ah Ngao...they look similar to ginger, but they do not taste like it. It's native to North America and ranges to the southern US. I think I read it can grow as an annual in very hot climates with no winter freezes, but the best taste is after a few frosts to raise the sweet content. Wow you are much further south!

Ah Ngao said...

yeah - really south at 113 degrees longitude and about 2 degrees latitude,..hahaha.thanks !

Lou said...

Hi Chris, I enjoyed your post on sunchokes. I neighbor of ours here in southern California grows them. She digs out "all" of the tubers each year, and yet they still keep coming back. She makes delicious fritters out of them. Growing them is easy, but peeling them is where the work comes in. Have you found a way around having to peel them?

ChrisND said...

Hi Lou...thanks. I hear that they are notorious for coming back from even the smallest tuber or root. Haven't tried the fritter option yet, but it sounds great.

This is our first year, but peeling them -- we usually don't. They're just scrubbed and cooked, leaving skins on the pieces. Sometimes we remove the skins after cooking, but that's easy. I've roughly peeled them on occasion and just don't worry about the parts that are left.

CiNdEe said...

Just stopping by to say hi and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you are doing well!!!

ChrisND said...

Hi CiNdEe...Thanks for the Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a great day with family and friends.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I never peel any vegetable, that's where most of the nutrition and taste is. Sunchokes are the best source of inulin to feed friendly intestinal bacteria, like the bacteria found in yogurt. They provide defense against bad bacteria and provide B vitamins, which lead to energy, metabolism and reduced stress.

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