Oct. 2nd, 2012 08:15 pm
mellowtigger: (gardening)
[personal profile] mellowtigger
I think I've found my Minnesota winter root-vegetable crop!  I got home early today, so I planted some garlic bulbs that were delivered by mail this weekend. While digging up an area to plant the garlic, I discovered something amazing.

Somehow, I got through the entire summer without taking a photograph of the giant (tall but skinny) sunflowers that had taken over a small area of the garden. They were so well contained that I thought for sure I must have planted them deliberately. I was intending that area only for "small" plants, not huge ones, but these plants grew much taller than I am. The bees enjoyed the small daisy-like flowers, but their enormous height was overshadowing too many other plants. I finally cut them down a week or two ago. I didn't give them any more thought.

While digging up soil for garlic, though, I discovered that they left behind a multitude of tubers. They looked quite edible, so I kept collecting them as I turned the soil. Eventually I discovered a small plastic label that had been hidden by the gargantuan stalks. It said those plants were Hellenthus tuberosus, "Jerusalem Artichoke".  Apparently I had misread the label as 10 " height while I was planting the seeds instead of the clearly printed 10 ' height.  Oops.

The plant is a sunflower, but looking at the huge amount of edible tubers they produce, you can see why the common name of Sunroot is more appropriate.


I ate a few of them raw today, and they are like water chestnuts but with a very slight sweet and nutty flavor. Yummy in their own way, plus quite soft and moist. I didn't even have to peel the skin because it was so thin and tasty. I already expect to use some in my homemade spinach dip instead of water chestnut bought from the store. Apparently they induce quite "gassy" side effect in some people, so it's good to test them out by eating one or two to see how you react. So far, I'm doing fine. If I'm still good tomorrow, I'll look for recipes for cooking up a batch of them.

Sunroot has plenty of Iron and Vitamin C.  Plus, it's good for diabetics because it stores its energy as inulin (like jicama) instead of starch (like potato), so it doesn't trigger a glucose response like the other carbohydrates do.

It's native to North America, so it should continue to do well in Minnesota.  The only thing I have to worry about is the aggressive tubers taking over the whole garden.  A few plants created this enormous mound of tubers.  I need to find a way to confine the roots in a limited area.  I transplanted a few of them in the garden today.  Hopefully they survive the winter after their ordeal.  I want more of this food crop.
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