During the cold portion of the year in our area, typically late October through March, we have few chances to harvest anything outdoors. One of the things we can continue to harvest is the Jerusalem Artichoke, aka Sunchoke, aka "Fartichoke". The reason we can continue to harvest them is we cut off the stalks, spread them on the ground to decompose, and leave the tubers in the ground. They do well unless the temperature drops into the teens or single digits at which time we dig them up and store them in the pantry or dry them and grind them into a powder or flour for use in cooking and baking. Eventually I would like to build a root cellar and be able to store them, and other fruits and vegetables in a cool, dark environment.
Sunchokes are a root vegetable closely related to the Sunflower. The stalks grow pretty tall, eventually producing yellow flowers like a Sunflower but smaller, and dying back after flowering. The tubers harvested range in size from a peanut to a very large potato. Because they are extremely vigorous in their spread, we confine them to a small (3'x4') raised bed. This area produces all we can eat and much more. When I harvest, I ignore everything smaller than a ping pong ball, leaving the smaller ones to grow for next year. Over the years I've built the soil in the bed to be more suitable for root vegetables by adding sand and worm compost each Spring. The result is a fairly loose soil, but rich in organics. I usually spray a compost tea or fish emulsion fertilizer on the soil a couple of times per year and water the raised bed with a 1/4" drip hose snaked through the bed. Every year before I add more compost to the bed, I remove some of the existing soil (I call it dirt harvesting) and move it to a new bed I'm in the process of building. Because there are a lot of small tubers remaining in my "dirt harvest", and Sunchokes can take over pretty quickly, I have to be careful to remove all the dirty little @$&^!'s or I'll just end up with another bed of Sunchokes. Our native soil here is awful, and raised beds allow me to build only the soil I'm growing in, better control weeds, and custom build soil for each crop, changing it each year for rotation of plants or confine the spread of things like Jerusalem Artichokes and Tomatillos. Organic tubers are available at; https://www.etsy.com/market/sunchoke_tubers or https://www.groworganic.com/products/org-jerusalem-artichoke-2-lb
Jerusalem Artichokes were a very common sight at my grandmothers dinner table. She grew them along with a multitude of other fresh fruits and vegetables in her garden. In fact she grew such a large garden that I remember as a child driving around with my grandpa (he drove lol) delivering large boxes of produce to people in the area. It was during this time that the concern about greenhouse gases probably began, specifically in New Pine Creek, due to the distribution of Jerusalem Artichokes. I only remember eating them raw, usually sliced, but sometimes still in the garden and covered with dirt and fresh compost. They were and still are delicious and to this day I don't mind eating a bit o worm poop (more on gut health later in this post). They are crisp, and the flavor has been described by others as "nutty" and sweet. Another great way to eat them raw is to grate them on a salad like you might with jicama. There a ton of recipes available for cooking them, everything from roasted https://www.abeautifulplate.com/roasted-sunchokes/ to mashed or scalloped like a potato https://boulderlocavore.com/scalloped-ginger-sunchokes/. I prefer to keep things simple and like them raw or grated and cooked as hashbrowns. They are gnarly lil buggers, and can be challenging to get really clean when you wash them. I soak them in water for a bit, then use a sprayer to dislodge the dirt in between their nobs, then go for it!!! Like I said, I don't mind eating some dirt. Don't bother trying to peal them, you'll have nothing left when you're done. I also thoroughly dehydrate them, and I do mean thoroughly, and throw them in the old Vitamix, and grind them into a fine powder for use in small amounts in cooking and baking. I might add 1/8 cup to a pan of morel mushroom gravy, or maybe 1/4 cup in a large batch of cookies, using gluten free flower (I like Pamelas baking mix) for the remainder of the flour required.
This quart jar has over 15 lbs of Jerusalem Artichokes dehydrated, and ground. So, I figure 1/4 cup is roughly the equivalent of one pound of fresh Artichoke. The flavor of the Sunchoke is slightly noticeable and very pleasant, but not overpowering when I use this amount. I will caution you at this point, they are nicknamed Fartichokes for a reason. This is partly why I choose to use the powder in small amounts. We can get the flavor, and the amazing health benefits from these knobby fruits of the dirt without needing to spend the next several hours in different parts of the house. So, along those cautionary lines, before you grate and fry a big pan of Sunchoke hashbrowns for a breakfast with your extended family, maybe try a few slices on your own, in a well ventilated area. Or, if you wanna have some real fun, and maybe cut the annual Christmas dinner a bit short, try replacing your usual mashed potatoes with mashed Jerusalem Artichokes. Folks that don't know will have seconds because they ARE DELICIOUS!! I guarantee you within an hour, your guests will be making excuses to leave early or head out on the porch to "get some fresh air". These babies are POTENT!!!
You might be asking at this point why bother with them? They're not easy to find, although they are easy to grow. They're way harder to clean and prepare than say, a potato, or jicama. They produce a digestive reaction that results in extreme build up of low pressure, high volume gasses in the body. All good reasons to not mess with them. Did I mention they are delicious and versatile? Of course I did. I haven't really gone into the health benefits yet. As I've stated in previous posts, I'm a believer in the basic tenets of Holistic Health. Notice I didn't say a devout practitioner? I do, in spite of my love of pizza, tacos, chocolate chip cookies, and a good Five Guys burger with cajun fries, try to practice some good habits. The aforementioned items (excluding the Five Guys stuff) are nearly always homemade, using quality ingredients, many home grown, wild harvested, and in the case of the beef, locally raised grass fed and finished. We usually use gluten free flours (not always), type A2 dairy products, and largely organic ingredients. Many of our dietary decisions are based on the desire to create a healthy gut. Now, those of you who know me personally might comment that my gut certainly looks healthy. That's not the healthy gut I'm going for. Holistic health practices operate under the idea that there are more aspects to health that should be considered beyond bodily health. It seems to me that Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health are ALL EQUALLY IMPORTANT. And, they are all intertwined. I like to find individual things that feed all of these needs. Growing and eating Jerusalem Artichokes does just that. Here's how;
Hopefully this link will take you to the USDA website data on Jerusalem Artichokes. Knowing my computer skills however, you may actually be ordering a radiator hose for a 2004 f250. They are extremely high in B vitamins, vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorous, and Potassium. They have some protein, fiber, and a fair amount of sugars, although the sugar content is offset by the inulin content which I don't see listed. Inulin is a type of dietary fiber which may help improve diabetes, aid in weight loss, and in fact is a prebiotic that improves gut health. Basically, it feeds those expensive probiotics that you take in a capsule form. Or, in our case, the probiotics that we get from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc. In my somewhat simple mind, if the food we eat is supposed to nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits, we should feed the bacteria in our guts that is responsible for aiding in digestion. Jerusalem Artichokes do that. Even though Jerusalem Artichokes contain quite a bit of sugar, the inulin actually helps regulate our blood glucose levels, which is how they may improve diabetes.
This link should take you to an article written by one of my favorite resources Dr Mercola. https://www.mercola.com/
In this article Dr Mercola talks about the relationship between our gut function and our brain function. I should point out that there is also a huge amount of information available from more mainstream sources like John Hopkins University, but I prefer the likes of Dr Mercola and Dave Asprey https://daveasprey.com/about/ . The bottom line here is that there is a direct relation between our gut and our brain. Increased gut health=improved cognitive function. I can certainly attest to that when I look back to my inability to think clearly after the Five Guys Burger and Fries.
I'm not going to bother you with my own spiritual beliefs. I'll do mine, and you do yours. Suffice it to say that I get a deeply profound feeling of spiritual connection when I'm outdoors. Whether it's hunting elk or whitetail deer (taking my rifle for a walk is more accurate), fishing a river or lake, Wild Harvesting Elderberries or mushrooms, or simply working in the garden, I feel connected to something far greater than myself. Planting and caring for a garden also gives me a sense furthering and improving the creation we live in. Harvesting and preserving gives me solace in providing for family and gratitude for being able to provide. If I can share the harvest, it becomes even more spiritual for me. In this endeavor of blogging, I hope to share something of value with people I've never even met as well as family and friends, both old and new. And these all improve my spiritual health
No hyperlinks needed here, just plain common sense. If I feel better physically. If I experience mental clarity. If I'm in a place spiritually that is healthy. I will most likely feel good emotionally. This isn't rocket science. I'm not a doctor. Heck, I didn't even stay at Holiday Inn last night (some may remember these ads). These are all tied together, and in spite of the prolific passing of wind Jerusalem Artichokes may cause, they're good for you!!
In closing, I would like to point out once again, nobody compensates me in any way for these links. The links I provide are sites, products, and people I believe in and that is the ONLY REASON I provide them. There will be no "dancing advertisements" attempting to get you to click them accidentally. The only thing you will find here is the meanderings of my mind, which because of the chocolate chip cookies laced with Jerusalem Artichoke powder I had last night, and the morel mushroom gravy with Artichoke powder I had this morning, should be in pretty good shape.