Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunchokes - A Great ROI
Last spring I planted Sunchokes (once called Jeruselem Artichokes but changed for marketing reasons (?)). I put them in various locations around the Funny Farm. Some in perennial beds, others in nooks and crannies not suitable for growing annual vegetables. I bought a pound of organic tubers at the farmers market. I planted about half of them which was 6 tubers. To each hole I mixed in a shovel of wormcastings. In a few weeks they emerged from the soil. I had read that it was important to stake them because they get really tall and can be blown over in a storm pulling out the root mass and the growing tubers with it. When they got 5' tall I staked them. One 5' stake driven in the ground beside each plant and the plant tied to the stake. That should do the trick I said to myself. About the time they got 8' tall we had a small storm and afterward some of the plants were leaning over and one had been uprooted. The stake had been pulled out of the ground! I was able to straighten most of them. This time I drove 3 stakes in the ground around each plant and tied them up again. I severely pruned the one that was uprooted and replanted it hoping it would revive. It did not. In September the plants were 12' tall and covered with hundreds of small yellow sunflowers. (They are in the sunflower genus, Helianthus tuberosa.) Then we started getting the major storms that caused all the flooding around here and over they fell once more. The root mass was only partially uprooted so I figured I would get a partial crop at least. I really had no idea how many tubers I could expect from each plant.
This past week I harvested them. I dug up the first one that had fallen over and I literally gasped when the mass of tubers was exposed. There was a whole bunch of them that's for sure. I collected them and weighed them. 7 lbs....from 1 tuber which weighed about 2 oz. I excitedly dug up the rest of the plants and collected several baskets. I have not weighed them all yet. They are curing in the garage now. I'm sure there is at least 30 lbs of tubers. We will sell some the the market, store some for eating this winter, and pickle some I think.
After I harvested the tubers there was still a large mass attached the the stem of the plant which I replanted in the same place. Next year these plants should be much bigger than were this year. This week I am going to identify a bunch more nooks and crannies and plant tubers in them. I want to have 150 lb. harvest next year. There are places along fences where I can plant them which will allow me to tie them to the fence to keep them from falling other. In exposed areas I plan to drive 2 metal tee stakes on either side of the plants. That should do the trick (I hope).
Sunchokes can be eaten raw or cooked like a potato; roasted, boiled or fried. They can be used in soups, salads, sliced and fried for chips, mashed with garlic. Here is a link to a pureed soup recipe from my friend Tami Hardeman who has a great blog called Running with Tweezers. I plan to try the recipe this week.
What more could you ask for from a plant? Beautiful, easy to grow, pest free, comes back each year and produces lots of food.
What a great return on investment!