It’s easy to understand why Native Americans cultivated Jerusalem artichokes* for centuries. These sunflowers are perennial, drought-tolerant, neglect-loving, and storage-friendly. The real puzzle is why more people don’t grow them now.
With the texture of a water chestnut and potato’s mutant offspring, the nutty-flavored tubers are a much-anticipated treat in our autumn CSA. (Best use? Substitute some for potatoes in a mouth-watering pot pie with mushrooms, carrots, and red wine.) We picked up a few extra pounds last winter to store in the fridge, and they stayed surprisingly crisp for almost three months.
Come February, though, about five of the nubbins were too squishy to eat, so I scooped them up and headed for the composter. On a lark, I stuck them in the ground instead, thinking, “What’s the harm in trying?”
Miraculously, Seamus left them alone — perhaps it was the goat guardian — and before long, tiny plants had sprouted. I made a habit of never watering, adding no fertilizer, and ignoring them completely. Nine months later, the fruits of my labor were rewarded with a three-pound harvest — enough for three or four meals. Not bad for kitchen waste.
Ten small rootbits will go back in the ground for next year’s crop, making them as cost-effective as they are delicious.
Just be warned, use good judgment when preparing them for others, as there are the occasional, um, side effects.
*Jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes nor do they come from Jerusalem. Yeah, I don’t get it either.