Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Artichokes and Autumn winds...

Although the Summer harvest is over, there are still things to harvest in abundance in the garden during Autumn. The quinces and macadamia's are once again falling from their branches, choko's are hiding beneath their leafy rambling vines and the grape fruit are beginning to turn yellow, but one crop, that has been making itself heard about the house is the Jerusalem Artichoke!

The humble Jerusalem Artichoke means many things to many people. Some garrdeners rave about its massive yeilds, others warn of its ability to pop up year after year wihtout invitation, but one notorious reputation that seems to reoccur amongst all reports of this fine vegetable is that it causes terrible bouts of wind of inconceivable proportion!

Impressed by this tubers bad-boy reputation, Jo and I wondered if it really stood up to its name, or were these wafting accusations simply a lot of hot air? We decided to take this trumpeting tuber head on in a culinary test, and see if we'd be blown away, or vise versa.... sorry.

For those who are unfamiliar with this root vegetable, Jerusalem artichoke is related to the sunflower, not artichokes, and grows as a flowering bush, about 1.5m tall, bearing pretty yellow flowers over summer. The roots develop an impressive amount of bulbous tubers, which look similar to ginger. Plant in spring or summer and harvest the roots after the flowers drop (in Autumn) through to winter.

Jerusalem Artichoke flowers in Summer

This is the first year that we have grown Jerusalem Artichoke, and we have been impressed by its abundant harvest. From just one plant we dug up more than 5kg of tubers. In our harvesting excitement, we made the silly mistake of pulling up all the tubers at once, which, I suppose, is exactly what any first time Jerusalem Artichoke grower does, out of sheer curiosity. However, they do not store as well as potatoes, and need to be used within the week. Instead, what we should have done is left the tubers in the ground and dig them up as needed. Keeping them in the ground seems to be the best way to store jerusalem artichokes, keeping them fresh for months.

found one!

the harvest from a single plant

Consequently, we now have a lot of tubers to eat in this coming week, and will bravely feed them to our children and make careful observation from a safe distance for any evidence of these explosive accusations.

unsuspecting guinea pigs

Artichoke or fartichoke?

Night one, we peeled and shredded the tubors to make patties,, mixing in some egg, chives and a little flour, and fried them in the pan. served with some sour cream and sweet chilly sauce, the flavor had a  pleasant earthy taste. the kids ate what they were given, and no overt signs of bloating seemed to follow.

Night two, we became more daring, and had an old friend over for tea. We served artichoke again, this time sauteed in olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, sage and diced bacon. This recipe tasted significantly better, and.... no gastronomical blowouts... at least for Jo and I. Our guest, however, seemed a little squeemish... hmmm interesting.

Night three... We made a J. Artichoke soup, adding some tyme, diced bacon, potatoes, water and vegetable stock.... quite delicious.... and no signs of gas to be heard of. Much to our delight, it seems that we were spared of  the said affects of Jerusalem artichoke. I suspect it affects some and not others, which makes this vegetable quite an exciting one to try.... a little like russian roulette.

As far as our tummy's are concerned, it seems that th J. Artichoke has been unfairly stigmatised, and has nothing on falafels.  Be a dare devil, and try some J. Artichoke this season.


  1. ooh, I am heartened by your lack of flatulence!!!

    haha I will go buy some soon and attempt to grow my own, I hope they taste nice because apparently once you plant them, they will keep *popping* up forever, a bit like a weed!

  2. I'm glad to read this, because a friend gave me some JA's to try. If we like them we'll plant some.

  3. Yes Meeka, once they are in the patch, they are there to stay. But a welcome crop in our humble opinion.
    check out a few recipes on they are a little fiddly to peel, but worth the extra bit of work. I read a rumor that cooking them with bay leaves mysteriously cnacels out the gas factor... but there's only one way to find out.

    thanks for reading guys.

  4. I'm looking forward to my first harvest. If I get half that amount I'll be thrilled. I'm not quite sure when to harvest but had a bit of a dig a few days ago and they are still pretty small. The flowers are starting to die off though...


    1. Hi Barb,

      the rule of thumb is to harvest any time after the flowers have dropped. FInd one of the root lines and follow it carefully whitout breaking it. You may be surprisd to find some much larger tubers. Our plant had spread tubers over a square metre.

  5. I have got to try these. ....and here i was worried about the wind problems associated with them that I never bothered to grow them. I have got to grow more underground stuff....everything above seems to get eaten by the goats and sheep!Great post . Oh by the way, Honey the goat is due in June (maybe about the middle ) and we really do think she may be having triplets. This could be your chance to have a goat , Joe!

  6. Kim... what a tempting offer, but i have had to put my goat owning yearns into an induced coma, not to be wakened until we have an acre or two, or Jo magically falls in love with the idea of a goat in the backyard nibbling at her low hanging clothes line.

    the JA's are very easy to grow, and I think they are worth popping in the ground. Hopefully you guys will get along with the Jerusalem Artichokes as well as we did.

  7. I love your blog...very inspiring. I was wondering if you have a daily or weekly routine for your garden. I am trying to establish a home grown veg supply, and was hoping you could tell me what 'work' you put into your garden each day.

  8. The amount of work we put in depends more on the seasons. Some times are busier in the year than others. In July and August we will begin renewing the soil with compost and and manure (green aand brown) to build up the beds. The broad beans will be harvested and the plants will be burried back into the beds beneath a new layer of compost and mulch. By mid August we plant all of our seeds in trays and pop them in the green house, and again in november and a few more in January for successive planting. Other than that, watering with worm wee weekly, and the weekly bit of weeding and snail hunting is really all that is a regular event. the hardest thing is maintianing a regular supply throughout the year - something that we are still mastering. good luck with your patch!

  9. I, too, am heartened by your lack of flatulence! I obtained 2 JA tubers at my local food swap recently, and have planted them in a 2mx1m garden bed, one of several that my wonderful husband has built for our vegetable growing. They are close to another perennial, rhubarb. I am hoping they will be good companions, and be suitably restrained by the borders of the raised garden bed. I am looking forward as much to the yellow flowers as I am to trying the tubers in casseroles etc. I asked my mother-in-law if she had consumed them in her past, as she said, yes, often, her mother would boil them up and serve them covered in a parsley sauce. I am enjoying the challenge of trying unusual vegetables, and I will benefit from the wisdom of your experience by bandicooting my JA tubers instead of digging them all up at once ;) Many thanks for your blog