photo credit: m.gifford
One of my favorite fall crops is sunchokes (also known as jerusalem artichokes). The plants are tall with small sunflower like flowers. The part people eat are the tubers, which look a bit like iris or ginger tubers, sort of knobby and white. I use to grow sunchokes when I was gardening in Southern Ohio, but haven’t had a chance to plant any since then. They are native to North America and perennial, so are super easy to grow.
The problem with sunchokes is that they can be invasive, since they spread by growing new tubers. Even if you dig them out in the fall it’s very difficult to get every single piece of root, so you need to be careful about where you plant them.
Ideally, if you have a sunny back fence or narrow side yard where they will be out of the way they will continue to provide you food year after year with little to no effort on your part. Generally you dig the tubers once the tops have started to die back and the weather has gotten cool. The tubers can then be washed and stored in the fridge. If I was digging my own I would pick out the less knobby ones to eat and replant the rest since you are going to have to peel them.
photo credit: cuttlefish
Last week I bought some sunchoke tubers from the local farmers market because I don’t have a place of my own to plant them. Tonight we made a delicious sunchoke mash out of them as an alternative to mashed potatoes. Sunchokes have a lot of inulin (a type of fiber) in them and I believe are better for diabetics (and other folks who need to watch their blood sugar) than potatoes. Like a lot of healthy vegetables, sunchokes can produce gas when being digested, so be warned. (I haven’t noticed a problem, but everyone is different.)
- 1 lb Sunchokes (peeled and chopped)
- 2 Tbls butter
- a pinch of salt
- (or substitute a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon for salt and butter)
Steam the sunchokes for about 15 minutes until tender when poked with a fork. Dump in a food processor with the butter and salt and process until smooth. Alternately you could mash them by hand.
Yum! They do taste a bit like an artichoke I think.
One thing I’m enjoying harvesting from the garden right now is arugula. I like arugula in salad, but it rapidly grows a bit tough and spicy for salads. This fall my husband and I are working on losing weight using the South Beach Diet, so pasta and bread are both mostly off our menu. (I have lost 10 pounds since Sept 1 and he has lost about 15.) So I have to find something else to do with all of our garden fresh arugula.
The first recipe I tried this evening was Pear and Arugula salad from Hot off the Garlic Press. I added a bit of walnuts. It was delicious.
photo credit: thebittenword.com
I have also been searching the web for pasta/bread free recipes with cooked arugula. Here are a few on my list to try.
Herby Goat Cheese Arugula Omelet from il piatto blue
Chicken Roll Ups with Goat Cheese and Arugula from sweet and saucy
and this Burnt Carrots with Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Crispy Garlic Chips from Ezra Pound Cake looks fabulous!
As you can tell I like goat cheese. I’m intolerant of most dairy products, but eat a bit of goat or sheep cheese without too much trouble.
The one thing that I haven’t been able to figure out about arugula is why it is so expensive in the store. Arugula has to be the easiest, fastest thing to grow in the garden. I first grew it over ten years ago when I was manager for the organic garden at my college. I know it was sort of a fad with chef’s for a while in the 90s (?), but how did it end up as this elitist vegetable?
One of the strange things about gardening is that everyone plants in a brief period in the spring and harvests in the summer and fall, no matter what kind of climate we live in. I live in a the Northwest and yet it’s still difficult for me to remember to plant fall garden. This is my first year gardening in Oregon, so I’m still getting use to the climate here. I couldn’t believe how long my peas lasted. I was still eating peas from my yardshare garden in July.
This week my mom visited from California and we spent some time weeding the garden. Sadly, the garden is overrun by bind weed. It’s nasty stuff. We pulled up the peas and potatoes, making room for some fall crops. Then we planted carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, arugula and bulbing fennel. I’m trying to use up all my older seeds so I’m not sure whether or not everything will sprout. So far the radishes and arugula have come up.
Another challenging element of planting a fall garden is getting seeds to germinate during the heat of July and August. I laid down some row cover, flat against the ground to help keep the soil moist. Carrots are the especially slow to start, so I’m hoping that I manage to get some to come up.
photo credit: net_efekt