Monday, 10 November 2014

Jersusalem Artichokes

Now that most of the vegetables in the garden have come to an end and alot of us are hanging up our forks and trowels for the winter it may seem that this year is over for growers.

Not so long ago I would have thought exactly this but this year I have put as much thought and effort into preparing my garden for winter vegetables as I did at the beggining of spring. As a result of this the king of the garden at the moment is surely the Jerusalem artichoke.

Back in the spring I had bought a bag of articokes from the farmers market, delicious as they were we didn't eat all of them and a few began to sprout or chit as potatoes would. Consulting one of my many vegetable growing books revealed that these are just about the easiest thing that can be grown at home, so I set about finding some space where I could make a permenant bed for some.

In a not particularly sunny spot next to a dwarf pear tree I cleared about a metre square of previously uncultivated ground, built a rough border from the piles of stone that I seem to have everywhere and planted four of these sprouted artichokes about six inches deep. Then I left them, I didn't go near them for at least three months. After this time the only interference was a quick hoe to stop any weeds trying to take over. It took a few weeks but sure enough shoots began to appear which kept growing and growing. Being a relative of the sunflower artichokes send tall flower stems shooting upwards topped with bright yellow flowers towering over the rest of the garden.

One advantage of my chosen spot was that it was fairly sheltered by the house and hedge alongside. Eventually the stems started to lose their vigour and begin to slouch but still I left them. I was waiting for the first frost which came this week, this is said to sweeten the tubers.

Up to this point of course I had no idea what was going on under the surface, whether the slap dash planting and no maintenance approach had worked at all. So you can imagine my delight when a few turns with the fork revealed some fantatsic tubers, a good size and in perfect condition.

Less than an hour later they were in the oven, a five minute effort earlier in the year paying dividends later on down the line. This for me is the real joy of gardening, something so simple can produce such amazing results, something that may have even gone to waste has gone on to put food on my table.

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