A Seed Saver's Garden

AMKuska

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Sunflowers are practically a weed aren't they? One year, my husband informed me that the row of sunflower seeds I planted in the front garden was CROOKED. I looked at him blankly and told him I hadn't planted any sunflowers. We went out to look together and sure enough, there they were!

We're pretty sure that a squirrel planted them using the neighbors bird seed. I still have tons of seeds from their efforts.
 

heirloomgal

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Are the wild sunflowers the same as Jerusalem artichokes? I don't grow those, and am a bit afraid of them.
That's a wise emotion in regards to this plant. I'm not really sure, though I think likely not. I do think though that they are distant relatives, so I get all the pain in the rear qualities of relentless, aggressive growth and hugeness, without even being edible. I admit that the small tubers do look like sunchokes, though they seem much too small to me for food. But I've never seen actual sunchokes. In the span of a week I think I removed 4 wagon loads of them from my small 50 plant corn patch. It was truly nuts. The only thing that could possibly be worse is mint. I shudder to think of when I put that in long ago, and still pay the price every time I open up a new garden space. It finds me every time.
 

meadow

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@meadow Do they taste good? I've always been curious about their flavour, and I've never met anyone whose actually eaten them!
I can't remember how they taste. My family loves them, especially DD. I think that I was just 'meh.' There seems to be much more selection of varieties now -- the one I had was small and I'm sure you could do much better. We used to have geese and would cook the Jerusalem Artichokes in the bottom of the pan (which, now that I think about it, wouldn't be very thrilling to me; I really don't care for vegetables cooked in fat).
 

Zeedman

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@meadow Do they taste good? I've always been curious about their flavour, and I've never met anyone whose actually eaten them!
Haven't eaten Jerusalem artichokes for so long (about 20 years) that I no longer remember how they tasted. But this is actually one of the best times to dig them...

(going into tree line with a shovel)...

In their prime (which is Fall after the tops have died, but before the ground freezes) the taste is somewhat like a cross between carrot & potato raw, but crunchy as a nut. Pleasant, but IMO not worth the trouble of digging & cleaning them here, especially as stunted as they are in their present location. Mine were planted in an area that was far from ideal - a heavily-shaded wet corner of the lot where not much else could grow - and neglected. I had obtained them because JA are touted as being good for DW's diabetes, but she never took a liking to them. She did fence them in though, otherwise the resident deer would have mowed them until they died. Deer really like the foliage, they are probably one of the few things which could kill them. :lol:

My patch (of the variety "Clearwater") is basically just for preservation. If I had sandy well-drained soil here (which I don't) and a sunny location far from anything else, I might grow some JAs for food. When I lived in San Jose California, I had an ideal location... sandy soil on the bank of a creek. All I had to do for harvest was to wait. In late Winter, the creek would eventually overflow; when there was 6-8" of water covering the soil, I could walk out there with waders, and gently oscillate the dead stalks up & down. Gradually the whole root ball (including the tubers) would come up as a clump, with the tubers mostly clean. The weight of some of those clusters was impressive, wish I'd taken a few photos.

Once dug, the tubers don't store well at all. They should be dug just before use (best) or kept refrigerated in plastic bags. Peeling the small tubers would not leave much, so I just scrub off the skin with a steel pot scrubber or an abrasive pad. There are named varieties with less knobby tubers ("Clearwater" is one of those) and SSE carries a lot of heirlooms.

Apparently there was a Russian breeding program for JAs, someone in SSE lists "Skorospelka" which was allegedly developed there - and is described as developing tubers close to the stem. Hmmm... I might plant that in the abandoned part of the rural garden next year, where spreading would not be an issue, just to see how it performs.

Edit: In the past, I've described these as carrot-like, and JAs are recommended - cooked - as a potato substitute. But I now think of these tubers more as large nuts than small potatoes. Good for snacking.
 
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