Monday, March 1, 2010
Snow Melt Holiday Edition
Mint perks in the low snow area near the house, ready to rumble with the other plants.
What about Eco Farm Day 2010?
I suppose most of my fellow Canadians are celebrating some sort of winter sports related win but I'm more excited about my own made up holiday - March 1st - Day 1 of The Great Snow Melt. In most years, by the end of the month, there are scraps of snow left around my city dwelling. Many years, there is no snow at all and I start playing 'identify' that shoot.
This is the day when we sit at the top of the rollercoaster poised, breathless, waiting to fly down through the rush of spring and summer. The whole growing year is ahead of us. Several months from now it will be hard to imagine the monochrome winter face of Ottawa.
In celebration of this day, I'm going into the open garden to harvest something. I wouldn't normally be able to do that as we would still have a good couple feet of snow cover but this year has been a fairly dry winter so in places I can see green. Wish me luck.
-- 20 minutes later --
I'm back. Sage is harvestable poking out of the snow. The mints and various brassicas are starting to get perky but most exciting of all is this:
Jeruselum Artichokes - first open garden harvest 2010.
The Jeruselum Artichokes are planted on the west side of our house in sandy loam. Those that were within a foot of the foundation were harvestable!
Yaaaaaaaaank. Ground is unfrozen near foundation of house. When I cut the stalks down in the fall, I leave pulling length for easier yanking in the spring.
Tada! Jeruselum Artichokes. There would probably be more if I went rooting around in the nearby soil.
Eco Farm Day 2010
In other news, I attended the Canadian Organic Growers conference held this past weekend in Cornwall, Eco Farm Day 2010. My favourite speakers presented Farming with Fungi not Fertilzer and Managing the Environment to Control Insect Pests, both of which I would like to share with you in depth so you'll have to wait to make sure that I got my facts straight before I post on them. Also, look for posts on Watershed Conservation Programs in the area and the intiative Growing Up Organic.
Standard Wiki on Jeruselum Artichoke or Sunchoke - a perennial member of the sunflower family which produces abundant edible tubers.
Growing taste talks Jeruselum Artichokes - nice set of links there if you want to know more and more and MORE! Why wouldn't you?
Just a couple notes of my own on sunchokes
1. It's oft quoted perhaps even by myself once or twice that Sunchokes are invasive in a garden setting. However, I bumped into a sage writer who pointed out that the shoots is easy to identify and all you have to do is tug it out (see above). True. They are hardly the same as say mint or Bishop's weed (shudder). What they are is vigorous. I think this is one plant that rests on the right side of manageable if you are willing to do the managing.
2. They contain inulin which can cause gas. It is also found in beans. I don't have any problem eating them but you have been forwarned. Apparently, the raw tuber is gassier than the cooked one.
3. The flavour is delicious but unlike regular cultivated vegetables so I can't really describe it. It will permeate the dish it is cooked in unlike blander roots such as potatoes so expect it to feature if you add it to stews etc...
4. Some people peel the roots but it's unnecessary and finicky. Instead break off any knobbly bits to facilitate easy cleaning, scrubbing away the dirt then use knobbly bits and larger tubers whole or diced, depending on your recipe.
5. They don't store well for me in my slightly dry cellar but have done pretty well wrapped in a plastic bag at the back of the fridge. If you live in a mild winter region, you may be able to harvest all winter. For slightly less mild areas, it may work to heavily mulch the ground after a couple hard frosts to make harvesting possible in winter.
6. They are harvested by wild food foragers and can be quite common in areas due to their 'vigorous' nature.
7. Propogation is mostly vegetative especially in the north, so you can plant tubers that you buy at the market or through suppliers for your own garden. If you live locally and would like some sunchokes for your own garden, contact me as soon as your ground is workable.