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All choked up over Jerusalem...

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Have you ever tried growing something different? (Flower/Veg)Email me and tell me
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Adamn Greathead
Rank attained: Hazel Tree
Rank attained: Hazel Tree

Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 44
Location: West Midlands

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 10:31 pm    Post subject: All choked up over Jerusalem... Reply with quote

The flowers...are tear-provokingly beautiful...

Contrary to common belief, the sun root or, as most people know it, the Jerusalem artichoke does not, did not and never will originate from the Holy land. It's name is derived from the Italian word 'girasole' and although hundreds of years have passed since its discovery, people still display stubborn misunderstanding between this and the word Jerusalem which is apparently similar. North America is in fact the origin of this sparesly grown crop. Several years ago i was genuinely surprised to read that the Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower. Now i have come to love and grow this vegetable and the botany behind it has interested me it comes as no surprise at all seeing as its botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus, evidently a closs relation to the ever popular sunflower Helianthus annus. On top of this i was also excited, shocked and, of course, intrigued to discover that actually the Jerusalem artichoke lies somewhere between a radish and a an artichoke- i am only familiar to summer and winter radish of which none resemble an artichoke. The flowers which should be kept at bay until late summer are tear-provokingly beautiful and entirely reminiscent of a golden sunflower- only smaller and in a bigger quantity which makes them ideal as a cutflower.

Now man i am but entirely honest i am not for it is only this year i have been converted to chai' jerusalem artichoke and, consequently, have found myself actually planning whereabouts in the vegetable garden they will go and to this planning i approach with some trepidation as i know from intensive research that each plant can and quite happily without remorse will reach somewhere in the region of 6ft and even more in a good year. However my trepidation is matched with an abundance of antiscipation as it always is when i am confronted with something new to grow- and it is this sense of excitement which has led me to growing sweet potatoes, melons and asparagus peas- but that's another story. As it happens i am currently in the process of clearing some ground in the vegetable garden which, due to my focus being elsewhere, has rapidly become overgrown. The area is approximately 20ft square, containing 3 apple trees, a 'Victoria' plum tree, 2 redcurrants 'Laxton No 1', 2 white currants of the 'Versailles' variety and one large generous helping of couch grass. Given a little time and alot of hard work i don't see why they cannot be planted there.

The tubers remind me of small potatoes and just like potatoes they can be boiled, roasted, baked and steamed, the only real differences are: they can be eaten raw and they are ready to harvest at a time when potatoes are not (November onwards). The Jerusalem artichoke does have one comical trick up it's sleeve for it has a potent wind- producing effect so the message is only eat when you are with relatives or close friends as it wouldn't go down well with less-familiar company. On the other hand, the tubers are packed with the carbohydrate inulin, a carbohydrate with excellent prebiotic properties that induce positive intestinal health.

Coincidently, now is the optimum time to plant the tubers which can be purchased in a relatively small range of supermarkets although i would sternly advice buying certified tubers from any decent nursery or mail order. A word of caution on mail order- unpack and plant the tubers as soon after delivery as possible as is they are left out too long they will become wrinkly and soft and will therefore have a degree of degradation of the end result. This year i shall experimenting with 'Fuseau'- a smooth- skinned variety whose texture enables easy peeling which we all know makes for fast food. When planting the knobbly tubers that are rather like ginger root ensure the soil is adequately bulky by introducing an opulent amount of manure preferably two to three weeks before planting commences.Basic culture states that to achieve a crop worthy of the time spent growing it, each tuber should be roughly 18" apart from the next and idealism suggests planting them to a depth of 6''. I have only opted to grow four plants this year as i realise their 6-8ft surge of summer growth will probably fabricate itself to be quite a nuisance because it will, if put in the wrong position, form an impenetrable barrier blocking all light from reaching surrounding plants.

You will most certainly have meandered past a packet of Jerusalem artichokes whilst gathering other groceries more familiar to you however, despite this, i would not be surprised one tiny smidgen if somebody said to me they had never seen a Jerusalem artichoke before.And i say this because supermarkets these days are the harbingers of years of insipid produce, sourced not from the local menagerie of farmers but from a country not known to you or i and as a result of this they are slamming down a hefty carbon footprint that even any decent idiosyncratic politician would struggle to fill. Given any opportunity i would urge every single one of you to challenge your local MP and basically give them a good grilling. Find out what they are planning to do about food in your area; whether or not they are going to send local organic food to the supermarket shelves and if the answer is no then don't just sit back and accept it, make a difference and oppose it. Seasonal food once used to exist and because of it each individual season had meaning and the seasons were more often than not judged by what was on sale to the consumer. Time has blasted this wonderful wealth of food tradition apart and allowed for year-round substitutes to creep onto our shelves regardless of the three hundred or so miles it has taken to get them there and regardless of the overwhelming number of British farmers who have lost a business but also a way of life as a result. In the end it comes down to you, i and everybody else around us as we are the ones who buy the goods and in retrospective we have the power and authority over the food which is supplied to us on the shelves. And thus it seems that we have been engulfed in a corrupt cycle where we are our own enemies and where we have become victims of our own idleness. It really is a case of taking responsibility of what you and your family eat, introduce the family to seasonal food- it works here- and you may be surprised how it improves your overall health and your outlook on life. So don't delay: do enquire to your local party about their views on local food instead of making do with what you are forced to buy due to the lack of alternatives.
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