Thursday, May 09, 2024

The All You Can Eat Buffet Ends Today

This year I'm growing Jerusalem artichokes. Not from Jerusalem, and not artichokes, this variant of sunflower grows from a potato-like tuber and produces more tubers at the end of the season. Also known as sunchokes, it was this video highlighting their use as a high-yield, low-effort food source that initially caught my attention.

Digging a little deeper, I came to appreciate that Jerusalem artichokes are one of those plants that keeps getting rediscovered. In the 1600s, Native Americans introduced the plant to colonists and they became a staple for the pilgrims. In 1907, they were declared scientifically the "most efficient of all economic plants." In 1930, the US Government tried to convince housewives that like the innovative avocado, the Jerusalem artichoke was a worthy addition to their pantry. In 1935, this "no-account, worthless vegetable pariah" was promised to be a "vast source for industrial sugar and alcohol," earning it the nickname the "million-dollar weed." Today, the NIH links to over a 1,000 scientific papers that mention the Jerusalem artichoke. From biofuel to diabetes, the easily forgotten sunchoke keeps being offered up as the answer.

Planting Jerusalem artichokes was easy. I purchased a handful of tubers from Amazon and dropped them into the ground. After about a week, shoots started to appear.

Success! I shouldn't have been surprised, the plant is native to the US and has a reputation for being easy to grow.

As the plants continued to grow, I noticed that some of the shoots were nibbled off by critters. I remained unconcerned. And then, two days ago, I peeked outside and found that the entire crop had been devoured. I present Exhibit A from the crime scene photo shoot:

Oh, this means war! So off to Amazon I went for supplies. I spent yesterday setting up a chicken wire enclosure, with the hopes of keeping my chokes safe.

Will our furry neighbors laugh at my attempt and simply go back for seconds? Probably. But for now, I think my 'million dollar weeds' are safe. And I'm telling you, when Jerusalem artichokes finally do hit the big time, I'll be able to say that I grew them back before they were a fad.

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