Saturday, October 30, 2010


i've been doing some thinking about food storage technology ( not necessarily modern food storage...rather a variety of cultural responses to the problem ) so i decided to do an experiment with my jerusalem artichokes...since they can overwinter in the ground where they are planted ( or growing ferrally) why shouldn't i be able to store the harvest from campus in my backyard? couldn't think of a good reason why not so i am going to try it with the entire harvest form campus...the top photo is of a newly commissioned raised bed in my back yard with 160 pounds of composted cow manure ready to be turned in...the middle is today's 161 tuber harvest in a twelve inch deep trench, spread out as evenly as their shapes would allow...and the bottom photo is the end result...more as i dig them up and utilize them...they will be out by spring...that bed is for eastern gamagrass, teosinte ( there will be an attempt at that on campus as well ) and spring wheat...i do not want that many sunchokes loose sacres me thinking about it

more autumn tubers

i planted these jerusalem artichokes three hundred and seventy days ago and they have been productive...not as productive as the one i harvested earlier in the month, but near's first plant required an excavation of an area of 39 X 20 inches to a depth of around 7 inches...that seems to be the normal depth for these things to grow yielded seventy-six tubers of varying sizes...the second plant was right next to it ( these were two of the four plants outside the main sunchoke bed )so it was simply a matter of extending the excavation south...i ended up with a hole of around 36 X 48 inches, and the second plant came up with seventy-nine sunchokes for what i thought was a grand total of one hundred and fifty-five tubers...however i ran across another six as i was back filling the hole so we got one hundered and sixty-one from two plants...about eighty apiece...somewhat fewer than the nintey-one we got from the last plant that was harvested...but enough to tell me there are still hundreds left in the garden...i am preparing a few new raised beds here at home for some tubers, grains, grasses, tomatoes, and peppers...i believe i will be using them to store these jerusalem artichokes in the ground over winter rather than burdening my refrigerator, freezing them, or developing an uncontrolable tase for them...i can dig them up as the weather allows and compare taste as the spring approaches ( my reading tells me that the flavor changes, becoming sweeter after the first hard frost for instance) experiment in tuber cuisine.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

chinese yams

i went and dug the yams this morning...and as i was doing so i picked up another twenty-five yam bulbs that were hiding by the base of one of the plants...the reading i've been doing said that the yams could be as much as thirty-six inches deep...i am greatful they were set was about a foot down, the other eighteen inches or so which was good because the sandy soil under the garden is packed and hard as a bloody rock...which may explain why the yams weren't that deep...i ran into the odd jerusalem artichoke as i harvested the yam on the north side...i can't help but think i will be running into the odd jerusalem artichoke in perpetuity no matter what i am doing in the garden...i saw a multiplicity of red wigglers as i was doing this which is heartening...i have been returning organic matter to the garden as i harvest ( today it was some cowpea plants i put back in after the harvest ) and part of the area i dug up was where i put the remains of the potato plants in july...they have been processed into worm castings and that pleases me no end...putting the cowpea plants back in a green condition will enhance their nitrogen setting by returning what is in the plant to the soil as well as the surplus that was created by thier sybiosis with thier bacterial pals...i have also harvested several hundered seeds from these cowpeas so the process will be self sustaining...the season is almost over...some sunchokes to harvest and garden to mulch for season beckons.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

winding down

the above-ground season for the jerusalem artichokes is over and it was looking a bit like an eyesore even by my " always appreciate things when they are on the edge of decay" rundown, seedy i took action and removed the stalks, leaving the multitude of tubers in the ground for a removal, replanting, and disbursment later this month...if the first plant was an indication i have alot to remove...the chinese yam vines are fading and doubtlessly it wil be time to harvest the yams soon as well....they are supposed to be about three feet down as opposed to the six or eight inches for the sunchokes and i am delaying a bit until the cowpeas mature...i harvested eight pods today, including the ones in the third photo...i bought a pound of cowpea seeds this spring and now i am reaping the next generation...reading tells me that the seed remains viable for two or more years so i shouldn't have to resupply my experement in "green manure"...the intital investment promises to be self-sustaining and that is philosophically sound for the garden...the tomatoes that have been poking along all season in the garden on campus and at home are starting to come around and now it's a race with frost...they are sub-tropical perennials and i cannot help but wonder if there was some sort of daylength issue going on...research has eliminated all but one non-potato andean tuber ( yakon ) as a candidate for growing in northwest indiana because of daylength problems and it could be that the same problem is ailing the tomatoes who seem to be responding to shorter days...we have done well in establishing the garden this year...made some mistakes and learned alot none the less...a bit more harvesting to do and then we will be mulching the garden for winter, doing more reading, and planning the second season...can't wait.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

abundant reproduction

i've been to the garden twice so far this weekend...yesterday evening and again this morning...yesterday was the usual every-other-day run to do maintenance on the garden and i found that one of the cowpea pods was ready to harvest for seed ( they are probably mostly too tough to eat already although there are some small ones yet)...i counted seventy-six pods which is twenty more than there were wednesday...i saw a few that will be ready to pick next time i go and it remains to be seen how many we can harvest...but i won't need to purchase seeds for next season and that is part of what this garden is about...self sustainabillity...i can see we will have absolutely no trouble sustaining the jerusalem artichoke population...more the inverse actually...robust isn't a good enough description...i went out there this morning to dig up one of the sunchokes for tubers to plant here at home for next season and it was an education...i expected somewhat more in the way of tubers than the red nordlands produced and i wasn't disappointed...i chose the plant on the northeast corner of the garden because it was one of the ones planted away from the main body of artichokes and it was shading a clump of eastern gamagrass that i wanted to get into the sunlight...i initially found sixty-six tubers in the area immediately around the plant, and i assumed that was it...while digging i had exposed some of the gamagrass rootsysem and i thought i might clear away a bit more soil and take some photos of the process of doing that i found another jerusalem artichoke attached to a rhizome...i followed it along and found another half dozen tubers just beyond the gamagrass...another sweep of the area was in order and since the plant was on the corner of the garden i began digging back under the university lawn and found sixteen more under their tubers from one plant ( and i can't really be certain i found them all )...a shade over eleven pounds worth in all different shapes and sizes ( they look a lot like ginger roots )...with twelve plants still left to harvest i stopped to do some math...if that eighty-eight tubers holds up as a ballpark average for the remaining plants there are better than a thousand tubers left in the least to me as a novice to jerusalem artichokes...i had one raw with lunch...not bad if you don't mind bland...they would do well in a salad...haven't tried cooking any yet...more on that later