Garden Journal: Week of 10/31

We couldn’t have hoped for a more beautiful day in the garden this past Saturday.  Blue skies and a sun-soaked morning lit up the fall leaves and fostered a very enjoyable and productive workday.

The theme: harvest, harvest, harvest!  Lily and Rachael were planning a dinner for their class (Gardening with Mr. Jefferson) and wanted to cook up some dishes using food from the garden, so we got to work digging and plucking.  Among those harvested were tubers (Jerusalem artichoke and salsify) and beans (cowpea and lima).

Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus):

We dug up half the Jerusalem artichoke bed, finding anywhere from 10-15 tubers on each plant which quickly filled up an entire plastic shopping bag.

Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) for a delicious feast!

After our workday, Lily C., one of the other interns, found out that over 70 years ago, her great grandfather grew tons of Jerusalem artichokes on their ranch. “They grow SO WELL,” she says, but, “alas, there was no great market for them, and the rest of his family felt a tad cursed by the number of those tubers that crossed their plates after his harvest.”  I don’t know how long I could go eating these guys straight, but I sure did enjoy the batch I sauteed with sage butter for some friends this weekend.  Keep an eye out for them at the grocery store under the name, sunchoke.  They look like ginger root and are a bit nutty in flavor.

We learned from
 the book, A
Uses (whew!) by Mrs. M. Grieve that the name “Jerusalem” is a corruption of the Italian word “girasola,” meaning ‘turning to the sun,’ which is a habit the flower supposedly shares with its cousin, the sunflower. The original Italian name was Girasola articiocco, or Sunflower Artichoke.

Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata):

The Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute describes cowpea as, “one of the most ancient crops known to man.”  It is cultivated around the world to be used as food, feed, and cover crop.  You might better recognize the name black-eyed pea, which is a common variety of cowpea. This year at the TJDG we grew an heirloom variety from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds called ‘Haricot Rouge du Burkina-Faso,’ which hails from Burkina-Faso, West Africa, and has dark red seeds.

Cowpeas all lined up in a row.

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius):

According to Elizabeth Schneider in her book, Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide, Thomas Jefferson planted more salsify in his garden than other plants that are thought to be more conventional today.  Many call the plant “oyster root” because of its oyster-like flavor.

Rachael pulled up these beauties in the garden…check out those tubers! Our plants are a 19th century variety called ‘Mammoth Sandwich Island,’ and the seeds were purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Salsify showing off their roots!

Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus):

Lily C. and Emily did a wonderful job plucking all of the lima beans from their shoots and clearing off our trellis of their endless tendrils. The lima bean harvest (both white ‘Carolinas’ and purple ‘Red Calicos’ from Monticello) amounted to TEN pounds of pods!

Intertwining vine (with twine).

What a lovely day to relish in our fall harvest! Can’t wait to hear how the students enjoyed their feast.


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