Gardeners and farmers have tried to predict the weather since ancient times. Seers were once sought out in their high mountain retreats, while other folks developed systems for reading nature’s signs--both here on earth and up in the heavens. Eventually, we established the science of meteorology; however, with global warming and climate change, we might be better off with an old fashioned seer.
Doug LeComte, who is a meteorologist with the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center, has suggested that the “jet stream is on steroids.” Here in the Klamath Trinity region, we are just south of the jet streams current haunts. The jet stream is pumping up the rain. While the Midwest is under continuing threat of floods, we are already nearly ten inches over our average rainfall for the year (measured July 1 – June 30). Gardeners and farmers everywhere are hoping for sun, but the experts don’t agree on how long the rain will continue. Some believe this wet and cloudy weather could last well into our summer months. LeComte says “we’ll have to wait and see.
We are all hoping up for a nice warm growing season; yet, it might be wise to add a row or bed of adaptable cool weather crops to our summer plantings (think in terms of leaves and roots). They might not provide much produce if the weather turns broiling hot; but our beloved tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers may fail us if the sun takes too long to chase off all these clouds. In case you need some ideas for alternative crops, here is a great book—hot off the press:
Buried Treasures, Tasty Tubers of the WorldThis great title from Brooklyn Botanic Garden will spark your interest in all sorts of edible roots for the garden. Over 30 different root crops are covered, and not a single one of them is related to a parsnip, carrot, turnip, or radish. Some of these crops need warmer climates than ours, but nearly half of them are listed as adaptable to our area, and some thrive in wet boggy conditions. Buried Treasures features full color photos of the plants and their resulting root crops. Complete growing information is provided. Tips on available cultivars, nutritional value, and preparation are also included. This small book is well designed, affordable, and would make a great gift for gardeners who want to grow it all. Available from most on line book sellers and by request from bookstores everywhere; Buried Treasures, Tasty Tubers of the World, Beth Hanson – editor, published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, ISBN 978-1-889538-34-1
Jerusalem artichokes actually have nothing to do with Jerusalem or artichokes. They are related to sunflowers, native to North America, and have been used for food by people native to the North East Woodlands and the tall grass plains since ancient times. Jerusalem artichokes are considered carbon-fixers, as they extract large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, which they use to grow their sturdy stalks and produce an abundant crop. They also scavenge nitrogen and are considered beneficial around compost and manure piles, and stock and animal pens. The excess nitrogen that may be found in these areas can leach into our ground water and our rivers and streams, where it is a pollutant that contributes to unhealthy algae bloom. Jerusalem artichokes absorb the nitrogen and turn it into organic matter. This is a great crop that is good for you and good for the environment also.
Once the plants are done flowering or the tops have been killed by frost, you can begin to dig your tubers. Expect each plant to produce five to fifteen pounds! They keep best in the ground, so only dig as many as you want for a few days at a time. (Be sure to leave a few behind, for next year’s crop.) These tubers can range in size from a few ounces up to two pounds each. They are odd shaped and knobby and can be a little difficult to wash. However, they don’t need peeled, and they only have fifty calories per full cup. Jerusalem artichokes taste best raw. They are crisp, sweet, and crunchy. (Think water chestnuts or jicama.) I like to eat them just like an apple. They can also be diced or grated into salads. Cooked, they make great mashed potatoes, and they can be added to soups, stir fries, stews, and casseroles. After cooking they have a mild but distinctive flavor and their texture is similar to cooked parsnips or turnips.
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