The Tale of the Sunchokes

We have long wanted to have a patch of sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. We tried years ago at our first homestead. From everything we read they would grow just about anywhere and spread profusely. Not for us.

After we arrived here we wanted to get a patch started, after all, they are very nutritious for livestock and humans. We planted the first batch in the garden, yes, really, in the garden, just so we could get them started because we didn’t have anywhere else to put them at first. They were very happy and grew quite well. (All of the pictures here are compliments of Google images.)

In the fall we dug them up to move them to their new home. Well, things happened and they stayed in the wagon until they all died. Yes, all of them. Well, except for the few that came up in  the garden the next year, but they were easy to recognize and pull up, so, no, they did not spread all over the garden.

The next year we planted a very large patch out in one of our smallest pastures where we were going to start an orchard and try to grow some other feed crops. Not long after they were planted it rained and it rained and it rained. They were standing in water for weeks. And then…..we had one of the hottest, driest summers in a long time. So the ones that didn’t rot, cooked and died. All of the fruit trees we planted out there died as well.

Two summers ago we decided to try yet again. Since we had been through two years of very hot, dry weather the ground was difficult to work. We got the bright idea of using the auger on the tractor to dig some holes for the sun chokes. So we did, about 30 of them. After they were dug, we filled the holes back in with the dirt and planted our new patch. We were happy with the process, it wasn’t near as back breaking as trying to dig all of those holes with a shovel. Then it rained and the dirt sunk down into the holes about six inches. That’s when we figured out that we had planted them way too deep. They still came up and grew last summer, but they didn’t get as tall as I expected and they never bloomed like the first batch did.

So, guess what? We’re going to plant some more this year in a different place and try to get yet another patch growing. We have ordered them, and they should be here before long. We will show you the new patch as we plant them and the ‘too deep’ patch as they come up. We are still determined to have a patch or two of these perennial tubers as another source of food. Even if they just grow and spread for a number of years without being harvested or eaten, they will be another source of nutrition, another source of food storage, if you will.

This is a story of, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and again and again. There are many such stories in each and every life, yours, ours and everyone you know. The important thing is to keep trying. Period. Does that mean we don’t ‘give up’ for short periods of time every now and then? No. But then we go back to that big bucket of gumption we have been storing up, grab a handful, put it in our pockets and get back at it. Life is a precious journey and the most important part of it is what you make of it. Make it worth the time you spend living it.

Until next time – Fern

7 thoughts on “The Tale of the Sunchokes

  1. Love them sliced thin on a salad! Is there another way to eat them??? Your story reminds me of my attempts to get a clematis growing in a certain spot. After I sent the first three plants to be with Jesus I finally got lucky/smarter w/the fourth one and it finally grew…only to have us move away later. I did get to enjoy it for about five years though. Such gardening 'trials' as these are what make us survivors and thrivers at life and at gardening. Sending you much love and God's grace! ~Sas

  2. Try, try and try again. That sounds like me and vinegar-making. I was finally successful on my third or fourth attempt. It's still very hit-or-miss but I keep trying.

  3. Ralph and I want suunchokes too, your post gives us hope! Seriously it just prove that old saying…\”If you don't at once succeed Try Try again!\” My adventures with Sangre Potatoes is similar to your tale of Sunchokes. It took 4 years for a successful crop of them due to weather, cattle disaster and voles! Then they were so tasty and bountiful I knew it had been worth the faith in trying!

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