The Grumpy Gardener – Troublefree Tubers

The Grumpy Gardener – November

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online, professional gardener Mike Alexander offers some advice on a multitude of benefits offered by a lesser known but easily grown vegetable.

Soon now it will be time for me to lift my topinambour. That is the French name for what we commonly call the Jerusalem artichoke or less commonly Helianthus tuberosus
Topinambour or Jerusalem artichoke ready for the kitchen (Credit Wikipedia)

Topinambour or Jerusalem artichoke ready for the kitchen (Credit Wikipedia)

This is a root vegetable that has been virtually forgotten in recent years though during World War ll it kept starvation at bay for many in France.

Mention the word topinambour to any elderly rural person in this country and out will come a flood of stories about how the Nazis would take their potatoes and other veg but leave the topinambour which became an important staple food in such lean times. The reason topinambourwas so unpopular with the occupying army and why it has fallen from popularity more recently is that it can be quite a bland veg if not cooked with something else. Of course, for the French for whom cooking is woven into the DNA, turning this bland veg into something quite delicious is no problem. One favourite recipe is to slice them into fried garlic, onion and boudan (blood sausage) at which stage the bland tubers emerge as something considerably more delicious.Jerusalem artichokes in fact originate in North America where they were an important part of the Native American Indian diet. These nomadic people could plant tubers then leave the area assured that when they returned, there would be a crop to harvest without any prior maintenance. First imported to France in the 7th century they have no relationship with Jerusalem whatsoever. They were called giriosaleby the Italians and in that strange convoluted way by which so many plants become misnamed, the mispronunciation of the word was translated to Jerusalem. A common name used by English-speakers ever since.

Jerusalem artichoke Soup with roasted capers (Credit Flickr - cyclonebill)

Jerusalem artichoke Soup with roasted capers (Credit Flickr – cyclonebill)

Though currently somewhat out of fashion, this tuberous, easy-to-grow plant may be about to make a comeback. It requires little use of pesticides which has attracted the attention of agronomists who are looking closely at the plant as a source of ethanol instead of maize. It is also a good source of raw material from which to produce gluten free products, now increasingly in demand. As a side issue there has also something of a scandal since it was reported that some supposedly pure apple juices contain high percentages of topinambour juice.

If you want a really easy to grow edible plant this one’s for you. Tubers are planted individually in much the same way as potatoes. Below ground they will increase while above ground you will be engulfed by huge stems that can grow several meters high. Cut them back to about a meter and as soon as the first frost scorches them lift the tubers with a fork. They can be really invasive so be sure to collect all the tubers and just plant one or two the following spring. They are famed for causing flatulence but cooked together with a potato which is then discarded is said to reduce the unfortunate side effects of what otherwise  is a very handy vegetable.


Previously – click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring…
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You’ve got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine – Madrid
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad – on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives
Designer chic or neccessity? - click here for full story
To read this article - click here
Designer Chic?
Gravity – not to be ignored!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If Winter Comes….
Hottest chilli in the world
Dogs and Daffodils... full story - click this image
The iris and Madame la Guillotine... full story - click this image
Dog Days…
Fleur de Lys
Hedge You Bets - how do YOU like your hedges... full story - click this image
To read a previous article
– click an image –
Hedge Your Bets

Grumpy Gardener

Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Writer: Mike Alexander

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