If you are looking to reduce labour and increase your personal food security, take a close look at perennial vegetables. Rhubarb is a well known perennial food source. However, it is far from the only one that will thrive in our environment.
Adding one or two of these perennial plants can increase your family’s food security. It is difficult to say what the future weather will be like, so, it is best to be preparade and to embrace diversity in the home garden.
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) also known as the sunchoke is native to eastern North America.
The plant was given the name Jerusalem because it is allegedly connected to the Italian word girasola, which means sunflower. This plant does have attractive yellow flowers. The root is the edible part and the principle reason for adding this plant to the vegetable garden.
The tuber of the sunchoke can be used like potatoes. This plant is a prolific breeder so the grower can anticipate a good yield. However, this plants is prolific and can take over a garden. It may be best to grow sunchokes in large containers in order to keep them under control.
Please do not ignore this advice, sunchokes will overrun a garden if not controlled from the beginning. What started as a plant o increase personal food security could end up in a garden disaster?
I am considering adding three plants to my community garden box as a test.
Some suggest to control the amount of the sunchokes you consumer at any one setting as it is possible a severe gas condition will develop. Others say the nutty flavour is tasty but the sunchoke is not a potato substitute. Which is fine grow them for their own food value and, if desired grow potatoes. Potatoes give you a good food value for your investment.
Remember the intent is to diversify the garden and to add plants that need little care and are perennial, not to replace favourite foods.
Sunchoke tubers should be planted about twelve to eighteen inches apart, about four inches deep. Any part of the tuber with an eye on it can produce a new plant. Harvest the tubers yearly being sure to leave a few in the ground so they will grow the following year.
If you prefer hill the tubers the same as you would potatoes. This is said to increase the yield. Some say it is better to harvest the tubers after the first frost as the taste is better, experiment and decide for yourself when the best harvest time is.
If the sunchoke does not appeal to you, there are a number of other perennial vegetables that might. To find them do an Internet search, or take a trip to the public library.
Eric Toensmeier has a website perennialvegetables.com which is based on his 2007 book Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Edibles published by Chelsea Green.
Gardening is meant to be fun and a wise gardener loves to experiment. Take a chance and try a perennial vegetable or two next year.