Volume 14, Issue 17 ~ April 27 - May 3, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Grow Jerusalem Artichokes for Flowers and Food

Cooked and mashed with butter, these ‘artichokes’ deserve their name

Jerusalem artichokes are a member of the sunflower family, so you know what the flowers look like. They also produce a tuber that can be eaten raw or cooked. The tubers are sweet because they contain a polysaccharide called inulin that can be consumed by diabetics because inulin is not digested. The tuber resembles that of ginger. Shredded and mixed in salads, Jerusalem artichoke adds a unique flavor. Boiled and mashed with butter, they will taste like the globe artichoke.

The Jerusalem artichoke is an invasive native plant. Never plant it in the garden unless you want an entire garden full of Jerusalem artichokes five years from now. It is best grown inside a barrel. Cut both ends out of a 55 gallon plastic barrel and cut the barrel in half cross wise. In a sunny location, bury one half of the barrel in soil and fill with a mixture of equal parts compost and the soil you removed.

Sometime this spring, plant four Jerusalem artichoke tubers approximately six inches deep in each barrel. Tubers may be ordered from most large nursery catalogs. When the soils warm, they will sprout; by June, they will be at least three to four feet tall. To keep the stems from falling over, pound four six-foot-tall stakes along the outside edge of each barrel, and tie at least two strands of heavy twine or rope around the tops of the stakes. By August, the plants will be eight to 10 feet tall and will start blooming. Cut all the flowers you want for decorations.

Harvest the tubers in late autumn, after the stems have died back to the ground. Tubers may be found as deep as 16 inches in the ground. Store them with clinging soil in an open container in a cool place. They store very well as long as you leave the soil clinging.

Because Jerusalem artichokes are a hardy perennial, remember to leave a sufficient number of small tubers in the ground to start next year’s crop. All you need to do is mulch the top of your barrels with compost. During periods of drought, however, they should be irrigated because their roots are mostly confined to growing within the barrel.

Fight Wooly Aphids with Heavy Ammunition

Q For 10 years I’ve had camellia scale (small, cottony blobs on the underside of leaves) on two hollies. I’ve been waging a losing battle using horticultural oil, so now I’m ready to use a chemical. Can you suggest the least toxic — but effective — spray?

—George Lambert, Severna Park

A Are you certain that you have camellia scale? Camellia scale is not cottony but a hard shell. Small, cottony blobs sound more like wooly aphids, which are difficult to control without pesticides. Weekly spraying with horticultural soaps will give limited control. The only chemical that I know that will give good control is Ortho Isotox. However, timing is important. In most instances, one application when you first begin to see an infestation will give nearly a year of control. Follow the recommendations on the bottle.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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