Friday, September 21, 2012

Sun root

 The first time I saw this plant tuber in our local community veggie swap, at a glance I thought it was some relative of ginger. But it does not even belong to the same group with ginger. Interestingly, these tubers known as sun root and many other names such as sun choke, Jerusalem artichoke, or girasole belong to the same family with sunflower, globe artichoke and lettuce (Asteraceae). Sun root is not from Jerusalem but it is a native to Northern America. The reason why even you left some tubers underground through winter with heavy frost the plant will come back the next growing season, very hardy tubers. It is not a tuber you always find available in the grocery store compared to potato. But it can be used as substitute for potato and it is much much more easier to grow. Does not required care at all in our garden. When the tubers sprouted, I did not even noticed it until it has grown several leaves and I thought it was some other seeds that I was trying to sprout.
 At this stage, the sun root plant has grown resembling more to its cousin sunflower. The plant grow very well in partial shade and hard clay soil. Very convenient plant, when you have little space and you can grow them at the most unproductive spot in your garden and still produce tubers. I have experimented growing sweet potato and potato on this same spot but it never produces decent tubers or tuber at all due to the hard soil and limited hours of direct-light. During summer this spot received just several hours of direct light around noon. 
The sun root plant grows almost 2 metre tall. Sun root tubers contain no starch unlike potato. Sun root tubers carbohydrate consist mainly of inulin which the body does not absorbed so its a good healthy diet food. Inulin compound is also reported to increase the effectiveness of our body immune system and increase calcium absorption. 

Sun root flower resembles sunflower and smaller in size but looks really cute. Sun root plants once established is drought-hardy compared to potato plant in our garden. In my mind, I kind of form a plan regarding these 3 plants potato; potato, sweet potato and sun root how to fully utilise the space and rotating the harvest to keep fresh supplies going between these 3 tubers. The best time for us to grow potato is end winter and harvest by early-mid summer. We can plant potato again early autumn and harvest mid-winter ~mid-spring. We start to plant sweet potatoes and sun root in September (early spring). Sun root can be grown in the most poor condition in our garden which somewhat increase the garden productivity during summer. Sun root and sweet potatoes can be harvested by mid-autumn when potatoes supply are no more. But for sweet potato tubers we don't have to dig them out until we want to use them. The sweet potato tubers does not mind staying underground in our climate here.
Sun root flower also has seeds but smaller than sunflower seeds. Can be grown from seeds but the tuber results will be variable like potato grown from seeds after some research reading. Growing from tubers will produce the same as its original parent, basically the parent clones. After some reading about this plant, I become interested to try growing this plant from seeds. Alas, did not managed to collect seeds because I throw the debris into the compost unaware of them having seeds or I was not thinking much that time when Abby was still in the tummy growing big very fast (3rd trimester). It was a cold day when we harvested the tubers. Any gardeners on the Northern Hemisphere harvesting sun root tubers soon? Did you find any seeds on the remaining plant spent blooms?
Well as you can see this section of our garden is in shadow some part during the day. The sun root plants dying and almost the time to harvest some tubers. My husband thought all the time it was a sunflower growing, not knowing that it was actually a sun root plant before I seek his help to harvest the tubers because it is in a spot hard to crouch for a heavy pregnant woman surrounded by other plants.

I was not expecting that much harvest because from previous experience growing potato and sweet potato on the same spot yield almost nothing. Surprised me it did, it was really a nice harvest for just one plant growing in poor condition. The basket harvest was really heavy fill with sun root tubers.  The sun root tubers also helped break the hard clay soil for next plant growing there.
When I was pregnant with Abby, I enjoyed roasted sun roots and in Malaysia yellow curry very much. This post actually has been drafted since June and I just managed to post it today typing with one hand while the other hand holding Abby.


GO GREEN said...

Mums are naturally born as multitasks..arent we?

cikmanggis said...

rupanya seperti halia..macamana rasanya?ingin tahu:)

JaSSNaNi said...

hmmm.. looks like ginger.. ingat ginger tadi.. tapi lawa la bunga matahari tu..

Stephanie said...

Such a fascinating plant. Never knew that a tuber plant can have flowers like the sunflowers. Nevertheless, it's a pretty plant :-D

MS said...

boleh guna untuk masakan ker?

Sue Garrett said...

We call it Jerusalem artichoke and grew them ages ago but in the end we dug them up as they formed a dense thicket - they were really invasive so watch them and make sure you dig out all the tubers every time and replant. Tubers left in the soil just bulk up and before you know it you will have a garden full. Ours never produced flowers.

Apparently eating these artichokes has the side effect of causing flatulence too!

Sunray Gardens said...

That's a lot of harvest from one plant. Think I would do more of them next year.

Cher Sunray Gardens

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

look similar like ginger, but i like to see the yellow flower from this plant, so beautiful! you sangat rajin huh, one hand can also prepare a post, hehehe..

Unknown said...

The flowers look pretty. Had never heard of this plan. How does it taste?

Daphne Gould said...

I grew that one year, but I was afraid to keep it in the garden. Everyone tells me it is impossible to get rid of once it gets established. Little bits of roots will keep growing back. And the taste didn't grab me. Around here you occasionally find patches of them growing in the middle of nowhere. I always wonder if they are natural or were planted there years ago.

David said...

Very interesting! I've not eaten or grown them! But I'd like to try!

tina said...

We call these Jeruselum artichokes here and I've been warned not to plant them as they can take over. But I have also heard they taste pretty good. I've not tried them before though.

rainfield61 said...

Haha, you can ask your baby to type too.

Kate said...

I might just give this a try! I didn't know about its health benefits. We've been trying to keep my husband's blood sugar down, and I sure have plenty of bad soil.

Liz said...

I have the perfect spot to try these in. Will have to get somke tubers. Thanks for writing these up.

Mark Willis said...

These plants - and their tubers - are quite popular in the UK, where as you describe, the tubers are sometimes used as a substitute for potatoes. I think they have a rather insipid taste, and when cooked they usually go grey so they look unappealling. Better as an ornamental plant, I'd say.

JGH said...

Good info - thank you. I did plant this "jerusalem artichoke" a couple of years ago, not sure exactly where. I do have hard clay soil in part shade, so it should have done well, but I don't recall seeing these flowers. I may have to try again.
Congratulations on the new baby!!

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

A versatile plant and a versatile lady.

baguznet said...

wah! interesting... really look like a ginger but its flower is really nice...
how about the taste?

lena said...

i owuld hv thought those were ginger too if you never mentioned!

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Lynn~ Yeah mum naturally multitasks.

Cikmanggis~ Rasanya macam ada rasa ubi kentang tapi lain sikit. Ada rasa masin sikit masa bakar.

JaSSNani~bunganya macam bunga matahari sebiji tapi yang untungnya akar ubinya boleh makan.

Stephanie~ In warmer climate it does produces flower but not in colder climate it seems.

MS~Boleh masak, saya suka pakai ubi ni dari kentang untuk daging masak lemak cili api.

Sue~Yes, I did make sure we dug up all the tubers as it has been known to be invasive. But as long as it contain itself on the poor location in the garden, I probably won't mind that much. A reference book mentioned that it usually only flower on warm temperate~subtropical climate.

Cher~ It will be nic to have a few more plant this year.

Sonia~Dah boring asyik duduk tunggu baby hisap susu tak mau lepaslah...hehehe.

Sri Ranjani~I think different variety might taste a little bit different. The tubers can have some nutty flavour.

Daphne~The taste did not grab me at first when I received several years ago. But somehow I kind of like it now. I might be bias cos I grew it myself :). So easy to grow will be good crop if ever this world faces with famine.

David~It can be easier to grow in your climate.

Tina~When they are freshly harvested, taste very good.

Rainfield61~Fingers too small :).

Kate~Yes it does have health benefits, a good diet food.

Liz~I actually grew another plant in much shadier location. It was half the size with the one I posted. However the yield was good too.

Mark~Probably because with Malaysian dish using a lot of tumeric, it does not look gray in the gravy so it does not look unappealing. We hardly see these tubers here in Australia.

JGH~Hope you enjoy growing them again.

Gardener on Sherlock Street~Awww...just making sure the family learn to eat good food and grow their own.

Baguznet~The taste is fine to me. It might depend on each individual taste. Manis dan dekat bahagian kulitnya ada rasa masin sikit. Berlemak pun ada.

Lena~Nampak macam ginger kan. Cuma leceh nak cuci tanah.

Wendy said...

wow, that's a big harvest! My dad grows tons and tons of this. We like to cut them up and put them in a marinade like we do with peanuts - a 5-spice soy sauce.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thanks for the tip Wendy.