All (Sun)choked Up

Sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes, sunroots, fartichokes – all names for a North American native related to the sunflower.  This is a perennial plant that produces edible knobby tubers.  And by perennial, I mean they could be invasive if not properly managed.  I obtained several at the Foods Not Lawns seed swap this last January.  Planting them in the back of my garden in March, I just let them go without much assistance.  I did have to fence them in inside my fence as one groundhog acquired a taste for them, but once the sunchokes got tall enough (4 feet or so), the critters couldn’t get to them. The sunchokes ended up getting 10 feet or so tall with pretty sunflower-like flowers on them. On 11/17/2013, I dug them up, bringing in several buckets full – way more than I would have imagined. Also, it seems like they don’t store all that well (some shriveling up within a week), but was able to keep them in the buckets with some dirt on top through the spring.


My understanding is that it’s hard to get rid of sunchokes once they are planted. The roots are very long and grow everywhere. If you miss any while digging, you will have more sunchokes next year. Also, the flowers produce seeds, which will produce even more sunchokes. I believe I’m in trouble next year as I had both roots and seeds I’m sure I missed. The only saving grace is that the leaves and stems make good mulch (read that in a permaculture book recently), so I’ll just be cutting any unwanted stalks down. I’m definitely a mulch believer – the more the better.

Sunchoke from my garden before cleaning 11/17/2013

The reason for people calling them fartichokes is that some people can’t digest sunchokes, much like lactose intolerance. I didn’t have that issue at first as we only had a small amount. I pushed it the next day and apparently ate too many (oh, my aching stomach). The Turnip, Apple, and Sunchoke soup I made next was much better and didn’t affect me at all.  I think the secret is moderation (which is not my strong suit).

Turnip, Apple, and Sunchoke Soup

In case you have Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) and don’t know what to do with them, here’s what I decided to make with my own turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, and garlic.  I made a few modifications, including adding turnip greens and not peeling anything (I’m lazy if not anything).  I would make this again so, but alas, I’m out of turnips for now.  Could always buy some at the local farmer’s market.

Turnip, Apple, and Sunchoke Soup

YIELD: 6 to 8 servings

1 leek, trimmed
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 pounds turnips diced plus greens
1 1/4 pounds sunchokes, diced
2 tart apples, cored, and diced
Coarsely ground black pepper or Aleppo pepper
Medium-coarse sea salt

1. Cut leek lengthwise in half and rinse well. Finely chop leek together with onion and garlic.


2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until water is almost completely evaporated, about 15 minutes.

3. Add turnips, artichokes, apples, and remaining 2 cups of water. Cover and simmer until apple is soft and flavors have blended, about 30 minutes more.

Knobby sunchokes – 11/23/2013
Turnips (including greens)
Local apples

4. Puree soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve drizzled with oil and sprinkled with a grinding of pepper and with salt, if desired.

Yum! Finished soup

The Snarky Swapper

On 11/19/2013, the Snarky Gardener attended the Countryside Conservancy Food Swap held at The Grape and Granary (915 Home Ave, Akron OH).  Advertised as a monthly event to “trade homegrown and homemade items with other DIY-ers”, it did not disappoint.  The Snarky Girlfriend (aka SGF) talked the SG into attending the swap two months ago with encouraging results, trading our organic herbs and greens for other things (including beer!).  This time was better as we were much more prepared.

First, we needed to decide what to bring. Thanksgiving herbs (rosemary, thyme, and sage) seemed a natural and straight forward decision. The next idea we came up with was baking dog treats. These used up our organic wheat (which the SGF is intolerant of) plus we added our mint and parsley. My terrier River was a willing taste tester.  I was concerned she wouldn’t like them, though that was sort of silly as she’ll eat pretty much anything. Our third idea was to put some “adult” herb infused vodka marshmallows into little jars. We made this with our basil, thyme, and rosemary a few months ago after seeing it on Pinterest. The SGF used her crafting skills to make our offerings appear more professional though I would love to get some sealable plastic bags with the Snarky Gardener logo. Of course, I need to get an official logo first.  Any suggestions?

Our Snarky offerings - Thanksgiving herbs , herb infused vodka marshmallows, and mint/parsley dog treatsOur Snarky offerings - Thanksgiving herbs (rosemary/thyme/sage), herb infused vodka marshmallows, and mint/parsley dog treats
Our Snarky offerings – Thanksgiving herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), herb infused vodka marshmallows, and mint/parsley dog treats

The event went well as we traded 2 jars of adult marshmallows, 3 bags of doggy treats, and all 3 bags of herbs. In return, we received bags of wheat and corn flour from Breakneck Acres, the same place we purchased the whole wheat that was used in the dog treats (ah, the circle of life). Also, we got lip balm, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies, bars, and canned goods (all homemade). All in all, not a bad haul. So now we have to come up with what we will bring to the swap next month, though I’m sure they will all have a Christmas theme.


The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment

Every fall for the last few years, I’ve restarted my indoor AeroGardens, as the full spectrum light and green growth helps to keep away the winter blues (aka Seasonal Affective Disorder).  I’m taking a new bold step this time by growing cherry tomatoes from my saved seeds.  Last year I purchased a special extra tall AeroGarden (extends up to 2 feet instead of 1) with “mega” cherry tomato seeds included.  I wasn’t 100% happy with the tomatoes it produced as they had very little taste, most likely because I was being stingy with the liquid fertilizer.  So now I’m using my own varieties plus more plant food to hopefully grow better tasting fruit.

Getting them started was the first hurdle, as I have never saved tomato seeds before.  But Mother Nature trumps Snarky Nature every time and both (Snarky Orange and Chocolate) sprang up with no issues within a week.  My next issue moving forward will be whether or not the plants will get too big for their britches. I’ll have to treat them like bonsai trees and keep them properly trimmed, or I’ll have a jungle in my kitchen. If this all goes well and I end up with flowers, I’ll spend the following month or so concerned that the Snarky Orange tomatoes won’t actually produce orange tomatoes. They are the third generation of the SunGold hybrids I grew in 2012. They volunteered this last spring and on a whim, I decided to just let them go wild. Out of four volunteer plants, two produced orange tomatoes and two produced red cherry tomatoes, which I guess is not uncommon. I saved seeds from the tastiest orange tomatoes produced but genetics are a funny and random thing. Guess we’ll all find out later this winter.  Can you just feel the excitement?



Snarky Orange (on left) and Chocolate cherry tomatoes – 11/11/2013
On 11/25/2013, both tomatoes are doing well with a jalapeno start in the middle. They grow up so fast (sniff).
Tomato experiment as of 12/6/2013. Both tomatoes plants have flowers (though neither have opened yet).  The jalapenos in the middle were grown from saved AeroGarden jalapeno seed.

Succession Planting 2013

Succession planting is the process of planting one crop after another.  This sometimes means planting something every two weeks (like bush green beans or lettuce) so that you can have a continuous supply.  Other times it means the gardener (snarky or not) will plant something in the spring (like spinach or peas) and then when it peters out with the warming weather, put in something else (like corn or squash), then when summer comes to a close, grow fall crops (like turnips or mustard or spinach).  For my garden, I do both with a preference for the spring/summer/fall system, as I like to grow as much as possible for as long as possible (insert smugness here).

Here’s an example with my summer potatoes and then my fall turnips, peas, and corn salad.

Potatoes in early Summer 2013
Turnips, peas, and corn salad in Fall 2013

Here is my monthly garden progression so you get the idea of succession over a whole season.

March 2013

In April, I decided to use Cascade bush peas to get my Three Sisters corn/beans/squash mounds started. They make a good spring time filler while the gardener waits for the temperatures to stabilize above freezing.

April 2013

By the way, this was the first time I coerced my Three Sisters garden to actually work out in three years, with the beans going up the corn like they were supposed to instead not growing at all.  Persistence pays off this time – yeah me.

May 2013
June 2013

The turnips in the top middle near the potatoes were totally accidental as I let one of my Purple Top turnips go to seed. I’ll try to use the same technique next year by moving some of my overwintered turnips (bottom left quadrant in September) to other parts of my garden.  I planted the upper row of Tendergreen bush beans first and then the second row about 2 or 3 weeks later.  I would have done a third row in August but the pumpkins ended up taking over from the west.  This area will be planted with Roma tomatoes next year. (Yes, I’m already neurotically planning next year’s garden, including a new one in my front yard next to my tree line).

July 2013

The Ho Mi Z mustard in the upper right corner is currently going to seed as of this November post.  I’m going to collect as much as I can, but there will definitely be random mustard all over the place next year.  Again, I love to have edible weeds (or volunteers as they are sometimes called).  The mustard was planted as a “cover crop” as I knew I was putting in potatoes in that area next year. Mustard is supposed to help potatoes by countering nematodes and weeds. Plus you get delicious greens for salads, etc and seeds for cooking and making mustard. I picked Ho Mi Z (aka Dragon Tongue) because it was on sale at Johnny’s Seeds last year.

Mustard going to seed – Fall 2013
August 2013

The Tyee spinach, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia), and Cascade peas will be covered with leaf mulch this fall and uncovered in the middle of next March.  This will allow them to overwinter and be ready to go in the spring, saving a month or two of potential growth.  This will be my first year trying this, so I’ll post my findings for your enjoyment and knowledge.

September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
November 2013

Fall Gardening 2013

This year we got lucky here in Northeast Ohio and didn’t get our below freezing weather until late October.  But I wasn’t worried about it (OK, maybe a little) because I already had my fall gardening plan in play.  Back in August and September, I prepped several areas (including my summertime potato/pumpkin patch) and planted some fall crops, including purple top turnips, peas, onions, carrots, mustard, spinach, and corn salad (aka mache).  All of these can handle and even thrive in cool temperatures and occasional frosts.  When you add in my already growing Swiss chard, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and various herbs, this fall will be delicious right up to Christmas and beyond. Makes me feel a little sorry for those gardeners who till up their gardens in the fall and wait until next May to plant again (like my next door neighbors).

Garden as of November 1, 2013
Garden as of 7/29/2013
Turnips, Peas, and Corn Salad – 11/4/2013
Dragon Tongue Mustard going to seed – 11/4/2013

This spring, I let my overwintered corn salad go to seed, spreading some of the spent plants all around my garden during May (call me Snarky Mache Seed).  This August, I noticed little corn salad plants growing all over, as some chillier weather woke up the seeds just as my summer plants were winding down.  Corn salad is probably the most cold weather adapted crop I have in my garden and will be available for eating all the way into January.  My evil plan this year was to get it established so it would just come up on it’s own year after year.  I just love perennials (even when they aren’t technically considered as such).  My logic is that if I’m going to have “weeds” come up in my garden, they should be edible.

Nice examples of corn salad in my garden – April 2013
Corn salad spontaneously growing around corn – 11/4/2013

Besides the planting and harvesting, I also have one other major garden activity – leaf mulching.  I bought a lawn sweeper last year so I could fill my garden with them (including some new areas that had previously been lawn). The effort was quite the success as my weeds were down (except in the back where the leaves were scarce) and my soil seemed to get better. This year I’m making concerted effort to pile the leaves around as evenly as possible so I can spread the wealth, so to speak. I even piled them up on my new garlic bed, located outside the fence to the west of my garden. Even the groundhogs won’t bother garlic so it made no sense to grow it inside like I did this past year. And of course, unlike last year, I remembered to split up the bulbs into cloves and only planted the biggest.

Fall leaves soon to be garden mulch – 11/4/2013
Lawn Sweeping on 11/9/2013


Seed Saving 2013

With the start of fall comes my seed saving efforts.  With a bounty of seeds, I’ve been considering setting up some type of Internet-based sales site, but that might have to wait until late in 2014.  For now, I’m going to limit my myself to trading, swapping, and time credits from the Kent Community TimeBank.


Sylvia’s Amish Low Acid Red

Chocolate Cherry

Snarky Orange Cherry
F3 of Sun Gold (F1)

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Tomato Seed Saving technique

Jalapeno (from my AeroGarden)



Jacob’s Cattle Dry


Rattlesnake Pole – both green and dry

I grew Rattlesnake beans up my corn and my tomato cages this year.

Rattlesnake Pole beans on my corn – 7/17/2013
Tendergreen Bush – green

Bean: Tendergreen Improved image


Ho-Mi Z (Dragon Tongue)


Seven Top

Seven Top Turnips going to seed


Amish Deer Tongue

Amish Deer Tongue lettuce going to seed.