Wintertime is tubertime
ONE OF THE SIGNS of season’s change here is the big liquid amber next door. As Autumn advances you see its deeply lobed leaves go from green to a bright yellow then to that vivid, rusty red that characterises the species.
That’s not all that changes. What is changing right now is the clump of metre-and-a-half high Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) in the backyard of our apartment block. They’ve gone their flowerng… bright yellow flowers that betray their membership of the sunflower family of plants — the Asteraceae — so-called because of their star shape (‘aster’, derived from the Greek, being Latin for ‘star’). The flowers aren’t big like those of sunflower but they are intensely bright.
Now, those Jerusalum artichoke are leafless, their stalks dry and brown. That’s an indicator they are ready to dig up. Once we’ve dug up their knobbly tubers they go into artichoke soup or are cooked like a potato for the evening meal.
As the season advances into winter the clump of metre or so high yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius), a herbaceous species of perennial daisy originating in the Andes mountains of South America and growing in the apartment block’s front garden, will start to brown and die off. When that process is finished it will be time to excavate the moist, crunchy tubers and eat them raw or cooked. Not yet though, at present they are in full leaf and will likely remain so through Autumn, their small yellow flowers atop their stalks.
Tubers of both Jerusalem artichoke and yacon (sometimes called ‘Peruvian ground apple’) are replanted, perhaps in a different location where there are fresh nutrients in the soil to take them through their next life cycle. Many people leave them to regrow where they are, and you often find that the small tubers you miss at harvest regrow anyway. Adding compost to the soil will replenish those soil nutrients the plants consumed during their previous lifecycle.
So, two signs of season’s cycles here in coastal Sydney. And as I sit here writing, a draft of wind hisses through next door’s liquid amber as if to reassure me that, yes, change is coming and it will bring those edible, tasty tubers with it.
Lead photo: Flowers of Jerusalem artichoke.
Jerusalem artichoke: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_artichoke