Today was a digging day. Though it has been warm and many plants are confused about the time of year (I found three Sweet Violet flowers yesterday and Henbit is in bloom all over my garden!) the Jerusalem Artichokes are doing just what they should. They have completely died back and the tubers are ready for harvest. Jerusalem Artichokes, which by the way, have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are not Artichokes, are actually sunflowers and are often known as Sun Chokes. They bloom alot later than most other sunflowers and die off quickly after flowering. When collecting roots and tubers, a general rule is to wait till the plant dies back in the Fall or before it begins it's growth spurt in the Spring. At these times, the plant is storing all the nutrition and energy it needs to come alive and flower in the Spring and Summer, therefore you get the most nutritional and medicinal value if you harvest during these times. As I was digging the Chokes I ran into some good sized Dandelion and some Thistle that started from this years seeds so I decided to collect those also. Dandelion is such a nutritious and medicinal plant and I am lucky to have lots growing on my property and most people don't realize that the dreaded Thistle is not only good food but has medicinal value also.
I decided to use the Chokes another time and to make my lunch based on Dandelion and Thistle. The Dandelion were washed well and the roots were separated from the leaves which I used as salad. The thick part of the roots were cut lengthwise into four strips and placed in the toaster oven on very low heat to dry them out so I can make an infusion from them. If you want you can dry them than turn the heat up a little to roast them and make a much darker drink that many people call a coffee substitute. Besides the fact that it is dark like coffee, it has no other likeness and tastes nothing like coffee at all. It is way better for you though, as the medicinal and nutritional values of Dandelion root are many.
I only used the roots of the Thistle this time, though the leaves, after some prep to remove the spines, are very delicious raw or cooked. I took the roots and cleaned them well, sliced them, than boiled them till they were soft. I added some butter and a pinch of salt and had a great addition to my meal. As seen in the photo above, cooked Thistle root, Dandelion leaf salad and Dandelion root infusion make a substantial very nutritious meal.