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April 1, 2020, 9:39 am Advertisments


Gardening in your heart already?

......Try artichokes this year


The snow has barely disappeared and it is gardening season -- at least it’s gardening season somewhere! There’s a little bit we can do around here in January -- some people sneak in some garlic or prune fruit trees. We can order seeds and plan the garden. I am ordering artichoke seeds so I can start them earely in February.

Have you seen artichokes growing? They are perennials that grow like giant thistles - like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. I started 6 plants from seeds a few years ago, planted them in full sun at the community garden, and had 30 artichokes that summer. They’re a real conversation starter! They grow about 3 feet tall and the flower buds start out big and get smaller as the season goes on, but they’re all delicious. You cut off the bud (when it looks like one you’d see in the store) then cook -- there are several ways. I steam them whole for 40+ minutes and serve them with melted butter. You’ll want to google how to eat them -- it is very fun.

Anyhow, depending on the winter, they survive here on the peninsula. The first winter they survived (and multiplied!) and I was able to divide them and give some to a friend. However last winter I lost most of them to freezing and realized it too late to start more. (I ended up buying a couple plants from a nursery and they’re not cheap.) So this year -- two things: I dug up my expensive nursery artichokes and overwintered them in peat moss. (I never do this for plants, that’s how great they are). Also, I’m starting more indoors now.

I’ve tried both popular varieties - Globe and Imperial, and didn’t see much difference. BTW, Jerusalem artichokes are different -- they’re a sunflower where you eat the tuber.

I have a friend who grows artichokes in big pots. Either way I think they’re perfect for a front yard vegetable garden, front and center in the sun.

Susan Jensen / Ocean Park


Do you know what you are looking at? I didn't until a chance meeting with Susan Jensen.

That is the dream of the White Rock Sun fulfilled.

Since the inception of Canada's FIRST Online Newspaper it has been my goal to include as many community voices as possible. When I recently met Susan for the first time the topic somehow ended up being about her community garden. My ears perked up. "Would you be at all interested in writing about gardening locally?"

Well imagine my pleasant surprise when this article on Ground Cherries turned up this week. Thank you Susan and thank you readers. If you have an idea for a story in THE SUN please let me know.

David Chesney


Seed Catalogue Alert: Ground Cherries

On December 1, I harvested the last of this summer’s ground cherry crop. I can’t say enough about this garden plant that has been producing fruit since July and keeps going until it freezes. You’ve probably seen ground cherries (Physalis species - sometimes called “gooseberries”) as a garnish on dessert plates. It’s papery husk is distinctive -- the plant is related to the Tomatillo and Chinese Lantern. The fruits inside taste like fruit punch and are amazing raw or in desserts.

These plants grow like crazy as annuals in our climate on the sunny peninsula. Start from seed indoors in early spring. Plant plenty and give some warmth so enough germinate. Once they’re growing, pot them up, and then transplant them out in a sunny spot when the weather warms up -- like tomatoes. Give them lots of space and plan to do some staking or caging or else by the end of the summer they’ll sprawl out 3 feet in all directions. They’re pest/disease resistant and require little care.

Little yellow flowers on the plant will each develop into a fruit - and they’ll keep coming on until the plant freezes. You can get a hundred or more fruits from each plant during our growing season. Pick each fruit once its husk turns yellow. The ripe fruits are about an inch in diameter, depending on the variety, and are orange. There’s no pit.

Like tomatoes and potatoes, these are a nightshade. The green, unripe fruits and leaves contain the toxic chemical solanine. I am guessing the leaves and green fruit don’t taste good anyhow.

All in all I recommend adding ground cherries to your winter seed order -- you can find them alongside the Tomatillo varieties. This year I had 3 plants -- one at the Crescent Park Community Garden, one in my front yard and one in a container. I plan to double the number next year since I hear you can freeze them.

Susan Jensen/Ocean Park





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