There are too many underground vegetables to discuss all in one post, so I'll just mention a few I've harvested in the last week. Today was Sunchoke Sunday. Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), are North American natives in the sunflower family (as you can see in the photo). The edible part is the tuberous root. They don't have anything to do with Jerusalem; that common name is probably a corruption of the Italian girasole for sunflower.
This spring we dug up a bunch of tubers from our ever-expanding sunchoke patch at the demo garden, and I planted 4 or 5 of them in a corner of a raised bed at home, fully intending to move them elsewhere when I'd cleared a space. Guess what? They grew up in that corner, got tall and bloomed, and today I gathered them out of the earth - all of them (so I claim, but that never happens) because I mean to start over again next year somewhere else. Here's today's harvest:
The plants are almost too easy to grow, and will get weedy if you let them.
Another crop we've been enjoying this week (after the marathon dig at the Harvest Festival) is sweet potatoes. I've written on them before and you can look up posts using the label "sweet potatoes." A nice seasonal recipe for Curried Sweet Potatoes and Apples can be found at the Washington Post site.
Underground crops are particularly fascinating to kids, though I think everyone enjoys the surprise of seeing a potato or a beet or a carrot emerge from the soil - it's kind of magical. With fruit or leaf crops we get to watch what's happening, wait for the tomato to turn red or the lettuce to head up. Underground crops are a mystery until it's time to pull or dig them. And usually the surprise is a good one (though these crops do have their pests and diseases too). What are your favorite underground crops and how are you using them?