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What's Growing Archives - Backyard Grocery
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What’s Growing

What to do with Sunchokes


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sunchoke

Sunchokes look like ginger, grow like potatoes, and taste like artichokes. They’re a new favorite for me.

One of my favorite things about the community garden is that people share their abundance. Like if someone’s sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) go completely insane. Which, lucky for me, happened and I have found myself with about 5 pounds of the delectable little tubers. The problem is, I’ve never had them before and I don’t really know what to do with them. So I’m asking you, my readers, to give me some ideas!

I did roast some the first night just to taste them. I can’t believe I’ve never eaten them before! They taste exactly like artichoke hearts, which are one of my favorite things in the entire culinary world. So I am very excited to do more. I’ve chopped and frozen a few pounds, even though everything I’ve read says they don’t freeze well (which seemed more an issue of color then taste). I’m going to ferment some of them because, well, because I ferment everything these days. But I’d really like to incorporate them into a real meal. Any and all ideas are welcome. I’ll report back with whatever I do.


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Our new hand trommel sifter


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hand trommel sifter

Rick sends the first batch of compost through our new hand trommel sifter.

The fun never ends here at the Backyard Grocery! This week, Rick built his very own hand trommel sifter to make the job of separating our worms from their castings a little bit easier. Add hand trommel sifters to the list of garden tools I never dreamed existed, but that I now own. The list is getting very long.

Rick is all about making life in the garden easier. He has a point: if the garden work isn’t completely back breaking, I’m more likely to participate in it. And I did…we sifted some of the compost from the manure compost bin in our garden yesterday and it worked great. Rick just has a few more modifications to make, and we’ll be ready to really plough through that huge bin. Then the hand trommel sifter will come home so we can use it with the worms. See, I told you the fun never ends.

hand trommel sifter

Three phases of compost: the good stuff, the almost good stuff, and the stuff to toss back in the bin.

Making a hand trommel sifter

Rick found the plans for the hand trommel sifter from a guy named Mike. I don’t know much more about Mike, except he’s clever and you can find the instructions on his web site. Of course, Rick modified it a bit. He’s going to add a hopper, which will greatly facilitate actually getting the compost inside the trommel sifter (right now it’s not all that easy to do). And he needs to add some smaller screen because the few worms living in our outdoor compost slid right through the screen. We don’t want that. That is, in fact, the opposite of what we want.

All in all, this device cost about $50 to make, which I think is a bargain for the hours it’s going to save us working with both compost bins. And, Rick got to make a new tool, which makes him happy, which is priceless.

hand trommel sifter

The sifter sitting on our compost bin, waiting for modifications.

Do you compost? What methods have you come up with to make it successful and/or easier?


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Worms in my kitchen


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vermicomposting

When are worms cute? When they are eating your garbage and producing vermicompost! (Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

If you had told me a year ago that I would consider red wigglers “adorable and cuddly,” I would have rolled my eyes and snorted. But just this morning I declared the squirmy little things downright cute. Why is the adorableness of worms even a subject in my household? Because my husband has become a vermicomposting demon and we now have about 4,000 worms eating our garbage.  We started with 2,000 and one bin about six weeks ago. We now have two bins and Rick has been transferring the adorable (and very hungry) little guys to the new bin.

So, why the heck are we doing this? Because vermicompost is frigging amazing fertilizer. And I have a lot of garbage to compost. And Rick loves a good project, especially if he has to use his tools.

It all started when we realized our composter in the backyard just really doesn’t do a great job. It’s the barrel kind that you turn. But in the winter, the food just sits. And, after it’s full, you have to wait several months for the compost to finish composting. What am I supposed to do with my veggie scraps then?

So Rick started researching alternatives. I think he first started thinking of vermicomposting when he discovered the Urban Farming Guys, but that’s just a guess on my part. I know a few days later the book “Worms Eat my Garbage” showed up in the mail. That was the end of that. My kitchen now houses worm bins, and I have completely fallen in love the the wiggly little cutie pies.

vermicomposting

Vermicomposting bin #1 in the kitchen. Sometimes the worms try to escape, so Rick helps them back down into the garbage pile.

The Pros of Vermicomposting

  • Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer and soil conditioner.
  • It makes your plants healthier, and helps increase their disease resistance.
  • Since you can feed them paper products too, you can really cut down on the garbage you send to the landfill.
  • Composting time is 1/3 that of regular composting.
  • The red wigglers are adorable and easy to maintain pets you don’t have to walk.
  • If you haven’t totally fallen in love with the worms, you can use them for fishing .

For more detail on the benefits, check out this article from somebody much smarter than I am about such things.

For now, we just have the two bins and the worms are eating about 4 pounds of waste a week. However, Rick has started construction on an outdoor worm bin that we will use just as soon as the weather gets warm enough. It involves a huge barrel and a lot of PVC pipe.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life. Even more, I can’t believe how much I love it!


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