What a strange spring we are having this year. First, it came on fast and strong. Along the front path, there are blooming daffodils and grape hyacinth. My plum tree is in full bloom, and the Virginia bluebells that grow beneath it have already begun to loosen their grip on their flower buds. Most of these plants are weeks early. The plum tree is a good month ahead of its normal schedule.

Or, well, that’s how things looked before this latest cold spell. A few days ago, the cold night air froze my blue bells solid and left a scattering of frost across the garden and yard. Then, last night we got a dump of heavy, icy, slushy snow. Just a few inches, but enough to zap the daffodils and the plum blossoms alike.

Even as the world greens and blooms — and then freezes and snows — above ground, things are also getting growing beneath the soil’s surface. The parsnips’ tops are stretching toward the sun, for example, which means their roots are converting bulk into plant. Time to dig up the last of that harvest (leaving a few to bloom this summer). This also means it’s time to dig up the last of another subterranean harvest: the Jerusalem artichokes (aka. sunchokes).

This was my motivation when I ventured out into the garden last wee, digging fork in hand. I had a date with the compost pile, where ready-to-spread compost was sheltering a bumper crop of sunchokes. The compost needed harvesting, and so did those sunchokes.

A hour or so of heavy lifting later, and I had a full five-gallon bucket of sunchokes. Most came from the depths of the compost pile, but some were dug from the nearby garden bed they invaded last summer. When people warn you that Jerusalem artichokes are invasive, believe them. They speak the truth.

In case you’re wondering, a five-gallon bucket holds about 30 pounds of sunchokes. That’s a lot of sunchokes!

Some of these tubers are already putting out new growth. These will be bagged and stored in the refrigerator until the Fauquier Community Seed Swap on March 25 (if you’re anywhere close to Warrenton, Va, I hope you’ll join us!).

The rest are destined for my dinner plate. Or, for many of them, my soup bowl. Because, this: Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup.

I first gave the recipe a try a couple weeks ago. It’s rich and hearty and very, very easy. I skipped the cream (it doesn’t need it) and used a bit more stock than called for. Next time, I’ll use more water than stock, making the soup a bit thinner and letting that artichoke flavor sing. Because, yes, Jerusalem artichokes really do taste like those delicious thistles that give them their name.

Do you have a favorite recipe for sunchokes? Or, a storage trick that works wonders with any leftover Jerusalem artichokes in your kitchen? Either way, I’d love to hear about them!

And, yes, it’s been a while. That little sprout I introduced you to last year has grown to be a robust seedling.

She’s not yet ready to be put to work pulling weeds, but here’s hoping she’s willing to grant me a few more hours with the garden and blog this year!

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