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Topinambour - The Magical Ground Pear

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Topinambour appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 17th century and quickly took its place on the table. In Russia, with the appearance of potatoes, the topinambour surrendered its position. Today, thanks to new crop varieties of topinambour and advertising in the media, the culture is returning to the food family. In 2000, at the International Conference on Crop Production, topinambour was named the planetary crop of the 21st century for its medicinal properties, yield and unpretentiousness in cultivation.

Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Topinambour inflorescences and tubers. © Child of the Thames

In this material we offer you a closer acquaintance with this interesting culture: learn its useful properties, get information about growing and caring for topinambour, about its use in food, as well as in decor as a late-flowering decorative and flowering plant.

Topinambur, or Helianthus tuberosus (Helianthus tuberosus) is a species of perennial herbaceous tuberous plants of the Sunflower family of Asteraceae (Asteraceae).

Topinambur is known by many synonyms:

  • ground pear - for its sweetish flavor;
  • volga turnip - for its slightly elongated rootcrop resembling a cabbage sprout in taste;
  • bulb, bulva, barabola - for its similarity to potato rootcrops;
  • Jerusalem artichoke - received the name because of a special way of preparation, in which the topinambour acquired the taste of artichoke.

Beneficial properties and composition of topinambour tubers

The ground pear with the taste of cabbage sprouts at its external unattractiveness turns out to be a very necessary and useful vegetable garden plant. The tubers of topinambour have an irregular lumpy shape and contain a large list of substances and compounds necessary for the organism, including inulin, a substance very important for diabetics. The amino acids contained in the tubers of topinambour have a positive effect on the human body: arginine, valine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalamin, which are necessary for adults and children:

  • they stimulate growth hormone synthesis,
  • rejuvenate the body,
  • are part of hemoglobtin,
  • prevent hearing loss,
  • regulate sugar levels,
  • increases protein synthesis,
  • cracked fats converted into energy,
  • decreases blood cholesterol,
  • produces enforphins, "happiness hormones".

The list of useful properties of amino acids is complemented by vitamins B group (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7), C, E. Micronutrients (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, zinc, iron and others) in combination with vitamins, amino acids, other substances by their action on metabolic processes are very useful because:

  • significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis in the elderly and rickets in children,
  • improve blood formation function,
  • the activity of the sex glands,
  • regulate fluid balance in the body.

Eating topinambour helps to strengthen immunity, reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack, reduces salt deposits in the joints.

Topinambour in the diet helps to increase the number of bifidobacteria in the large intestine, involved in the processes of suppression of pathogenic microflora development, including staphylococci, shigella, enterococci, salmonella.

Only a small list of useful substances and their effects on the body testify to the great value of this vegetable plant. Apart from the health-improving effect, topinambour is used as an ornamental plant in the landscaping of a dacha or household plot. Topinambour is a good honeybee and fodder for livestock.

Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Digging the tubers of topinambour. © outofmyshed

Description of topinambur

The topinambur is similar to the sunflower by the external structure of its ground part. It is called (as the sunflower) the sun flower because of its ability to turn the inflorescence after the sun.

The underground part of the plant consists of a tap root and underground shoots - stolons, located at a depth of 15-20 cm. Pear-like tubers are formed at the ends of stolons. Their appearance can also be spindle-shaped, oval, rounded, almost always tuberous.

The topinambur's ground stem is annual, straight, reaches a height of 2-4 m, rounded-cylindrical, rough because of numerous short stiff hairs, dark green, very dense. In culture in autumn, the topinambur stalk is cut to a stump 7-10 cm high.

The leaves of topinambur are large, rough, petiolate. They densely cover the stem. The leaf lamina is dark green, heart-shaped or ovate. Developed large leaves are slightly hanging.

The inflorescence of topinambour is a basket. The flowers are yellow or orange-yellow. The marginal flowers are lingual, unisexual, sterile. In the center of the inflorescence are tubular, ovipotent, self-pollinated or cross-pollinated. The ground pear blossoms in September and flowers until November, depending on weather conditions and the region of cultivation.

The fruit of topinambur is a small, grayish-brown seed. The inflorescences, to obtain larger tubers, are often cut off. When grown for decorative purposes, ornamental bushes are obtained, blooming until late fall.

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Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Topinambur, or Tuberous Sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus). © Raw Edible Plants

Biological features of topinambour

Topinambour - A crop for the vegetable garden without worry:

  • grows in any soil, except saline and highly acidic,
  • needs no care,
  • does not get sick and is not damaged by pests;
  • does not collect nitrates and nitrites in tubers and ground green mass
  • tinamburus is a short-day plant; in southern regions (daytime over 12 hours) flowering is late, seeds do not mature.

Topinambour has edible flowers, young leaves and root vegetables. Moreover, the root crop is perfectly preserved in the soil. It can be partly harvested in autumn and in the second half of spring, when the vitamin deficit is particularly noticeable.

Topinambour still has one drawback - it does not store well. Unlike potatoes, the topinambour tubers do not have a cork layer, which protects the product from spoiling. This property was the reason for replacing topinambour with potatoes.

Topinambour varieties

Bearing in mind the unpretentiousness of topinambour, the plant material can be asked from neighbors or buy several tubers in stores and other retail outlets.

For topinambour lovers and especially for diabetics we offer varieties bred by breeders, forming aligned large root crops with their compact location in the soil, with reduced or increased bushiness, winter-hardiness for the northern regions of Russia and other useful qualities.

Early varieties of topinambur

The early varieties of topinambur have been bred with maturity dates:

  • Skorostripe (Skorospilka);
  • Kievsky white;
  • Vadim;
  • Leningradsky;
  • Severokavkazsky;
  • Nakhodka;
  • Volzhsky-2;
  • Dietetic;
  • Short-ripening Kharkovsky;
  • Red;
  • Vertenovidny;
  • Patatat and others.

The early varieties are ready for harvest by the third decade of September. Early-ripening varieties of topinambur (Red, Patat, Skorospilka, White, Veretenovidny) can be grown in regions with harsher winters. But in any case, the tubers of topinambur are not left in the soil for wintering. They are transferred to cold cellars, where they are stored in sacking under a layer of sand and used as food as needed.

To store topinambur tubers directly in pits on the plot. With these methods, the storage duration will be extended to 2.0-2.5 months. In the refrigerator, the root crops are stored for about a month.

Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Topinambur, or Tuberous Sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus). © Matron

Late varieties of topinambour

From late varieties of topinambour we recommend:

  • Interest;
  • Hybrid 320;
  • News.

Late varieties of topinambour form a full crop by November, so they are not common in northern and cold regions.

Hybrid varieties of topinambour - topiary

The market has recently offered hybrids obtained by crossing topinambour with sunflowers. The crop is called topiary sunflowers. They slightly differ from topinambour in external habitus and bush structure (more stunted, thin-stalked, with a large number of inflorescences up to 1 cm in diameter, flowers only yellow). Topinambur tubers are absolutely smooth, while topinambur tubers have small (like hairs) roots scattered over the tuber surface.

The following varieties of these hybrids are recommended for cultivation:

  • Vostorg;
  • VIR's News.

It should be noted that topinambour retained its medicinal and dietary properties, and from sunflower they increased their useful properties: they effectively remove salts from joints, if you take therapeutic baths of decoctions and infusions of ground fresh or dried mass.

Growing topinambour

Planning and care of topinambour repeat the agricultural technique of potatoes. Topinambour should be planted in a free corner of the garden or yard, away from other crops. This is due to its rapid reproduction and capture of new areas, especially if the agrotechnics of harvesting is violated. Topinambur prefers bright places, but it successfully grows and develops in the shade and even under walnut, which usually depresses any crops growing in its zone.

Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Topinambur sprouts. © Steve Albert

Soil preparation and fertilization

Topinambur grows in all soils, excluding solonchaks, alkaline and strongly acidic, the optimum pH being 5.5-6.0 units.

The soil for topinambur can be prepared from fall or spring. Under digging, on highly depleted soils, mature humus or compost are applied to produce larger tubers. On medium and very fertile soils fertilizers can be made or limited to nitroammophoska, azofosoka at the rate of 40-60 g per sq.m. area.

Planning of topinambur

For planting choose healthy tubers of topinambur weight 50-60 g. Planting by row with different distances in a row and inter-row: 50x50, 60x40, 70x35 and others. Tubers are planted in a 7-12 cm layer of soil, preferably sideways.

Powering of topinambur

To avoid paying too much attention to watering, planting is better to spend:

  • in arid areas - in furrows;
  • in areas with high humidity - on ridges.

Watering Topinambur is not contraindicated, but a special irrigation system is not necessary. Roots deeply penetrating into the soil in sufficient quantities provide the plant with water and nutrients. Increased amounts of moisture are needed during the period of tuber formation. At this time, 1-2 waterings are necessary. Watering is still needed during long droughts, combining them with watering of other crops.

Topinambur care

Tubers germinate at soil temperature +4 ... +8°C. The above-ground mass is not damaged by short-term decreases in air temperature to minus 6°C. Topinambur easily endures high air temperatures.

Before and after topinambur sprouting, weeding the soil keeps it clean of weeds. During the season 2-3 loosening generally in the first half of the warm season.

In case of excessive moisture plants are dipped, deepening the rows of furrows. Topinambur fertilizer is not required. If you want to get a higher yield of tubers, hay or silage in the spring bring nitroammophoska, kemira, mix full fertilizer.

When growing topinambour in the same place for many years, the overgrown bushes are dug up and remove excess shoots (level the rows). You can carry out thinning to make room for young shoots. After this procedure the plants should be fertilized.

With age, the yield of the culture decreases, the tubers topinambur shrink. In this case (if desired) it is necessary to work hard. In the period when the old tubers die off, and the new ones are just beginning to form, it is necessary to cut the ground mass, the soil with the selection of tubers to dig over the bayonet of the spade. During the remaining time until the autumn/spring planting, constantly loosen the plot to a depth of 7-10 cm.

Topinambour - the magical ground pear
Harvesting the tubers of topinambur. © outofmyshed

Harvesting of topinambur

Green mass of topinambur is harvested before the onset of cold, leaving stumps 5-8 cm high. Leaves and stems separately. The stems before drying shredded. Dry in the shade and store in bags (not plastic). In winter, use for baths. If the green mass is intended to feed livestock, make hay.

Digging plants during the summer and autumn period, use the tubers of topinambur for salads, first and second courses, healing juices. Topinambour tubers are stored in cold cellars or earthen pits, covered with burlap, respectively, under sand or soil. The temperature in the cellar is maintained at 0 - +2°C.

It is possible to harvest topinambour in 2 parts. A part of the harvest can be harvested in autumn and used as food. The second part should be removed in spring, replenishing your menu with fresh vitamins and other health benefits. Topinambour tubers, dug in spring, are sweeter and tastier.

If topinambour grows on your plot, and moreover is used as a food and medicinal crop, write about it in the comments. Share the secrets of preparing salads and other dishes, use in landscape culture, medicinal decoctions, teas, medicinal baths.

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