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THE JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE.
This plant, interesting in many respects, especially considered economically and agriculturally, was cultivated extensively at the end of the last and beginning of the present century, and has probably been in Europe for three hundred years. Now it is completely neglected ; a few specimens only are sometimes to be seen in botanical gardens: and yet, as an ornamental plant, its tall stalks (each plant producing two or three, five or six feet in height), surmounted by numerous flowers, which remind one slightly of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus), make it most desirable. As an alimentary plant, the tubers are prepared in various ways; and the pulp has the taste of artichokes (hence its vulgar name, Jerusalem artichoke). Largely cultivated, it yields abundant and healthy food for cattle and sheep.
As an article of food, it is highly prized by some, and little valued or wholly neglected by others. The opinion of the best agriculturists is, that the tubers of this plant, well prepared, make a palatable and wholesome dish. Cooked with a little salt, or even raw, cows and sheep eat them , readily in winter, if they are fed occasionally, or mixed with hay and rowen.
Although indigenous to Brazil, and probably also to Chili, the tubers of this plant withstand the most severe frosts. They vary in size, are very abundant, and are similar in form to the potato (Solanum tuberosum). Every kind of soil is adapted to them. They flourish everywhere, and furnish abundant crops, which should be gathered in November; or the tubers may be dug even in winter, if the ground is not frozen. Is it not singular that of late years, when, all over Europe and elsewhere, the potato-rot has appeared, has lasted so long, and caused almost a famine, while, through a spirit of rivalry, a multitude of tubers have been mentioned erroneously as edible, and good substitutes for the potato, no one has called to mind the tubers of Helianthus tuberosus 1
C. Bailly Merlieux, in the "Maison Rustique du XIX. Siecle," vol. i. p. 45i, has devoted to these plants an exhaustive article, in which he quotes and examines all the opinions which have been given on this subject. We regret not to be able, on account of its length, to reprint it here; but we refer those of our readers who may be interested in this subject to this interesting notice.
He states, from indisputable authorities, the following facts: "These plants resist the severest droughts, even in soil naturally arid, and multiply in the poorest land; they endure the most intense cold without injury; they need be gathered only as they are needed; they supply man with healthy food, either boiled or baked, although used chiefly for animals; and their leaves furnish fodder much sought for by all cattle."
M. V. de Tracy, a celebrated French agriculturist, cites a remarkable example (" Le Cultivateur," March, 1835) : "On his farm of Paray-le-Fresil, near Moulins (dep. l'Allier), in the summer of 1834, the fields were dry, and clover grew only a few inches from the ground. Under these circumstances, he had recourse to the Jerusalem artichoke, the medium height of which was at that time from five to six feet, presenting an abundant foliage of the finest green. From that time (the middle of August) he mowed these stalks, and for two months a cart-load of about fifteen hundred pounds was brought to the farm each day. This green fodder was constantly and readily eaten by the cattle. It is worthy of remark, that the harvest of tubers was not sensibly diminished in the plants where the stalks had been cut. The leaves of the Jerusalem artichoke may be dried, and stored for winter-fodder. In a scarcity of fuel, the stalks of this plant, which are strong and hard, furnish good fuel: they burn very well when dry; are useful for heating ovens and for kindling; they may also be used for pea-sticks, and for light supports or plant-stakes."
The author concludes his article thus : "The quantity yielded by the Jerusalem artichoke varies greatly, according to the soil, and care bestowed on its cultivation. V. Yvart, a celebrated agriculturist, after testing it with the large white common potato, states, that, all circumstances being equal, the advantage has always been in favor of the artichoke, the yield of which is three or four times greater. M. V. de Tracy estimates the harvest to be eight or nine times the seed in the clayey-silicious soil of his farm; that is to say, from three hundred and twenty to three hundred and eighty-five bushels to the acre. He thinks the produce of green fodder is from sixteen to twenty cart-loads, of about fifteen hundred pounds each, to the acre."
We might lengthen this article by enumerating all the merits of the artichoke, and the modes of cultivating it extensively: but we have said enough, we believe, to call attention to the cultivation of this almost-forgotten plant, and to suggest its culture in the kitchen-garden as well as in the field: for the table as well as for the stable; and even in gardens, where a clump placed here and there, by its erect stalks, its beautiful and abundant foliage, and numerous flower-heads, produces a good effect . We have eaten with much relish these tubers prepared in many ways, but especially when fried in batter like artichokes.
The roots of this plant contain a great abundance of dahline, identical with inuline. The tubers, subjected to fermentation, give a great deal of vinous liquor similar to beer; and, in this respect, the plant might become important. L'Illustration Horticole.
[This plant is perfectly hardy with us; produces tubers and an abundance of foliage under the most unfavorable circumstances; and its cultivation might be profitably pursued. — Ed. "J
CULTURE OF GREEN-HOUSE GRAPES UNDER HORIZONTAL GLASS SCREENS.
It is now a universal opinion, that the culture of those varieties of the vine known as "green-house grapes " in the open air cannot succeed in our climate. In fact, except in some favored spots, even the earliest varieties, if not sheltered, yield small and uncertain results.
Every day we hear it said, "Grapes used to ripen perfectly here." That may be true; but those times are long past. What are the causes of such a remarkable change? Various circumstances must, evidently, have exercised an influence upon the late ripening which we now observe in this fruit. We believe that the degeneracy of the old early varieties, caused by long cultivation, as well as the gradual depression of the average temperature of our climate in consequence of the cutting-down of timber, has occasioned this in a great measure.
It must, however, be noticed, that, during a considerable number of years, little change has taken place in the average time of the ripening of grapes, and that we are not sustained by any recent experience when we complain that they ripen later than formerly. We may have become more exacting; and, having brought fruit-trees to such perfection, find ourselves unable to be satisfied with the ordinary sour grapes of vines cultivated out of doors. It is with the vine as with every thing else: we always imagine that what we used to have was better; and so we very often erroneously invoke " those good old times," which have, however, remained the same, while we ourselves have changed.
Certainly, after the satisfactory results of our first attempts at cultivation under glass, by which superb, well-ripened grapes of the magnificent late varieties have been obtained, grapes produced in the ordinary way must seem more insignificant and sour than ever.
Indeed, we cannot help becoming thoroughly disgusted with the system of cultivating green-house grapes in the open air, since they are far from paying for either the pains or the valuable space we are obliged to devote to them. In short, as we said at the beginning of these remarks, the necessity of a glass shelter for tender grape-vines has long been felt. Thus, ornamental hot houses lined with grape-vines — hot-houses reserved especially for this purpose — are now frequently met with here. What still remains to be accomplished is to reduce this method to its most simple form, an inexpensive grapery, so as to render this culture everywhere easy, pleasant, and lucrative. The mode of culture I am about to describe does resting upon bricks laid on the ground. It will be seen that the space enclosed in this little hot-house, and the easy system of ventilation, allow the temperature to be elevated or depressed at will. Moreover, by its position near the soil, the vine must profit greatly by the radiation from the ground. Vines cultivated in an open garden-bed, or, better still, at the foot of a well-exposed wall, and conducted in a unilateral horizontal position, would be best suited to this kind of shelter.
A branch of vine detached from the wall, and bent down towards the soil, could also be forced in this way.
Vines cultivated with long canes, and introduced under this simple forcing-frame, would produce an abundance of fine fruit. Lastly, the intelligent gardener would be able, in many other ways, to make use of this simple construction to obtain the finest and most savory of all fruits.
Flore des Serres.
[This method is in general use in England, and might be advantageously used in this country. It may be a question, however, as to the effect of our hot summer's sun on these ground-vineries. — Ed.]
CULTURE OF FERNS FROM THE SPORE.
At the beginning of March, select a warm corner of the side stage of the greenhouse ; place in a board two feet square; then break small a quantity of crocks, and cover the board to the depth of half an inch; chop up very fine a little sphagnum-moss, and cover the crocks; next sift through a fine sieve a quantity of sandy peat, with a small proportion of fresh loam; then mix up with a quantity of silver sand equal to both; press the moss level, and lay this compost on an inch deep; and, when done, slightly smooth and press lightly over the surface; then give a slight watering out of a fine rose, and, when the water has subsided, sprinkle on the spores pretty