We have had some violent wind recently which is always a nuisance but not entirely unexpected at this time of year.
Several of the Castor Bean plants (which have soared to nearly 20’ tall!) were blown over onto the asparagus bed. After removing the fallen plants, we have been obliged to tie the stems of the remaining plants together in a grid so that they now support each other when the wind gets up.
Known to the ancients as the Palma Christi (palm of Christ), the seeds of this plant provide that terror known to all recalcitrant children as Castor Oil.
However, the seeds when improperly used, are extremely toxic and even the handling of them may produce dangerous effects, and for this reason we cut them off while still in flower.
The plant, itself, makes a spectacular specimen and is one of the most asked about plants in the garden.
Growing just beside and nearly as tall as the Castor Bean is the Jerusalem Artichoke. This member of the sunflower family is known to the botanists as Helianthus tuberosa, so named for its edible tubers or roots sometimes called Sunchokes by vegetable merchants.
As for its common name, it is not from Jerusalem at all but is the only native North American vegetable of note, though most Americans have never made the experiment. This may be because of the well-known property commented on by the late Attorney General, John Randolph, who wrote, “they are of a flatulent nature and are apt to cause commotions in the belly.”
We have corralled this towering giant by running stakes and string all around the planting to keep it from falling into the path. It is perhaps a parable that for both of these magnificent monstrosities, too rich a soil produces too weak a product while a poorer soil produces a sturdier stock.