Over the weekend, I braved the cheerless cold and wind of the end of autumn to harvest some tubers. Dahlia tubers.
Not many people realize that this cherished flower was originally bred for consumption by the pre-Columbian Mexican peoples. It’s as though the potato were never eaten and instead grown competitively for decoration.
The primary problem with the plant is that the various animal pests infesting the local community garden have no prejudices about strange foods. I pried about twenty pounds of tubers from the ground, stretching my supply of available carrying containers to the limit, but I had to throw away between a third and a half of the tubers because they’d been partly gnawed by voles.
They’re remarkably tasty things, like a cross between a potato and a peppery celery stalk. I suspect that the cultivar I possess is the ‘Wisconsin Red’, known for its prolific production. When you consider that three plants produced roughly thirty pounds of edible tuber, you can see why I’m interested in developing it further. Alas, my clone doesn’t seem to self-fertilize no matter how many bees are about, so experimenting with cross-breeding will require growing and testing more cultivars.