Askipaw: Permaculture Superstar

Woke up to a slight flu, enough to spend the day languishing round the house til mid-afternoon, when a timid knock at the back door announced Fatima, my neighbour, who had come to ask if I had grape leaves to spare. Fatima has been harvesting my leaves for a few seasons now, and I’ve become quite addicted to her dolmades – she always brings some to share in exchange.

Whilst keeping her company and talking the little bit we can together, i happened to notice my new patio bricks have failed. Or rather, they’ve proven no match for the mighty askipaw.

Years ago, when the grape was small, I planted a few askipaw in the same patch of very heavy, rubbly ground. I’ve tried digging them out. We have repeatedly thought we had them all out, every tiny rooting tuber. And they have repeatedly resurged.

This year, we dug them out, backfilled, and added sand, packed down, into which I laid a little patio. It’s every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped, to sit under the arbour and admire the thriving green all around.

But there they are – sure enough, some tiny tuber survived, and has taken its slow time about it, but persisted, and is now lifting the 8×8 bricks aside, shouldering up toward light.

How can I feel anything but admiration for this tough-guy plant, this dogged being who is undaunted even after very strong hints that we want him elsewhere?

We moved all we could find, and they are now making a gorgeous hedgerow mid yard, tall and green and boisterous. They may reach ten feet tall, who can say?

And some of them have wrecked my little patio. I guess they win. I’m okay with this kind of losing, very okay.

So, if you’re looking for a permaculture superstar for the northern yard and garden, how about askipaw? Perennial, extremely hardy, good looking, and delicious, they’re also indigenous, and have been enjoyed for countless generations in Turtle Island.

They’re also known as ‘Jerusalem Artichoke,’ or ‘Sunchoke.’ Askipaw is the name a Cree Elder told me for them. The tubers, if you don’t know them, are edible raw, steamed, baked, etc. They taste, if you ask me, something like a nuttier version of a Dutch fingerling potato.

And they persist.

What an avatar for hope, for resilience, and for the beauty of the natural order of things.

All my Relations


p.s. I’m not what you’d call an official permaculturist, I just follow the best advice I’ve gotten, from the wise women (and a couple of men) gardeners who raised me, plus those it’s been my fortune to meet over the years. And, most of all, i try to listen to this little garden, to observe what it wants, and go along.

Those are another patch of our askipaw in the picture, thronging along around about August. Gorgeous beasts.

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