Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Jerusalem artichoke

Although Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) has nothing to do with the historic city in the Middle East, I thought it would be appropriate to feature these late summer wildflowers on the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah.

Why are these plants, native to most of North America, called Jerusalem artichoke? One theory: “The Jerusalem part of the name probably came from a mispronunciation of “girasole,” which is Italian for ‘sunflower.’” During the 17th century, European explorers found what had been “an important food plant for native Americans” for centuries and brought tubers back to the European continent.

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s website notes,

Plants are still grown today for harvest of the tubers which begins about 2 weeks after the flowers fade. Each plant typically produces 2-5 pounds of tubers per year. Raw tubers have a nutty flavor. Tubers may be grated raw into salads, boiled and/or mashed somewhat like potatoes, roasted or added to soups. Unlike potatoes, tubers do not contain starch. They do contain inulin which converts into fructose which is better tolerated by people with type 2 diabetes than sucrose.

Some people find the taste of the tubers (called “sunchokes”) similar to artichokes. If you decide to grow these plants, be aware that they can spread aggressively and “are difficult to remove from the garden. Tiny pieces of tuber left in the soils will sprout.”

Jerusalem artichokes are blooming now near many Iowa trails and roadsides. I took all of the enclosed pictures on trails that run along the banks of North Walnut Creek in Windsor Heights or Walnut Creek in Des Moines.

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How did Kim Reynolds crunch the numbers to avoid a special session?

Governor Kim Reynolds won’t call a special legislative session to balance the budget for the year that ended on June 30, her office announced this morning.

They haven’t explained how a fiscal year 2017 shortfall that non-partisan analysts estimated at $104 million in July and around $75 million a few weeks ago became a $14.6 million shortfall, according to the governor’s staff.

Reynolds didn’t take questions from the press today. She didn’t even attend the briefing where Department of Management Director Dave Roederer handed out a puzzling table.

Whatever the Reynolds administration did to avert a short-term political problem will likely worsen the strain on the state budget in the coming months.

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Seven more pitches for seven Iowa Democratic candidates for governor

To all the Democrats who want to hear directly from each contender in the Iowa governor’s race before deciding how to vote next June: this post’s for you.

Since Bleeding Heartland published seven pitches for gubernatorial candidates from a major party event this summer, Todd Prichard has left the race and Ross Wilburn has joined the field.

All seven Democrats running for governor appeared at the Progress Iowa Corn Feed in Des Moines on September 10, speaking in the following order: Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, John Norris, Ross Wilburn, Jon Neiderbach, Andy McGuire, and Nate Boulton. I enclose below the audio clips, for those who like to hear a candidate’s speaking style. I’ve also transcribed every speech in full, for those who would rather read than listen.

As a bonus, you can find a sound file of Brent Roske’s speech to the Progress Iowa event at the end of this post. With his focus on single-payer health care and water quality, Roske should be running in the Democratic primary. Instead, he plans to qualify for the general election ballot as an independent candidate, a path that can only help Republicans by splitting the progressive vote.

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Baby steps: Iowa Senate GOP responds to sexual harassment verdict

Nearly two months after a jury awarded former Iowa Senate Republican communications director Kirsten Anderson $2.2 million in a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit, the Senate GOP caucus has finally parted ways with the man who most egregiously contributed to a hostile work environment for women.

However, senators who have claimed Anderson lost her job because of substandard writing still aren’t demanding high-caliber work from current communications staff.

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Special election coming in Iowa Senate district 3

Bill Anderson will soon resign from the Iowa Senate and from U.S. Representative Steve King’s district office to become executive director of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation, he told the Sioux City Journal‘s Bret Hayworth today. “I want to do something else and broaden my horizons,” he explained. He will officially step down in time for Governor Kim Reynolds to set a special election before the legislature reconvenes in January.

Ordinarily, a young lawmaker wouldn’t resign in the middle of his second term, soon after his party gained majority status. But Anderson didn’t seem like the happiest camper at the statehouse. For reasons that remain unclear, he supported an amendment opposed by leadership, which would have made the workers’ compensation bill Anderson had introduced slightly less bad for people suffering shoulder injuries.

He also missed quite a few votes during this year’s legislative session. Those factors may have prompted Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix to remove Anderson as Commerce Committee chair in May. (Neither Anderson nor Senate leaders ever responded to my requests for comment.)

Iowa Senate district 3 covers most of Plymouth County and a large area of Woodbury County, including neighborhoods on the south side of Sioux City. I enclose a detailed map below. Though anything can happen in a low-turnout special election, the GOP will be heavily favored to hold this seat, where voters favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 68.12 percent to 27.32 percent last November. According to the latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office, Senate district 3 contains just 8,741 active registered Democrats, 17,635 Republicans, and 13,035 no-party voters.

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