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The great big thread of sunchoke info - growing, storing, eating/recipes, science facts
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ok so I am going to grow sunchokes for the first time this year. I am getting impatient for spring and started doing some more digging about these babies. And boy, let me tell you my head is about to pop with all this info I am reading!

Growing: they seem to grow in a variety of conditions. I would love to hear what conditions have worked for you and what have not!

Storing: I am reading a lot of people keep a bag to plant next year just in a plastic grocery bag with some soil in the back of the fridge. And plenty others have a patch going for years and just dig as they want some. what do you do? I would love to hear if anyone stores an amount in a root cellar type situation!

eating/recipes: I don't have much on this except that there is a lot on using them in place of or with potatoes and parsnips? what recipes do you like? what recipes did you not like?
"The carbohydrates give the tubers a tendency to become soft and mushy if boiled, but they retain their texture better when steamed" ((from wiki page))

Science facts: ok now here is half the reason for this thread I am hoping to have some of you more science types help me with this. I will share some of my current links and things and share your own findings as well!
1) Jerusalem artichokes- wiki page- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_artichoke

2)"Tubers stored for any length of time will convert their inulin into its component fructose" ergo the fructose wiki page- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose... "Excessive fructose consumption has been hypothesized to be a cause of insulin resistance, obesity,..." Should we be harvesting the chokes in the fall and storing them in a way to prevent this and lessen the fructose content? or is the content so low that just by eating not crappy store foods and more chokes etc we are safe eating chokes without drying/canning/etc to prevent it?

3) "When not in tropical regions, it has been shown to make less inulin than when it is in a warmer region." ergo the inulin wiki page- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inulin.. Crazy awesome info about inulin and its good qualities, such as helping with calcium absorption etc. And something about making ethanol that I have no understanding for. and near the bottom, inulin may be the cause of the common flatulence comments that go along with sunchokes!
"The inulin cannot be broken down by the human digestive system,[14] but is metabolized by bacteria in the colon. This can cause flatulence and, in some cases, gastric pain"

4) "The French explorer Samuel de Champlain found domestically grown plants at Cape Cod in 1605"

5) "the tubers store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch. For this reason, Jerusalem artichoke tubers are an important source of inulin used as a dietary fiber in food manufacturing"

6) "Crop yields are high, typically 16–20 tonnes/ha for tubers, and 18–28 tonnes/ha green weight for foliage."

7) "Jerusalem artichoke also has potential for production of ethanol fuel, using inulin-adapted strains of yeast for fermentation"
I have loads of these , they make me very gassy ! I have not found a way to cook them that I really love but they are so pretty when in bloom
blooming sunchoke
[Thumbnail for sunchokes-in-bloom-9-21-13-.JPG]
I can't speak to the science, but I can say that they grew here last year in soggy soil that my ducks poop constantly on. They got somewhere between full and partial sun in the summer. They didn't produce as many as some people have shown, but that could be because I didn't loosen the soil around them much. It's important to make sure they've got reasonably soft soil to grow into. I planted a large portion of my sunchokes last year by simply sticking my shovel in the earth, prying up the soil and shoving the root in the crack. All but three of them couldn't grow up through the hard earth!

As for how we cook them, we roast them in the oven like this recipe details: http://www.oliveandherb.com/home/easy-roasted-sunchokes-paleo-fries/. When cooked, they taste almost exactly like artichoke hearts. YUM! You cook them fast and hot so that they don't turn to mush inside.

I've also eaten them raw (which, come to find out, is how my Grandmother used to eat them way back when. Here I was, bringing them to a family dinner as this "rare" thing, and she talked about how most everyone grew them years ago! Back then, she would just chop them up and add them to salads). When eaten raw, they taste like waterchestnuts or jicama.

I love the difference in flavor between raw and cooked sunchokes, and look forward to a bigger harvest next year!
I will try that quick cook method , I have them all over the place because I keep transplanting rather than eating them ! I also think I will try making bread and butter type pickles from some

(4 likes, 2 apples)
Around here, sunroots grow best near the swamp... In the ecosystem just drier than where cattails grow. So they are most often seen in the meadows beside a pond, or on ditchbanks.

On my farm, I grow them in silty-clay soil that is irrigated once per week. I space them about 18" apart in rows 4 or 5 feet apart. Because I grow them as harvested perennials, I weed consistently during following years to keep them to that spacing. In other words, if I want to harvest nice tubers, I don't allow them to grow as a thicket.

Sunroot tubers are highly sensitive to dehydration. They store best for me in the ground. I may store tubers for eating during winter in the fridge, in plastic, in some coconut coir, peat, or potting soil... The purpose of the potting soil is to contain rotting tubers, so if one rots the whole bag doesn't rot with it. The purpose of the container is to keep them moist. If I were trying to store them in a root cellar, I'd probably put them in a 5 gallon bucket and cover them with sand, or peat. I really like storing them in outdoor root pits.

Sunroots are winter hardy in my zone 4b garden. I can harvest them from October to April whenever the ground isn't frozen. If storing in the ground overwinter, I like to cut the stems off about a foot above the ground so that they don't get blown out of the ground. They may freeze or dehydrate when that happens.

I most commonly eat sunroots by washing, chopping into chunks, and adding to soups, stir-fries, and casseroles. If eaten raw, they go well in a salad. I find them disgusting when deep fried. It seems to me that method really brings out the taste of sunflower resin, which I do not like at all. One of these days I'd like to shred some and try lactofermenting.

I haven't measured the fructose levels in sunroots. I'll just say that they don't strike me as a high sugar food, so whatever.

Sunroots and other prebiotic fiber-filled foods are a normal part of my diet, so I don't experience flatulence from eating sunroots. I also don't sit down and eat a plateful of them. They are added in small quantities to dishes that benefit from having a variety vegetables.

For kitchen use, I prefer sunroots without knobs.

Knobby: Hard to clean.

Smooth: Easy to clean and use in the kitchen. Easy to peel if you are into that. I'm not.

Harvest averaged 13 pounds per plant from this row.

Sunroots are self-incompatible, so seed production requires growing a few genetically diverse clones close together. The seeds are highly attractive to birds. To harvest seeds, I like to bag the seed heads right after petal drop. I love growing them from seeds, because that allows me to select for locally adapted plants.

Sunroot seeds

Oh I never even thought about putting some in the meadow by the pond good idea . I think I will have to try coarse grating some and adding to slaw . I would love to find new ways to enjoy these .
I just bought a pound and a half of tubers. I'm hopeful that the weather will be OK to plant them by the end of the week.

After reading Joseph's post, I think I'll try planting 2-3 of them in the swampy area just above the beaver dam on our property, to see if they will survive out there.
I love my Jerusalem Artichokes! Such grateful plants, they grow in the worst place in my garden and provide a good privacy/sunscreen in the summer. I'm never able to harvest all of them so I don't need to re-plant them since the tubers I missed will sprout again in the spring.

Anyway, I like to throw them in the tajine with lamb meat, the nutty flavor goes very well with the lamb. They're also nice when you roughly chop them and cover them a bit with oil and rosemary and roast them in the oven (especially with roasted pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc). They also make a nice soup. I've never heard of eating them raw, great idea though.
Great thread! I got about 30 pounds of roots from a friend's ditch in the fall. I planted them around the pasture for the goats to eat next year.

Then I happened to read a book called Brain Maker. It's about the connection between gut microbes and brain function. It was a good book, I should write a review, but for now, I am going to tell you what I "*Think*" he said about jerusalem artichokes:

There are various kinds of bacteria that will live in our gut, some are very good residents and co-habitors of our bodies, promoting our health. Some, not os much. He had a list of foods that would drive the population in favor of a VERY beneficial species (set of species?). The jerusalem artichoke is on that list of about 7 foods. I think this would contribute to our understanding of the flatulence as well.

A slow transition would be a good thing, is what I'm thinking when I count myself clever for have having already planted such a good plant friend. If the food is able to influence that strongly, which microbes are going to proliferate in my intestine, then I want to go slowly because a major shift in a short period of time might be flatulence producing AND painful.

Kind of off topic:

Another food listed was raw, not roasted chicory root, should you be growing that already, as I am. I've been making the raw root into tea, and drinking small amounts. It is bitter, which is a good thing! Bitter tastes promote the production of digestive enzymes. We actually have or can have bitter receptors pretty much anywhere along out long digestive tract. One theory is that the body makes more bitter receptors when we are not getting enough bitter tastes, so that the same bitter taste will run past different sets of receptors, thereby getting more enzyme stimulation out of the same stuff.

Thekla, do you know if it is a good sign if one prefers bitter flavors? I like bitter foods quite a bit, much more than my husband. I will eat foods he finds too bitter to choke down. He like sunchokes much more than I do (I think they smell weird), but neither of us has any trouble digesting them.

I hope you'll do a writeup on that book, and list those 7 foods.
Hi Tyler,

(up til now I thought you were a man, especially with the rock dam project!)

Anyway, I don't know "good" or "bad" on the topic of one's taste. You are probably getting a lot more stimuli than he is, but maybe you NEED more. The overall measure would be in overall health of the digestive tract. People use bitters when they feel indigestion, or nausea, or many symptoms. One time I said to my "bitters guru" I had felt like I did not know if I was hungry or needed to throw up, so I went to sleep (I'm a creative problem solver!) and that resolved it. She said "THAT would have been an excellent time for a dropper full of bitters. So if you are both enjoying excellent digestive health then things are fine. It's a complex topic, all the indicators of digestive health. I'll do some research, and will post the review.

In the meantime, I bet you could find a recipe for a home made "bitters" and make a tincture and have it on hand. Then you could see if he would just have a dropper full before eating, as part of an experiment, to see if he experienced any changes. (Dandelion root and or leaf is a good bitter, as is chicory, I think.)

You could PM or we could start a thread on bitters, but right now I gotta go to work. (at the herb shop where we recommend bitters!).
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I find the taste very strong, having only eaten them roasted and then mashed.
I noticed they seem to dry out pretty easily, does anyone have experience with using them dried? I am wondering if they could make a flour for quick breads or a thickener for soups, and if the flavor is enhanced or decreased by drying.
The inulin seems to break down when cooked enough,would drying do the same?
I wonder if one could press the tubers for a fermentable juice, and dry the rest into flour.

I was thinking of growing them in containers, for ease of harvest and to curtail their spread. If planted at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket of soil, do y'all think the tuber would make its way to the surface, and make tubers along the way?
I don't want to add soil as I go, too much work.

Anyone using the tops as a "tree hay"? Cutting the stalks at a foot above ground, hanging the rest up to dry.
Will rabbits eat this? Would it make good bedding for chickens ?
I have read one report that sunflower leaves are edible for humans,the leaves of yacon are better documented as edible for humans, what if jchokes leaves were edible as well?
The leaves seem a bit furry to use for food , and the stems are rather stiff for small animal bedding , I just cut them at the base and use in the compost pile they are hollow and seem to break down nicely
I am a bit afraid of sunchokes because I am a city dweller without a lot of room for them to spread... but what about planting them in the "hellstrip" (that space between the street and the sidewalk)? Then they could only spread so far!
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Here is a list of other threads on permies that deal primarily with sunroots. I don't use the term Jerusalem Artichokes, because they are not an artichoke, and they are not from Jerusalem. I don't use the term sunchokes, because it's bad marketing to choke the people that I feed. I have got very meticulous at the farmer's market about not saying "Jerusalem Artichoke" because people invariably respond, "I don't like artichokes." Aaarrrgh!!! So these days, if someone says, "What's a sunroot?", I reply "The root of a sunflower".

Sunroot seeds

Curing, storing, and cooking sunchokes aka jerusalem artichokes

Why are Jerusalem artichokes low carb and a good source of calories?

Fermenting Jerusalem Artichokes

Starting a jerusalem artichoke patch

Easier to peel variety of sunchoke / jerusalem artichoke

Sunroots For Sale: Genetically diverse. Prolifically Seeding.

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In the Netherlands they're called 'earthpears', which is nice because we call potatoes 'earthapples'
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Thank you, Thekla.

I think I like the name "sunroots" also. At least it makes sense!

Kris Mendoza wrote:I am a bit afraid of sunchokes because I am a city dweller without a lot of room for them to spread...

I have heavy soil, and they haven't spread much for me. Most of the things people warn about being "invasive" don't invade here, but sometimes they survive.
OK, sun roots it is then at my place. Sounds better anyway, although I'll be sure to say it is a particular kind of sunflower. I grow the wild small flowered ones, (annuals) and the fancy large flowers (annual) the Maximillian Sunflower (perennial) and the "Sun Root" a perennial with edible and nutritious tubers, some people call "EarthPears".

And thanks for all those other links, Joseph. Also, I've been looking at your seed list, and will be seeking those silver dimes for you. I figure high desert adapted seeds will do very well for me. I'll be in touch when I've tracked down some dimes, or decided to use the other option!
I eat a lot of sunroots, etc names. I eat almost all of them fermented. Like Nicole, I live in the PNW and they are easy as pie to grow. Basically it's just harvesting. I do use some of the stalks as part of the substrate when I grow mushrooms in buckets for a greater variety of nutrition for the mushrooms, I will plant some in the ground when I plant a new plant to improve the soil, and I will put some in the fungal compost tea. My kids called it their favorite vegetable because they are sweet and crunchy. Like celery but better tasting. They don't give me a lot of gas, but the microbiome part is a huge plus for me.

There is a genetic component to bitter flavors. Some people, like my wife, can't handle bitter hardly at all. These people tend to be subject to sweet tooth, but rarely have substance addiction problems. I on the other hand, like a variety of bitter flavors, don't have a particular affinity for sweet flavors, but have had my struggles with addictions to substances. This is the genetic pattern. It also strikes ethnic groups in patterns, and that's one of the reasons why some national cuisines have certain traditions, besides of course, climatic factors and access to certain biomes.
John S
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I'll chime in on the bitter flavor subject, too. Part of what we enjoy is genetic, but part is also formed by what our mother's ate while pregnant and fed us when we were itty bitty. My son is a great example of both of these. He *loves* spicy things, just like his Dada, though I can't tolerate them at all. He loves sour things like me, though I never ate them while pregnant/breastfeeding. He also eats a lot of bitter foods and foods we both thought were "icky" just a few years back. But, they're the foods I ate while pregnant and breast feeding, and there the foods we feed him, so he likes eating liver and kidneys, and dandelion roots and onions.

A tolerance for bitter things can also be learned, as is evidenced by my husband--who was a very picky eater as a child and grew up on overly processed and sugary things. Now he loves bitting into dandelion leaves and kale and other things even more bitter, that I can't even choke down. He frequently says, "Oooo, it has flavor!" He also was prone to addiction. I don't think taste buds really have much to do with addiction aside from perhaps being trained to like more sweet things because one consumes them all the time because one is addicted to them (the "happy feelings" they create, the sugar rush, etc, etc).

Kris Mendoza wrote:I am a bit afraid of sunchokes because I am a city dweller without a lot of room for them to spread... but what about planting them in the "hellstrip" (that space between the street and the sidewalk)? Then they could only spread so far!

If you are looking for a sunroot that is slower to spread, try White Dwarf, Dwarf Sunray, or Supercluster as they are smaller, less invasive plants than the average sunroot cultivar. You can find them at Oikos.
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My intro to Jerusalem Artichokes (love that name...not artichokes...not from Jerusalem...PERFECT!) came from a pasta made from it. It was pricey, but, I like it better than regular pasta...wheat pasta can have a slimey feel sometimes that I really dislike. (From under cooking or overcooking, I think. I'm not smart enough to figure it out.) Never have that with JA pasta. Since they grow tall, I want to plant them in front of my south-facing windows for a little vegetative sun screen...but, I've heard they can be invasive. Anyone heard about that?

No other food has given us such farts, ever I suspect this is related to inulin intolerance, but not sure. We grow them anyway, but we would like to find a way to enjoy their flavor without excessive "greenhouse gasses emission".
About 15 years ago a friend gave me one small Jerusalem Artichoke tuber, Stampede variety, I think. I cut off the knobs and planted them 18 inches apart (should have spaced further) in reasonably soft soil and put on a lot of leaf mulch. My garden soil is pretty well mineralized and I use ag lime, soft rock, kelp, etc., on it, with some wood ash from oak or poplar. They grew like gangbusters and I soon had them invading other parts of my garden due to voles eating them and storing in their tunnels, sometimes 30 feet from the original patch. In spring they all came up. In a dry year (unusual here in Appalachia), they don't get huge, but most years they do. I frequently get a gallon or more from one plant. No care, no weeding if I keep a heavy leaf mulch on them.

I read that Cherokees sometimes ate the young greens. I think it is either an acquired taste or I need a better recipe. I did not care for the very strong taste and the high fiber content. Or maybe I should have picked them younger. The roots however, are incredible. RECIPE: I slice a few carrots and sautee them first in a bit of coconut oil for about 5 minutes, then add chopped sunchokes. Continue simmering, adding a tsp. or so of water if you need to, until they get soft. Sprinkle with a pinch of thyme, ginger and sea salt. Delicious and when I take it to a church social, there is never a scrap left. It's a favorite. I just scrub the roots with a stiff vegetable brush and cut off any discolored parts, then cut into chunks.

The tops dry easily and cows, horses, goats, and rabbits will eat them fresh or as hay. Easy to cut with a machete. Sometimes I just strip the leaves in late fall just before frost, and dry those. It takes up less space without the stalks. The dried stalks make great tinder for fire building. Easy to knock down in winter and break into pieces. I just leave them standing until I need them (lack of storage space). That also marks the spot where I need to dig for tubers. Any I've brought into the house to try to store, usually shrivel unless I keep them in the refrigerator crisper drawer and I don't have sufficient room for that. Therefore, I just leave them in Nature's pantry, the great outdoors, where they grew. I dig as needed. The voles are a problem and they get a lot, but I will not try to eliminate the voles, they have their purpose too. My dog digs up the tunnels and eats them frequently (voles, not sunchokes). I have planted castor beans in year's past as they tend to eliminate the vole/mole problem in a certain radius, but my goats got in once and ate a castor bean plant, including seeds and got very sick. If there are moles there is a cutworm population they are feeding on. Voles, being opportunistic, do not build their own tunnels, they use the mole tunnels.

If you have the space, this is a great permaculture plant you'll only need to plant once.

I grew sunchokes for the first time this year - Red Fuseau - I'm in Zone 10B in southern Spain and I had huge problems with powdery mildew so I had to cut down the plants very early and as a result have not had a very good yield. Has anyone else had PM problems? And was it down to not enough watering as we have pretty dry summers here. I'm growing them in an area that was previously occupied with a large accacia that got chopped down so a forest type soil also near to a large cork oak and fairly close to an orange tree. Does get a few hours of sun in the growing season around midday to 4pm. Any thoughts?
I use the sunchoke/jerusalem artichoke as a supplemental food in my livestock feed cycle. The rabbits love them as they love turnips.
We had those growing along the fence last year here in the high desert.... they did great.
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Dan Lewis wrote:I've heard they can be invasive. Anyone heard about that?

I have grown Sunroots for 7 years in my annual garden. I wouldn't call them invasive, because they don't move from place to place in the field. They pretty much stay where they are planted.

They can be persistent however! They reproduce from winter-hardy rhizomes. They are susceptible to culling just like any other weed. There is a sweet spot in the life cycle, when the plant has exhausted the energy in the old rhizome, but before it starts making new rhizomes... I think that's around the time that they are about a foot to two tall. So it's very possible to weed them out of a garden, it just takes persistence like with any other weed. It's especially effective to weed with a digging fork, and lift up the rhizome along with the plant that it's attached to.

Another strategy that I use, is to cultivate the sunroot weed patches in perpendicular rows... So I end up with a grid 5 feet by 2 feet with a sunroot plant or two on each grid intersection. It's easy to maintain the grid during the growing season.

Sunroot Flowers
[Thumbnail for sunroot-flowers.jpg]
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I grew just a couple of tubers in a confined space three years ago and they rapidly spread to fill the entire 4 x 6 ft space. Then, they escaped from their confinement and under a fence into my neighbor's yard! We're both having trouble eliminating them.
I was so excited about growing a new staple food. But no matter how I cooked it: roasted, stewed, or in a soup, they gave me the worst stomach pain--- I felt like I swallowed knives! I would be careful about feeding sunchokes to your guests in any quantity (some might think that you're trying to kill them!!) I was hoping that there would be digestive enzymes on the market for inulin but I couldn't find any; Beano doesn't work on inulin. Wish I had a pig.
Has anyone ever tried pressing oil from Sunchoke seeds? Since it is related to the sunflower, I'm thinking it might have possible oil for extraction. I read that Native Americans used the perennial Maxmillian Sunflowers for oil, which have small seeds and look similar. I'm wondering if Sunchokes could be used for the same. I couldn't find any info in the Googleverse on this, wondering if anyone here has tried it or heard about it.
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People have been telling me for years that sunroots are sterile and don't make seeds. So I just post photos of the seeds that mine produce... However, even though I call mine abundantly seeding, I mean that in relationship only to other sunroots, not in relation to sunflowers in general. From a 40 foot long row, I might collect 1/2 cup of seeds. So definitely not a crop that I would try growing for oil. The maximillian sunflowers have lots more flowers per plant than sunroots.

Maximilian sunflower and annual sunflower hybridize with sunroot if the sunflowers are the pollen donor. The hybrids are compatible with each other. So it aught to be possible to select for a strain of sunroot that produces lots of huge seeds, and lots of tubers. Some of us are working on this project. It takes time. We are basically creating a new species by purely natural means.

One of my sunroot plants this summer produced more seeds than all the rest of the patch combined.

Joseph, how wonderful! A few more years and you ought to have it, and adapted to high desert as well!
Great information Joseph! That definitely doesn't sound like adequate seed/acre for any oil production at this juncture. Until your mega-seed sunchoke comes into the fold of course. Considering the maxmillian has so many more flowers, how much maxmillian seed could you pull off of that 40 ft row do you think? I'm looking for a low (no) maintenance perennial oil crop of some sort that can be grown in zone 4, and so far that's what I've come up with. I don't want to hijack the thread and turn it into an oil/maxmillan discussion, so I'll keep researching.
Ok, here is what I've found with sunchokes:
my family has grown them ever since I was small. They grow in clay soil on my parents' WV land, certainly no fertilizer, and pretty much no irrigation. They have formed a thick hedge on the north end of the garden, and are one of the few things not destroyed by deer and groundhogs.
Growing up, we always harvested them after the first freeze. We'd wait till a warm spell sometime in early winter, then start digging. They were quite tasty raw this way - pretty sweet, good in salads. BUT - they were never any good cooked. They were watery if you tried to roast them, with quite a sharp flavor. Pretty bleh.
This year, we had really warm weather up through Xmas. I had been reading about cooking them, and thought that maybe they would cook up better before a freeze - and so it turned out. I dug up a bunch. Raw, they were not sweet at all. But when I roasted them, they had a much more starchy texture, and were tasty. They got a bit sweeter in the roasting, and I made them mashed with good results. I also sliced them thinly, tossed them with a bit of oil and salt, and baked them into crisps. They did great. Finally, I sliced them thinly (used the mandolin attachment on the food processor) and laid them out in a single layer on clean cloths and set them behind the stove to dry out. Also worked well - a bit of a starchy texture, which bodes well for grinding them into flour.

If I were going to grow an oilseed crop, it would probably be some type of brassica: Bok choi, rapeseed, etc...

I haven't grown Maximilian sunflowers, so can't comment on their productivity.

Spread the love! Over the weekend, I provided two more families with sunchokes to plant.

Danny Smithers wrote:I'm looking for a low (no) maintenance perennial oil crop of some sort that can be grown in zone 4, and so far that's what I've come up with. I don't want to hijack the thread and turn it into an oil/maxmillan discussion, so I'll keep researching.

Hi Danny, there are a couple of new thread here for discussion of oil seed crops,

Let us know what you find through your research!
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It's so strange to me that everybody in the English-speaking world calls them "Jerusalem Artichoke" or "Sunchoke"...
In Germany, everyone refers to them as "Topinambur". As far as my research goes, this is the name of the native people who cultivated them on the east coast of south America (Tupi/Tupinamba).
They are called topinambours in french too.
Both of those names are mistaken attempts to understand where the plant came from. I don't think either one makes any sense. As you have seen, "sunchoke" is taking over, and perhaps "sunroot" will as well.
John S
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