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Jerusalem Artichokes 101

Nov 17, 2011 -
   
  Jerusalem Artichokes 101
A Jerusalem artichoke in sunny bloom! Photo courtesy of Christian Fischer.
 
   

blooming jerusalem artichoke by kjetil lenes

Want an easy to grow, unusual vegetable? Try Jerusalem artichokes.

What is a Jerusalem artichoke?

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are really sunflowers with fat, edible roots. They’re also popularly known as Sun Chokes.

Growing Jerusalem artichokes

Plant our Jerusalem artichoke tubers in the spring and stand back! They are hardy to USDA zone 2 and grow best in the cooler two-thirds of the U.S.

Watch the plants grow to 10 feet tall and 6 feet across, starred with yellow flowers.

Happiest in a sunny spot and well-drained soil with good tilth, Jerusalem artichokes are vigorous and will usually win any battle with a weed. Some gardeners consider them weeds because of their willingness to return each year.

Dig and enjoy the tuberous roots throughout the summer. In our new video on fall care for perennial vegetables, Tricia shows how to dig them up completely after the first few frosts.

How to control the spread of Jerusalem artichokes

*  Snip off the flowers and use them indoors in arrangements, before they drop their seeds.

*  Dig up most of the plants in late fall. If you are able to harvest through a mild winter, be sure to dig up most of the plants by spring to keep them from taking over your garden.

Recipes for Jerusalem artichokes

This vegetable is easier on diabetics than are potatoes; when we digest Jerusalem artichokes they convert to fructose instead of glucose, which metabolizes more slowly.

Raw:  Scrub them clean with a vegetable brush, but don’t peel them. The texture is like a water chestnut, so they are good sliced into salads.

Preserved:  Pickle them yellow with turmeric and mustard seeds.

Cooked:  Bake them like potatoes, for a fluffy texture and a nuttier flavor than potatoes.

For more information see a long article by Purdue University, or a shorter summary by North Carolina State University.

Tall photo courtesy of Kjetil Lenes


Categories: Vegetable Crowns, Jerusalem Artichoke, Organic Gardening 101


Joanne Gordon Says:
Nov 18th, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Can the tubers be dug in the Fall, stored over winter & planted in Spring?

Dave Says:
Nov 19th, 2011 at 6:34 am

Hi Charlotte,

Good to see Jerusalem artichokes getting a little publicity although I think I must question your assertion that one can “Dig and enjoy the tuberous roots throughout the summer.” I’ve been growing them for well over 30 years, first in England and for the last 25 years or so here in California. Planting them at a depth of around 5” in mid/late March, they will often get to be 14’ tall and need support. However in terms of ‘digging and enjoying’ the tubers they tend to be walnut-sized at best in June.

I’ve found the optimum time to start the harvest is late October after the flowers start to die back (flowers usually don’t appear until late August/early September) and to leave the tubers in the ground until needed. In Fair Oaks they store well in situ, with no frost protection, although a covering of straw may be prudent in colder areas. The yields can be phenomenal and on occasions I’ve literally filled a 5-gallon bucket with the progeny of a single tuber.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 19th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Joanne, You can just leave them in the ground and since they are perennials vegetables they will grow again. If you have harsh winters you can also dig and store the tubers for spring planting the following year. Optimal storage conditions are sand in a cool cellar.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 19th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Dave, Thank you for your very helpful comments! Good to hear from someone who has been growing these for 30 years! For other readers: Dave is in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento, CA in USDA zone 9b.

Mary Says:
Nov 20th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I live in the Monterey Bay Area, CA.  I am looking for vegetables that can tolerate growth with little summer watering, perhaps once or twice a month.  I have sunflowers that grow with no summer water, will the Jerusalem artichoke also survive under these conditions since it is a relative of sunflowers?  Do gophers, voles and ground squirrels like to eat the tubers?
Can height be controlled by cultivation practices (as 14’ is very tall)?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 21st, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Mary, It’s hard to say how well the Jerusalem artichokes would do with low water. Since you do grow other sunflowers with no water I suggest you give them a try.

They do not want wet soil, but tuber growth is what you are looking for, and tubers do have a significant water content. The University of Wisconsin says, “Tuber and top yields are limited if soil moisture is less than 30% of field capacity during the tuber formation period (early September to November).” http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/Crops/JerusalemArtichoke.aspx

Many say their Jerusalem artichokes do not grow taller than 8 feet.

As for pests, the rodents like what we like, so you should plant the tubers in baskets of gopher wire http://www.groworganic.com/root-guard-gopher-basket-5-gallon.html

Other vegetables that grow well with limited summer water are onions and garlic. Amaranth and quinoa are grains with edible leaves and want only 10” of water A YEAR. Teff is a drought-tolerant grain you might want to consider. We carry seeds for all of these.

Hope this is helpful info!

dona Says:
Mar 26th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

i believe the flowers or top shoots(buds) were eaten by deer… would they still produce tubers? i think i’ve seen the plant come up a few times but never have seen any flowers. now property dividing berm is weedy and i’m not sure i can find them. any suggestions for growing outside of fenced in garden?

Rebecca Says:
Jul 7th, 2012 at 1:19 am

I live in Fremont CA 94539. Can I grow jerusalem artichoke tubers in July? Or I have to wait till next year.
Thanks,
Rebecca

Hilary Says:
Jan 28th, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Where can I buy Jerusalem artichokes in Fair Oaks, California?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hilary,

I don’t know of a location in Fair Oaks, but we have organic Jerusalem artichokes, ready to plant http://www.groworganic.com/seasonal-items/vegetable-crowns/jerusalem-artichoke.html

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Rebecca, Even in Fremont it is best to plant the tubers in the spring.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 4th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

dona, Jerusalem artichokes can be grown in large containers where you will be able to keep them under control and also away from invading deer.  Beware that the average plant bears 75 tubers. They are very similar to multi-flowering sunflowers in appearance, so identifying the returning plant in a weedy patch should not be too difficult.The tubers begin to form just prior to flower formation, so despite the deer devastation, there should be artichokes present to continue future growth or harvest.

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