Because of the type of carbohydrates they contain, Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten by diabetics without restriction. The knobby tubers can be eaten raw in salads, or they can be roasted, boiled or added to soups. They are a fine substitute for water chestnuts in stir-fry dishes, or for cucumbers in bread-and-butter pickles. They are delicious sauteed with garlic and onions.
In some people, however, Jerusalem artichokes cause gas, similar to beans or raw cabbage. This side effect is greatly reduced if the tubers are unearthed after frost has killed the tops of the plants. If you like the vegetable, it might be wise to grow your own to be sure the tubers have been harvested when they are least likely to cause distress.
Jerusalem artichokes are grown from tubers, like potatoes, rather than from seed. There are white-skinned and red-skinned varieties, as well as varieties selected for larger size or the smoothness of the tubers. There is little appreciable difference in flavor, but the smoother varieties are easier to prepare for cooking. It isn’t necessary to peel the tubers, but you do have to scrub away the clinging soil.
Seeds Blum carries a variety called Fuseau that produces white-skinned tubers with few of the knobs that are characteristic of Jerusalem artichokes. The address is HC33 Idaho City Stage, Boise, Idaho 83706, (800) 528-3658; catalogue $3. Moose Tubers (P.O. Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903) has a variety called Maine Giant that yields very large tubers. But growing techniques and weather have an influence on size and smoothness, too, so nearly any Jerusalem artichoke tuber will do when getting started. You could even plant tubers purchased in the supermarket, in the fall or in the spring.
Don’t waste your best ground on Jerusalem artichokes. They will do fine in ordinary or even below-average soil, although fertile ground will make the tubers larger. A place to the rear of the garden, maybe up against a fence you’d like to hide, is ideal. Plant the tubers a foot or so apart and a couple of inches deep.
There are a couple of common misconceptions you should quickly forget when first adding this sunny and brilliant plant to your yard.
A quick rundown: it’s not from Jerusalem, and it’s most definitely not an artichoke!
On the other hand, there are two things that you absolutely should remember: it’s not only a beautiful flower, but its roots (called “tubers”) make for a delicious food crop, too.
Together, food and gardening pleasures have made this botanical a floral delight and culinary favorite for many thousands of years – among Native American peoples and Europeans alike – with a deep history behind its rise to global recognition.
It’s true that some amazing traits of this yellow blossom made it tantalizing enough to carry across the Atlantic Ocean – and we’ll explore that together in this article.
Beyond horticultural use, the Jerusalem artichoke may see a resurgence in its popularity, with some new and interesting revelations on its potential health and healing use. There’s a lot to learn about the history of this fascinating plant, how to cultivate it in your garden, and the best ways to utilize it in your cooking and at-home healing once it’s ready to harvest.
Let’s take a look!
- Varieties: Color and Growth Patterns
- Back to Jerusalem
- Return to Jerusalem
- Your comments and tips
- Jerusalem Artichoke Care: Learn How To Grow A Jerusalem Artichoke
- Jerusalem Artichoke Plants
- How to Grow a Jerusalem Artichoke
- Jerusalem Artichoke Care
Also called sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are distant relatives to the hearty, many-layered globe artichoke that you commonly see at the supermarket, or in Mediterranean cuisine.
It’s important to avoid getting them mixed up, though – they taste very different, and different parts of each plant are used in cooking and medicine.
Unlike globe artichokes, these sunflower-reminiscent plants are actually native to North America, not the Mediterranean or Israel.
It was believed that native tribes of the Central Plains grew them as food and medicine, and spread them by way of trade to other tribes all over the rest of the continent, since they are very nutritious and simple to grow.
When French settlers arrived in America, they found sunchokes being cultivated as far east as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Taking interest in the crop, they brought the tuber back over the Atlantic to Europe.
There, it became a mainstay of French cuisine, as it remains today. The tasty, tuberous culinary delight is often considered a nuttier, sweeter version of the potato for culinary purposes, with countless French recipes in circulation – as covered in this article from the New York Times archive.
Over the hundreds of years since it was introduced to the Western world, various cultivars and varieties have been selected, bred, and perfected for taste and tuber size. Many glorious colors are available to select from as well, to enhance the beauty of any meal.
A combination of European and Native agriculture and cuisine brings us the knowledge and techniques you can easily use to grow and eat this heart-warming plant – or even add it to next season’s garden plan!
Varieties: Color and Growth Patterns
Wondering which kind of sunchoke is the best match for your garden and culinary needs?
Via the Mother Earth News organic growing guide, here’s the lowdown on some of the most prominent, flavorful, colorful, and easy-to-grow varieties:
- Stampede- thick, round, knobby, dark-brown tubers make for the most standard and “original” of all varieties – matures early.
- Red Fuseau- long and thin or “top-shaped” reddish-purple tubers that take a little longer to mature, but are easier to clean and prepare than others, due their less “knobby” and “craggy” roots, which can hide hard-to-remove dirt.
- White Fuseau- like the red variety, the edible parts are long and thin, in a bright white shade.
- Waldspinel- a very long, red variety that is often called the “fingerling” of sunchokes.
Most seasoned gardeners report that getting these plants started is effortless and hassle free.
The bigger challenge, however, may be in maintaining your patch in a way that keeps these from spreading and crowding out your other plants.
If left to their own devices, Jerusalem artichokes will spread aggressively and voraciously, so it’s good to keep an eye on how they are grown, by giving them a strategic yet supportive outdoor placement.
Seeding and Starting
The nice thing about growing sunchokes: you don’t have to start them from seed. Obtain tubers in the spring from a local farming or gardening store, or seek them out online, to provide the starting “source” of your crop.
It’s better to start with small, younger tubers. Don’t feel the need to get larger ones, as more mature tubers tend to have a harder time with transplant in their older age (though most could still handle it, if necessary).
The “right” spacing depends on how many you wish to produce for your kitchen (or for decoration and enjoyment otherwise, of both the flowers and the tubers).
- If you want a small patch to start out with, plant about 14 inches apart.
- If you want tons of tubers and an expanding patch, the Royal Horticultural Society of the UK (RHS) recommends you plant each them about 5 feet apart, setting up the size of your space accordingly.
- Add compost or natural fertilizer around your tubers to get them started. It’s not likely that they will need feedings once they mature.
Water around your tubers once after planting, until moist. Afterwards, unless conditions are exceptionally dry, you won’t be required to attend too much to their watering needs.
Rules of Thumb
- Select a pH-neutral, fully sunny, and well-drained site where you can dig up the soil and place your tubers, and be sure to remove all competing weeds from the site. Place your tubers in the ground, root-down and stalk-up, around 5 inches deep, and cover.
- You can also elect a large tub or planting container for easy transport, or to prevent invasion of the rest of your garden – or, try digging a tub or container straight into the ground to “fence in” your tubers, so they won’t go wild.
- Most importantly, keep them away from other plants! Not only will they spread and overtake nearby plant beds if they’re not harvested or thinned regularly, the spindly flowers will also grow to heights of 5 feet on average (10 feet max), casting shadows and depriving nearby plants of necessary sunlight.
- Early spring is a good time to start this plant, as it can tolerate frost. For the speediest and most optimal growth, however, plant it after all threat of frost has passed.
- Sunchokes are so hardy you can try planting them at any time of year, so long as the ground is workable and not frozen – though it may be less ideal to plant a new tuber going into the winter, as such conditions are difficult for transplants.
Mature Plant Care
There’s not a whole lot to manage with Jerusalem artichokes. Since they can become quite tall plants, you will have to make sure the wind, weather, or other factors won’t cause them to topple.
After you’ve planted fresh tubers and the first stalks push up, consider placing even more soil at the base for stability.
The RHS suggests that you add another layer of about 6 inches or so right around the base, either of compost or soil, to keep top-heavy plants from falling over.
- You can also stake, cage, or trellis your sunchokes, much like you would any sunflower (a close relative).
- On the note of trellising: the plant’s towering stature can form excellent staking or “living trellises” for other vining plants, like runner beans or peas.
- Another tip: cut flower heads off the plant during mid-summer to make them less top heavy. Use them as a summer bouquet or decoration for your home.
- Removing flowers before seeds form also helps to keep the plant from spreading, and becoming invasive to other parts of your garden. Heading into the fall, it redirects energy back to the roots, ensuring the growth of larger and meatier tubers.
Watering Grown Plants:
Initial baby tubers will need much more watering attention than grown plants. Even then, they don’t need much compared to other high-maintenance plant species and cultivars.
As soon as your patch seems self-sustaining, you can leave the watering up to nature. In droughts and dry conditions, give your plants a little extra watering attention.
Diseases and Pests:
Once you have your first round matured and grown, it takes little encouragement to keep them alive and thriving – with mild watering and harvesting only being occasional tasks.
If you’re growing the plant in its native United States, Jerusalem artichokes tend to thrive. Diseases and pests are not a major concern, as they have maintained strong enough wild genetics to easily resist them.
In areas outside the U.S., the plant may not be as resistant. The RHS of the UK reports that slugs, snails, and sclerotina can be problems.
- Snails and slugs- usually only a risk to young, developing tubers. Beer traps and copper can keep them successfully at bay.
- Sclerotina- a fungal disease that causes a mushy, rotting stem base and white mold on the outside. Remove affected plants right away – you will have to eradicate the whole patch, since the disease stays in the soil for long periods.
The biggest reward of growing these sunny plants may just be dining on them – though first you must harvest your cash crop before preparing it for cooking use.
When the first beginnings of cold weather arrive in late fall or early winter, it’s time to grab your spade or shovel and revisit your patch for harvesting. Pulling up these tubers can be not all that different from harvesting potatoes.
Waiting until the arrival of the coldest temperatures in your area may seem a bit strange compared to how you would harvest most other veggies (usually done BEFORE the threat of frost). But Jerusalem artichokes are tough, and you will find in time that cold weather has a surprisingly tasty effect on your culinary experience!
- Work a shallow shovel or spade about 1 foot (sometimes 2 feet in more established patches, since new tubers may develop deeper) into the soil around each individual patch, or a stand within your larger patch.
- Loosen and remove tubers you want to save for eating from the ground, and leave the rest in the soil for re-growth (and more tubers next year). Be thorough and feel around in the soil for tubers with your fingers, using gloves if necessary.
- As recommended by the Mother Earth News organic gardening guide, you may remove larger “choice” tubers and leave smaller tubers behind without worrying about any problems with re-propagating.
- If you have an especially crowded, dense patch (or suspect a lot of expansion happened over the season), opt for a digging fork instead of a shovel. This will help you to avoid inadvertently chopping or otherwise damaging Jerusalem artichokes that you want to keep intact for future growth and harvests.
- Rinse and clean away all dirt from tubers with water before storage, and make sure they are completely dry before stowing them away. If you’re concerned about leftover water after cleaning, gently dry your tubers with a clean cloth or napkin before storing.
The growing guide from Mother Earth News recommends harvesting after soil temperatures have cooled considerably, for the sake of improving the texture and flavor of the tubers – making fall or winter prime gathering times. Frosts are known to “sweeten up” the plant, as is also the case for wintered or post-frost harvested kale, parsnips, or spinach.
Keeping frosts in mind as having a potentially beneficial effect on your harvests is the best reason for waiting to do any sunchoke gathering until the cold weather arrives. Cold soil and frost greatly improve sunchoke flavor!
Colder climates with frigid winters yield excellent fall harvests, while those with less intense winters can wait until wintertime itself – or even harvest tubers constantly throughout winter as needed, given that the ground is not frozen – and yes, your sunchokes can handle winter harvests well, due to their ingrained natural winter hardiness (a trait that hasn’t been bread out of them through domestication.)
If you want to keep tubers for re-planting, selling, or giving away to plant-savvy friends, hold on to your smaller roots for easier transport and rejuvenation.
Whether for food or future seed propagation, it’s best to store your tubers in a cool, dry place like a fridge or root cellar, in paper bags for optimal dryness.
About Adrian White
Adrian White is a certified herbalist, organic farmer, and health/food writer and expert. She aims to bridge the world of natural, holistic health and nutrition to the realm of organic foods, herbalism, gardening, and sustainability – or “Food as Medicine” – throughout her writing.
Back to Jerusalem
The “Back to Jerusalem” movement can be traced back to a vision for evangelism which God gave to several different indigenous Chinese Christian mission movements in the 1940s. It has been claimed that this vision was also widely accepted among the earlier Jesus Family, a communal Christian movement started in Shandong province. However, I can find no evidence for this in the limited Chinese and English documentation of this fascinating group.
In 1949, soon after World War II, Phyllis Thompson, a China Inland Mission (CIM) worker stationed in Chongqing (Chungking) wrote:
The thing that has impressed me most has been the strange, unaccountable urge of a number of different Chinese groups of Christians to press forward in faith, taking the Gospel towards the west. I know of at least five different groups, quite unconnected with each other who have left their homes in east China and gone forth leaving practically everything behind them to the west. Some are in Sikang, some in Kansu, some right away in the great north-western province of Sinkiang or Chinese Turkestan. It seems like a movement of the Spirit which is irresistible. The striking thing is that they are disconnected, and in most cases seem to know nothing about each other. Yet all are convinced that the Lord is sending them to the western borders to preach the Gospel, and they are going with a strong sense of urgency of the shortness of the time, and the imminence of the Lord’s return.
This is important evidence of the birth of this movement. It came at a time of social and political turmoil during the Japanese occupation of much of China. Spiritually, it seems to have galvanised Chinese evangelists with a strong desire to emulate the pioneer work of the China Inland Mission among Muslims and minority peoples.
In 1941, the CIM started the new NorthWest Bible Institute in Fengxiang, Shaanxi province. Rev. James Hudson Taylor (grandson of the founder of the CIM) was the principal and Rev. Mark Ma, from Henan, became the vice-principal. Pastor Ma wrote:
On the evening of November 25, 1942 while in prayer the Lord said to me: “The door to Sinkiang is already opened. Enter and preach the Gospel.” When this voice reached me I was trembling and fearful and most unwilling to obey, because I did not recall a single time in the past when I had prayed for Sinkiang; moreover it was a place to which I had no desire to go. Therefore I merely privately prayed about this matter not even telling my wife.
After exactly five months of prayer, on Easter morning 25 April 1943 when two fellow workers and I were praying together on the bank of the Wei River, I told them of my call to Sinkiang and one of the fellow workers said that 10 years before she had received a similar call. When I returned to the school I learnt that on that same Easter Sunday at the sunrise service eight students had also been burdened for Sinkiang. It was with joy that I gathered them all together and we planned a regular prayer meeting. On the evening of May 4th there were 23 present, including members of the faculty and students. On May 11th we received the first offering amounting to $50.
On the morning of May 23, as Ma fasted and prayed, he believed God spoke to him further.
I not only want you (the Chinese church) to assume responsibility for taking the Gospel to Sinkiang but I want you to bring to completion the commission to preach the Gospel to all the world. Since Pentecost the gospel has spread for the greater part in a westward direction: from Jerusalem to Antioch to all Europe; from Europe to America and then the East; from the Southeast of China to the Northwest; until today from Kansu on westward it can be said there is no firmly established church. You may go westward from Kansu preaching the Gospel all the way back to Jerusalem, causing the light of the gospel to complete the circle around this dark world. I want to manifest my power through those who of themselves have no power. I have kept for the Chinese church a portion of inheritance, otherwise when I return will you not be too poor?
The same evening I reported the above revelation to our prayer group. The name Pien Chuan Fu yin Tuan was accepted by the whole group.
It is interesting to note that the Chinese name means simply “The Preach Everywhere Gospel Band.” It was the CIM missionaries who dubbed the movement “Back to Jerusalem Evangelistic Band.” Pastor Ma, at the same meeting, said he believed God was calling them not only to the outlying provinces of China but beyond to seven nationsTibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine.
The vision was thus quite specific and centered on reaching the Muslims and the Jewsno mention of Buddhists or Hindus. Its ethos was strongly premillenial with a fervent expectation of Christ’s return and the need to preach the gospel urgently to the unsaved. In the tradition of the CIM, it was strongly a “faith mission,” birthed in fervent prayer and looking to God for every supply. Its constitution stated firmly: “We look to the Lord alone for all financial supplies.” In this it seems to differ widely with some modern expressions of the BTJ movement which blatantly appeal for funds at every possibility.
Another early pioneer was Simon Zhao. He was born in 1918 and attended the Dongguan American Presbyterian church in Shenyang. He joined a prayer group which met in the church tower. One snowy night, he brought a large map with him and alone in the vast silence laid it down and prayed. He was drawn to Xinjiang with its strange Uygur place names. The more he prayed the more Xinjiang imprinted itself on his mind. Later he married, and he and his wife both went to study at Taidong Seminary in Nanjing. There he met two women who also had a call to go to Xinjiang. In 1949, all headed to the northwest, reaching Hami where they joined members of the North West Evangelization band who had arrived there a year or two earlier. Eager to plant the gospel on virgin soil, he headed to Khotan (Hetian), a remote oasis in the far south of Xinjiang, in the winter of 1949. However, they were forced to move west to Kashgar where the band had set up a preaching station. They arrived to a chaotic situation and were soon arrested. Simon was placed in prison as were other members of the Band from Hami and Kashgar. From 1954 until 1981 he toiled in terrible conditions in a labor camp, miraculously surviving one instance of brutality when he was stripped and forced to stand for hours in the freezing cold. Some of the other early pioneers to Xinjiang died as martyrs in captivity.
After his release, he came across other believers in the Kashgar area in 1988, and in 1995 he travelled to Henan where he shared his vision of “Back to Jerusalem” with some rural house church leaders. He died peacefully in Henan on December 3, 2001, but his vision has since spread to many Christians across China, mainly in rural house church circles but even to some Three-Self pastors and Bible colleges.
In Xinjiang itself, the wife of one of the other early pioneers, Mecca Zhao, still maintains a quiet witness on the outskirts of Kashgar. In human terms, they have seen few if any converts among the Muslims. Strong pressure from the local Islamic community, and also from the communist authorities who forbid Christian outreach by the numerous Han Christian community to their Uygur neighbors, means that so far only a few individual Uygurs have been saved. Some Han evangelists have moved to Xinjiang but have found learning the language and adapting to the local culture daunting. Irresponsible claims overseas of 100,000 Chinese evangelists poised to take the Islamic world by storm have tarnished the original vision. However, there is plenty of evidence that there are many Chinese Christians praying fervently to become seriously involved in cross-cultural missionfirst within China’s borders where some have already taken the gospel to Xijiang, Tibet and Inner Mongoliaand then further afield. Perhaps a few hundred are already in some kind of preparatory training.
Those I have met in China who are most serious about mission, adamantly reject the naive triumphalism that has gained adverse publicity overseas and drawn the attention of both the Chinese government and certain Muslim governments. They eschew publicity, and in striking contrast to publicists overseas, insist that God will provide the necessary funding from Chinese Christians within China. I believe they are the authentic successors to the original pioneers, and their quiet work will bear ultimate spiritual fruit.
Return to Jerusalem
The Jews lived in Babylon for many years. Cyrus became the king. God told him to let the Jews build a new temple in Jerusalem. Cyrus told the Jews to go back to Jerusalem.
The Jews went back to Jerusalem. They took gold and silver and beautiful dishes for the temple.
The Jews built an altar and made sacrifices to God. They began to build the temple. They were happy. They prayed to God and thanked him.
Some wicked men in Jerusalem were angry. They did not want the Jews to build a temple. They tried to stop them.
But the Jews worked for a long time. At last the temple was finished.
Ezra was a prophet of God. He lived in Babylon. Ezra went to Jerusalem to teach the Jews. He read all the commandments to the people. He told them to obey God’s commandments and to repent. The people listened to him.
Nehemiah was a prophet. He also went to Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was sad when he got there. The wall around the city was broken down. The gates in the wall were burned. Nehemiah told the Jews they should build the wall and the gates again.
The Jews began to build the wall. Wicked men tried to stop them. The Jews kept working. God blessed them. At last the wall and the gates were finished.
Nehemiah 2:19–20; 4:1–8; 6:15
Nehemiah talked to the people. He knew the Jews did not obey God’s commandments. They were mean to each other. He told the Jews to be righteous.
The Jews promised to obey God. They promised to keep the Sabbath day holy. They promised to pay tithing. They promised to live good lives.
Back To Jerusalem Ministry
Back To Jerusalem (BTJ) is our local ministry, that is a registered Israeli, non-profit organization. It is lead by the Back To Jerusalem Organization, that works under the auspice of the Convention of Evangelical Churches in Israel, and, in partnership with Life Agape ministry (CCC). It’s directed by a distinguished board of local and international pastors and leaders from the local evangelical churches, Back To Jerusalem organization and Life Agape.
The BTJ Vision:
The vision of Back To Jerusalem was born several years ago, with the attempt to empower the local church to evangelize, disciple and plant churches. It’s to encourage the global body of Christ to come and to help bring the gospel back to where it started from, among the Arabs, Jews and all the inhabitants of the Land. Living Stones Tour Service helps fund Back to Jerusalem and other ministries.
This is vision the Lord put on the hearts of Rajai and Samar: to see the Gospel come back and be replanted where it was sent out originally.
Because of the urgency of the hour, the church in the Holy Land needs to be empowered to bring the Gospel to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. It must be have the same impact and power from the original message from Jerusalem over 2000 years ago.
The Back To Jerusalem movement, which began in 2008, was, and still is, the only evangelistic effort that unites all Churches in Israel and the West Bank. Between 80-90% of all, take part in it. The movement is growing and gaining momentum, reputation, fruit and credibility. Back To Jerusalem branched out from Campus Crusade for Christ in 2010 and became a stand-alone ministry. It is registered in Israel as a non-profit organization.
What do we do?
- We train and equip pastors and leaders in the areas of Evangelism, Muslim Evangelism, leadership development, discipleship, church planting and prayer.
- Conduct mass evangelistic campaigns
- Door to door visit
- Medical outreaches
- Sports and Music outreaches
- Distribution of the Bible, Jesus film and other materials
- Community service
- Food and clothes distribution
- Helping the Homeless and refugees
- Kids outreaches
- Caring for the poor and widow
- Film Showings
As a result of following up on the evangelistic contacts, we’ve recognized many new converts are coming to churches. We also saw healthy growth in some churches and other newly planted ones. We want to see more churches planted all over the Holy Land.
Today, Back To Jerusalem is the lead ministry of Evangelism and Church planting in Israel. A team of key pastors and key lay people direct it. The sphere of influence of the BTJ ministry goes beyond Jerusalem, Nazareth, Haifa, Akko, upper Galilee and more. Churches are growing. The team is now preparing the Church leaders for a Church planting movement that will last and cause blessings in the Land our Lord came to.
To know more about Back To Jerusalem – click http://www.back2jerusalem.org/
The sunchokes in this large pot by my front porch were interesting to watch grow all summer. Here they are in mid-September when they were about five feet tall but hadn’t started flowering yet. The ceramic pot next to it I held a cherry tomato plant.
What’s not to like about sunchokes? They grow dramatically in one season, reaching heights of 10 feet. In September, when other plants are losing steam, sunchokes are just starting to flower. They add a lot of interest to your garden.
Plus you can eat them! Find out more about sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) here.
I have to admit there is one drawback with sunchokes– The roots do spread a lot.
The root is the part you eat, and even if you can’t eat all you grow, a soup kitchen such as Friends of Night People can use all you can give them. If you keep harvesting your sunchokes, you should be able to control them.
In reality, it’s easy to miss a root, especially one that sneaks beyond the perimeter of the bed you’ve set aside for sunchokes. The root stays underground where you can’t see it. It’s not until the next spring when the stem pops up that you realize the sunchokes have migrated beyond their plot and have infiltrated the adjacent perennial bed.
One thing you can do to control sunchokes is to plant them in pots.
I tried that this past year, planting them in mid-November 2013. I clustered the pots near the fence and surrounded them with leaves to help protect the roots from thawing and freezing. Despite our harsh winter, all of the pots except one sprouted.
The sunchokes planted in pots were smaller than the ones I planted in garden beds– I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps the pieces I planted in the garden bed were bigger than the ones I planted in the pots. Maybe I didn’t water the pots enough– A garden bed will stay moist longer than a small pot will. I know some of the pots weren’t in very sunny areas, so that may have stunted their growth.
I had one large and spectacular sunchoke plant in a pot that suddenly turned brown just before it flowered. I think I may have watered it with water I had leftover from boiling corn– The water might not have been completely cool. Bummer. I was still able to harvest some nice roots from that plant.
Watch the video below to see how the sunchokes looked in May, in September and this past weekend when I harvested them.
If you’d like to try growing sunchokes, I’d be happy to give you some. The only catch is that I don’t want to mail them, so please arrange to pick them up. If you don’t live near me (I’m in the Eggertsville area of Amherst), you probably work with someone whose cousin lives out this way and can get them to you– Western New York is like that.
If you’re interested, email me at [email protected] so that I can make sure I’m here or have them available for you when you stop by.
If you got sunchokes from me in previous years, how did they do? Did they grow well? Did they spread too much? How did you prepare them? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
Your comments and tips
Post a comment or question Display Newest first | Oldest first, Show comments for USA | for all countries 10 Nov 19, Mary (USA – Zone 8b climate) Can I plant the chokes I just received in pots in my small, uheated greenhouse or should I hold them for Spring? If I should hold them, how do I do that? 01 Jan 19, Georgette (USA – Zone 6b climate) what state or place is the best place to grown sun chokes. we are thinking about growing them commercially and what to know if we need to move or what the best area is. 26 Nov 18, Ethelyn Schaeffer (USA – Zone 10b climate) Could I grow Jerusalem Artichoke in the desert? Any suggestions? 19 Jun 18, kenneth (USA – Zone 5a climate) Can I grew them in zone 5a? 22 Oct 19, Susan Butler (USA – Zone 5a climate) My mother in law grew Jerusalem Artichokes at 9000ft 19 Jun 18, Liz (New Zealand – temperate climate) Set your zone at the top of this page and check info there www.gardenate.com/plant/Jerusalem%2BArtichokes 29 Oct 16, marie (USA – Zone 11b climate) Does anyone have any knowledge of Jerusalem artichokes sunchokes growing in Hawaii?
Your friendly and inquisitive Planet Natural Blogger once inherited a garden that had an established bed of Jerusalem artichokes. At the time we took it over, the artichokes were already growing and some, despite a rainy summer there in the great Northwest, were already sporting flowers. “We don’t do anything to ’em,” the crusty old gardener from whom we bought the property told us. “They just come back every year.” “Whatta ya use them for?” we wanted to know. “Oh, all kinds of things,” he said, which we later found out included throwing a bunch of them to the couple of hogs he was raising.
What we discovered in the years after was that Jerusalem artichokes — we never took to the commercial name “sunchoke” though we can understand its marketing value — were indeed easy to grow and produced bountiful harvests, even there in the cool and moist Pacific Northwest. And because we always harvested so many, we tried them all kinds of ways: steamed and mashed with butter and nutmeg, in a creamy soup, raw in dressed salads and slaws, sliced and stir-fried Asian style like water chestnuts. They were great as long as, like most things, you didn’t eat them every day.
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Jerusalem artichokes make a great addition to your kitchen garden as long as you don’t let them get out of hand. Any tubers left in the ground after harvest — and we found that it was impossible to get them all — would result in 20 more tubers come the next harvest. In other words, it’s best to keep them contained. This might mean planting them in a raised bed that will inhibit their spreading into the rest of the garden, or setting them off by themselves and carefully turning up the soil in the margins and removing any encroaching tuber you might find. You might also consider growing them in a bucket, a technique that has more benefits than just keeping them contained (we’ll go into that later).
Native to North America, Jerusalem artichokes take well to a variety of climates and soil types. They do best in the northern third of the country where they are able to overwinter in the ground with the help of a good mulching. A few types are commercially available but we recommend searching out — through your community garden club or just over the backyard fence — someone who grows them locally and asking for a few tubers. Most anyone who plants the tubers will have plenty to pass around come fall. You can stick them in the ground then and heavily mulch or, best, start them in early spring a few weeks ahead of last frost. The earlier you plant them the larger your tubers and your harvest will be.
As always, turn the soil as deeply as you can and work in as much compost as you can spare. But, surprisingly, other than adjusting the soil pH to right around neutral — 7.0 — you really don’t have to do much at all. They’ll do well in almost any conditions, including heavy clay (but your tubers won’t be as large).
Make sure they get a periodic watering during the dry months of summer and shovel in some soil or compost if you can spare it to help anchor the plants as they grow. Sunchokes will become tall, maybe six feet or better, and their small but beautiful late-season blossoms will remind you of sunflowers. Thinning isn’t necessary once things get sprouting, except around the edges of your patch. Any thinning you might do in the patch will set back the development of tubers.
Jerusalem artichokes are seldom bothered by disease and insect pests. If you experience rot — and we never did even in the extremely rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest — dig up the soil and improve drainage with sand or organic material such as peat moss or coconut coir.
Wait until well after the first frost to harvest, then use a garden fork to turn up the knobby tubers. Harvest only as many as you need and leave the rest in the ground, under heavy mulch if conditions will turn extremely cold. If you do live in a cold region somewhere where you’ll want to harvest all at one time, do so carefully and discard any that are cut or damaged (see “hogs” above). Keep them in the refrigerator rather than a root cellar. Cold conditions are best for their storage. Save a few for replanting next spring if the ground freezes hard where you live. Otherwise, just harvest from beneath the mulch, as needed
We used to tether our goats in our modest sized patch and let them take down the stalks and any tubers that came with them once they started to die back. Otherwise, you’ll want to clean up the patch as best you can come late fall. By then the stalks will make a poor addition to your compost heap — they’re too woody — unless you can put them through a shredder.
Better than black plastic planters! Smart Pots are soft-sided fabric containers that prevent roots from circling and release heat so they’re much cooler — crops develop a better root structure. Available in several sizes.
No matter how well you harvest and clean up the patch, it will show itself again the following spring, and probably be larger than it was the year before. Don’t be afraid to thin out the shoots just as they appear (but don’t wait too long). Some tubers will certainly follow them out of the ground but that’s okay as long as you do it early enough in the season.
We gave some tubers to a neighbor who cut two or three of them in halves then planted them in a five-gallon bucket. He let his kids water and soon enough the stalks were taller than they were. In the fall, they just turned the bucket over and emptied out the contents. The kids had a good time picking through the soil and finding all the tubers. And they never experienced the problem that many have with Jerusalem artichokes: having them spread beyond their patch. Also, they didn’t have so many that they couldn’t eat them all.
Jerusalem artichokes are rich in fiber, a great source of potassium, iron, and some B-vitamins and vitamin C. They’re high in fiber and their carbohydrates come mostly in the form of inulin. This reduces the caloric value of their carbohydrates. Though not to be confused with insulin, the sugars that come from the nutty-flavored tubers are slowly digested, making them more appropriate for diabetics. Inulin also encourages the development of intestinal flora or probiotics. This is a good thing, but may lead to increased flatulence (funny, we never noticed a difference, but have heard others, usually the spouses of those who experienced it, complain). Beano, anyone?
Sweeter than potatoes (especially after cold storage), Jerusalem artichokes are good mashed with butter and sprinkled with pepper or nutmeg. One of our favorite ways to use them is creamed in a soup with carrots, squash and, often, sweet peppers. We also enjoy them sliced and stir-fried in olive oil with a handful of pearl or cipollini onions. If slicing them for raw use, treat with a little lemon juice. Otherwise, they’ll brown quickly.
Have a favorite recipe? Let us know, in the comments or over on Facebook. And no, that really was the dog.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are up to 10 inches long and to 5 inches wide, gradually tapering to a point at the tip and abruptly narrowed near the base, on stalks from ¾ to 3 inches long that are often winged. Leaf edges are serrated to nearly toothless, the lower leaf surface is hairy and the upper rough textured. Attachment is opposite but may be alternate near the top of the plant. The stem is green or reddish and covered with stiff hairs, giving it a rough feel.
The center disk forms a head of dry seed, each about ¼ inch long and without a tuft of hairs, but with 2 bristly scales at the tip.
Jerusalem Artichoke resembles several other tall, Minnesota native sunflowers but has the largest and proportionately broadest leaves of the lot. It spreads vegetatively via rhizomes and can create sizable populations. Prior to European settlement, its tubers were cultivated by Native Americans as an important source of carbohydrates and is still grown by food naturalists today. Its robust growth habit, however, was problematic in post-European agriculture and until recently it was listed as a noxious weed until modern herbicides removed it as an agricultural nuisance. In native habitats and in agricultural margins it is an important species for both foraging and nesting for pollinators, and its seeds are a rich food source for birds.
Jerusalem Artichoke Care: Learn How To Grow A Jerusalem Artichoke
Many vegetable gardeners are unfamiliar with Jerusalem artichoke plants, although they may know them by their common name, sunchoke. Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America and have nothing in common with the artichokes found in your local grocery. Nothing’s easier than planting a Jerusalem artichoke, other than growing them, which is even easier.
If you live in the northern two thirds of the United States or somewhere with the same climate, you should give them a try. But beware; once you have Jerusalem artichokes growing in your garden, you’ll have a hard time changing your mind!
Jerusalem Artichoke Plants
Jerusalem artichoke plants (Helianthus tuberous) are perennial relatives of the sunflower. The edible portions are the fat, misshapen tubers that grow below ground. Tubers are dug in the fall. They can be cooked like a potato, either fried, baked or boiled, or eaten raw with a flavor and crunch similar to water chestnuts.
If you or someone you care about happens to be diabetic, learning how to grow a Jerusalem artichoke can be a labor of love. Rather than carbohydrates, the tubers contain inulin that breaks down during digestion into fructose, which is preferable to glucose.
Jerusalem artichoke plants can grow 6 feet high and are covered with 2-inch flowers in late August and September. The flowers are a bright and cheerful yellow. The leaves are about 3 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches long.
Much more difficult than learning how to grow a Jerusalem artichoke is learning where to find one. Most garden centers don’t carry them, but many catalogs do. Or you can use my personal preference and try planting Jerusalem artichokes you’ve purchased at the grocery store!
How to Grow a Jerusalem Artichoke
How to grow a Jerusalem artichoke begins with the soil. While the plants grow and produce flowers in almost any type of soil, yields are better when they are planted in loose, well aerated, well-draining soil. The plants also produce greater yields in slightly alkaline soil, but for the home gardener, neutral soil works fine. An all purpose fertilizer should be worked into the soil when planting.
Planting Jerusalem artichokes is much like planting potatoes. Small tubers or pieces of tuber with two or three buds are planted 2-3 inches deep about 2 feet apart in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. The planting should be watered well. The tubers will sprout in two to three weeks.
Jerusalem Artichoke Care
Jerusalem artichoke care is pretty basic. Light cultivation and weeding should begin as soon as the sprouts break through the soil. Once the plants are established, however, no cultivation is necessary.
Water is essential and the plants should receive at least 1 inch per week to promote good tuber growth. Flowering begins in August, providing a feast for the eyes.
When the plants begin to brown sometime in September, it’s time to harvest your first Jerusalem artichokes. Care should be taken to dig deep enough not to injure the delicate skin. Harvest only what you need. Cut away the dying plants, but leave the tubers in the ground. They can be harvested all winter until they begin to sprout in the spring, and here’s what was meant earlier about not changing your mind. Any piece of tuber left to overwinter will sprout and your garden can be easily overrun with Jerusalem artichokes to the point where some gardeners refer to them as weeds!
On the other hand, if you assign a corner of your garden permanently to Jerusalem artichokes, growing them can be even easier as the plants replenish themselves. Just give your patch a dose of fertilizer each spring. When it comes to Jerusalem artichoke growing and care, what could be easier than that?
Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
Canada potato, earth-apple, girasole, sunflower artichoke, sunroot, tuberous sunflower.
Origin and Distribution:
Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America and may have originated in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. The first written account of the plant was a report issued in 1605 by Champlain, a European explorer, who observed Native Americans growing Jerusalem artichoke along with corn and beans in a Cape Cod garden. The species was introduced to Europe in 1612 where it gained popularity as both human and animal food. Its current range in North America extends from the East Coast to the Midwest, and from southern Canada to Georgia. Jerusalem artichoke occurs in all but a few northwestern counties in Ohio. This native plant inhabits riverbanks, roadsides, fencerows, and agronomic fields, preferring rich, moist soils.
It is nearly impossible to distinguish Jerusalem artichoke from annual sunflowers based on above-ground growth. Jerusalem artichoke has a coarse, 5- to 10-foot tall stem, large leaves with a rough upper surface, and bright yellow sunflower-like flowers. However, Jerusalem artichoke can be easily distinguished from annual sunflowers by its below-ground growth that includes fleshy tubers resembling thin, knotty potatoes. Reproduction of Jerusalem artichoke is by seeds, rhizomes (horizontal underground stems), and tubers.
The root system is fibrous with thin cord-like rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) that grow as long as 50 inches. Usually apparent at the tips of rhizomes are whitish to pinkish tubers that are irregular in size and shape and resemble a slender potato with knots.
Seedlings and Shoots:
The first leaves to emerge (cotyledons) have a united base in the shape of a short tube. Young leaves are elliptic, dull green, and covered with short stiff hairs.
Jerusalem artichoke stems grow as tall as 12 feet, and are stout, rough, hairy, ridged. Stems can become woody over time. Branches vary from none to many.
Leaves are opposite (2 leaves per node) on the lower part of the stem, and alternate (1 leaf per node) near the top of the stem. Leaves are 4 to 10 inches long and nearly heart-shaped with a broad oval base and pointed tip. The thick leaves have 3 distinct main veins, coarsely-toothed margins, and attach to the stem by way of a winged stalk (petiole). The upper leaf surface has coarse hairs while the lower surface has soft hairs.
Flower heads occur alone or in groups at the ends of main stems and axillary branches. Each flower head is 2 to 3 inches wide and made up of many small, yellow, tubular disk flowers in the center, surrounded by 10 to 20 yellow ray flowers (typically thought of as the petals).
Fruits and Seeds:
Seeds are smooth, wedge-shaped, and gray or brown with black mottling.
Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual that shares many above-ground characteristics with Jerusalem artichoke but below ground, it lacks rhizomes and tubers. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) is generally a much smaller and bushier plant, although its flowers are very similar in appearance to those of Jerusalem artichoke.
Jerusalem artichoke is sometimes cultivated for its edible tubers, but it can become an aggressive weed that is very difficult to control. Plants flower from August to October. Seeds are usually produced in low numbers, so tubers are the primary mechanism by which plants reproduce. Tubers are also the means by which plants survive winter, since the foliage dies back after frost. Tubers sprout in late spring and are capable of forming shoots even if buried 12 inches deep in soil. As many as 6 shoots may emerge from one tuber. New tuber formation begins just before flowering. A single Jerusalem artichoke plant can produce 200 tubers in one growing season, but typically plants produce around 75 tubers. Jerusalem artichoke is a competitive plant when growing with row crops, where just a few plants can significantly reduce yields. However, because it is highly nutritious, its presence may be desirable in pastures. Foliage is used to make silage and tubers are fed to livestock. Pigs are especially fond of the tubers, and commonly dig up and eat buried tubers, which helps control the plant’s spread. Although tubers are the primary means of reproduction, they only survive a couple of years in soil. Therefore, preventing tuber formation by repeatedly applying control measures for 2 years will generally control Jerusalem artichoke. Application of selective herbicides at the pre-bloom stage generally results in good control.
Facts and Folklore:
The common name is probably a corruption of the Italian ‘girasola’ meaning ‘turning to the sun’ (as in many sunflower species, Jerusalem artichoke flowers follow the movement of the sun across the sky) and ‘articiocco’ meaning ‘edible’.
Jerusalem artichoke was cultivated in North America about 400-500 years ago, and the Lewis and Clark expedition ate Jerusalem artichokes provided by Native Americans during their journey across the U.S.
The sugars from one acre of Jerusalem artichoke can produce 500 gallons of alcohol, which is about double the amount produced by either corn or sugarbeet.