Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes


Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are easy to grow and don't need a lot of extra care. Plant in the spring and harvest in the fall when they begin to die back with the first frosts. They grow vigorously and produce an abundance of tubers. Some people call this invasive, I call it free food. See below for my tips on how to manage your crop so it doesn't get out of hand.

About Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, Helianthus tuberosus, are native to North America and belong to the sunflower family. They aren't related to artichokes and didn't originate in Jerusalem, but their edible tubers do have a slight artichokey flavor. They make delicious soups, slice to saute them with mushrooms, or have them raw in salads.
For recipes my see recipe index.

Sunchokes sauteed with mushrooms

How to Plant and Grow Sunchokes

Sunchokes become available in the fall. Check your farmer's market or grocery store for tubers in the fall and winter months and save a few to plant in the spring. I stored about four tubers in a pot on my porch in potting soil over the winter protected from frost. I planted a couple of the tubers in the spring on the sunny side of our house where we had sheet composted to build up the soil over the previous winter.  

They need a sunny spot, regular water and medium quality garden soil.
In spring, plant a few tubers about 2 inches deep and about eight inches apart in loose soil in a sunny spot after all danger of frost is past. Adding mature compost to the soil is a plus.


Start with a modest sized patch, mine is about 1 1/5 feet by 2 feet. We got several pounds from a patch this size!

Water well.  Keep the soil slightly damp and they will begin to sprout. As they grow, water when the soil begins to dry out. They don't need to stay moist and can dry in between watering.

They will grow straight up and may need to be staked. Sprays of multi-branched yellow flowers bloom in August or September.


Jerusalem artichokes grow very tall and flower in late summer
To Harvest

Jerusalem artichokes are frost tender, so they will begin to die back when the frosts begin. When they die back cut the stalks to about 1 foot in height. The tubers become sweeter after exposure to cold temperatures, but you can begin to dig them up and try them right away. Keep them in the ground and dig them up as you need them. If the ground freezes in your region, mulch the tubers well with straw.


To dig them up use your hands or carefully dig with a trowel so that you don't break them up. The broken ones will rot in the ground.

Managing Your Crop: Replanting Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes can become invasive if you don't manage your planting area. As spring approaches  dig up all of the tubers that you can find. Replant only a few, depending on the size of the crop you want the next fall. In this way you'll keep them under control, otherwise they will spread rapidly and form big mats of tubers! 


My growing area is bordered by bricks to help define the patch. This makes it easier to find them when I want to dig them up.

Before spring is in full swing, dig up all of the tubers and replant only a few

They will even grow under the bricks:



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