Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are a pretty cool crop to grow. Not at all related to globe artichokes, they’re actually a member of the sunflower family.
The tubers that grow underground are the edible part. They’re kinda like a knotty potato. What’s great about root crops and tubers is that they are easy to conceal and make a really good survival/guerrilla gardening plant. They grow wild in some places, or can be planted in the wild for future forage (they need full sun to thrive). These guys also spread like crazy, and come back year after year with no further effort on your part. The more you harvest, however, the better the plants will be the following year. You’ll get bigger tubers if you keep them thinned out.
Check out the progression of our Jerusalem Artichokes as they were grown and harvested this year…
May 2015: The Jerusalem artichokes that I planted last Spring have emerged, and are a little over a foot tall.
August 2015: The Jerusalem Artichokes are humongous! They’re taller than the chicken coop now! I noticed that aphids love the plants, but don’t seem to cause too much damage.
September 2015: The Jerusalem Artichokes are blooming, but the lower leaves are beginning to die off. I should have measured how tall these plants got. As you can see, they’re huge!
The tubers spread by probably 3x their original area in one year. Be warned, they can become invasive!
Here’s a close up of what the blooms look like. You may find them growing wild where you live.
December 2015: The stalks have all dried up and the plants have died back for the winter. I like to let the tubers go through a few good frosts before I dig them up to eat. This way they’re less starchy and have a better flavor.
The plants look like nothing more than dead sticks in the ground.
Here’s the same area after I’ve pulled up all of the dead stalks. They break off very easily at ground level. Once they’ve been removed, you can’t even tell anything was ever there. All that remains is a ground cover of chickweed.
By the way, I’ve heard that dried Jerusalem Artichoke stalks are great to use with a bow drill for making fire by hand. Never tried it, but it’s worth noting.
See? It just looks like a weedy garden spot. Nobody would ever know there’s food under there.
But there is!
Using a shovel, I easily uprooted several small tubers with just a few digs. I don’t want to dig them all up yet because they don’t store well at all. After being out of the ground for more than a day they start to get really rubbery and deteriorate extremely quickly.
I’ll keep them stored right where they are in the garden through the winter, and dig them as we want to eat them. Whatever is leftover will grow back again in Spring and multiply throughout next year.
Here’s one of the tubers dug up and washed off a little. See how knotty they are? Some are worse than others. It’s a good thing you don’t have to peel them ’cause that would be a huge pain. Just scrub them off really well with a stiff produce brush. (I’ve had this brush for years and love it.)
Right now my favorite way to prepare the tubers is to cover them in melted coconut oil, tossed with rosemary and garlic, and roasted until tender. Sometimes I add parsnips or carrots, if I have them. Here’s the recipe for you to try if you want: Herb Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes.