Have you ever tasted Jerusalem artichokes? They are usually found in gourmet restaurants and health food stores, and they are a delicacy that is often overlooked. However, growing your own Jerusalem artichokes is simple, economical and you don’t need to worry about fancy gardening equipment. Moreover, their nutritional value, earthy flavor, and versatility in cooking make them an excellent addition to any vegetable garden. Read on to learn how to grow Jerusalem artichokes.
What are Jerusalem Artichokes?
Let’s start with the basics. Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunroots, sunchoke or topinambur, are root vegetables that are native to North America. They are not related to artichokes, apart from the similarly nutty and sweet flavor. They have a knobby, uneven shape that looks like ginger and are beige to brown, with a pink to reddish tinge. The edible tuber is a rich source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals such as fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin B1, and C.
How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are winter harvest vegetables that are hardy and disease resistant, easy to grow and prefer colder climates. They thrive in full sun or partial shade, and good soil with good drainage is essential for optimal growth. Plant the tuber in early spring or fall, in a well-prepared bed with organic matter at a depth of two inches and a foot apart. Water them well, especially during dry weather.
Choosing the Right Location
Jerusalem artichokes grow up to 10 feet tall, with a deep and wide root system, so it’s important to choose a suitable location. Look for adequate sunlight exposure, good air circulation and a soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Avoid planting them near other root crops, such as potatoes or carrots, as they compete for nutrients, and set up support like stakes or trellis to avoid plant flopping over.
The soil must be loose, moist but not too wet. Jerusalem artichokes prefer to be planted in a bed that has been enriched with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and increase fertility. If the soil is too compact or has poor drainage, it’s essential to amend it to ensure proper growth. They can thrive in a wide range of soils, but if the soil is alkaline or acidic beyond a pH of 5.0 to 8.0, adding lime or sulfur may be necessary.
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as Helianthus tuberosus, is a plant that grows from a tuber, similar to planting potatoes. After choosing the sunniest spot possible, they should be planted several inches deep and at least 3 to 4 inches apart from each other in good soil.
Fertilization and Mulching
Jerusalem artichokes are relatively low-maintenance plants, but they do require some fertilization. A good general recommendation is to give them a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) at the start of each season. Once the plants have established, a mulch layer of leaves, straw, or compost can help to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and add nutrients.
Harvesting and Storage
Jerusalem artichokes grow for an average of 120-150 days and can be harvested by late autumn or winter, depending on the local climate. It’s important to wait until after the first frost because this helps to sweeten the flavor. You can either uproot them or continue to harvest as needed. If left in the ground for too many years, some growers experience overpopulation problems, sometimes requiring chemical intervention. It’s best to store harvested tubers in cool, dry and dark places, and cut off any sprouts before cooking.
Concluding Thoughts on Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
Growing Jerusalem artichokes is simple and rewarding. They are healthy vegetables with exceptional nutritional value, and growing them is a great way to enjoy their fresh, crisp flavor. They’re also excellent for those who want to explore new flavors or have limited space and budget for gardening. Don’t hesitate to grow Jerusalem artichokes if you have yet to do so, as they are not only delicious but also add variety and color to your meals.
FAQs about Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
1. How do I cook Jerusalem artichokes?
Jerusalem artichokes are versatile and can be cooked in different ways. Some popular options are baked, boiled, roasted, pureed, or sliced thinly and fried to make chips. They complement meat dishes well and can also be added to soups, stir-fries, salads or pickled.
2. Do Jerusalem artichokes cause gas?
Jerusalem artichokes are known to contain inulin, a type of dietary fiber that can cause gas and bloating in some individuals, but not always. Cooking them well or eating them in smaller portions can help to reduce digestive discomfort.
3. Are Jerusalem artichokes invasive?
As mentioned earlier, Jerusalem artichokes can become overpopulated and may require some control measures. However, they often won’t spread beyond the confines of the planting beds, and they can be grown in containers or raised beds to limit their growth.
4. Can I freeze Jerusalem artichokes?
Yes, you can freeze Jerusalem artichokes, but it’s important to blanch them first to preserve their texture and nutritional value. Blanching involves boiling the tubers for about three minutes and then transferring them to an ice bath for the same time before freezing them at 0°F or below.