Step-by-step Guide to Growing Jerusalem artichokes
Helianthus tuberosus (fam. Compositae)
Hardy perennial grown as an annual.
Sowing to harvesting time: 9-11 months.
Size: tubers about 10 cm (4”) by 5 cm (2”), plants 1.5-2.5 m (5-8’) tall.
Yield: approximately 1 kg (2 lb) per plant, with 5 plants per 3 m (10’) row.
The Jerusalem artichoke is an ugly vegetable, which is a pity, because otherwise it is something of a gardener’s dream. It is extremely hardy, nutritious and easy to grow, as well as being virtually disease and pest free, and an excellent vegetable for the home gardener with little time. Although it will repay good cultivation with a heavier crop, it will also grow quite happily with a large measure of neglect.
The tubers may be ugly but the plants themselves are bright and attractive and will grow to be a feature of your garden.
The plants are closely related to the sunflower Helianthus annus, and grows, flower-like, to a height of 2.4 m (8’) .d more, although it is usual to cut of the tops at 1.5 m (5’) so that there is less likelihood of wind damage. Cutting off the tops also prevents plants from producing flowers, but in temperate regions they rarely do so in any case. Only after exceptionally hot summers will they form their large, yellow, sunflower-like flowers in early autumn, and even then they will not set seed.
The parts of the plant which are eaten are the underground tubers, which are storage organs similar to. Unlike potatoes, however, they are not smooth but extremely irregular in shape and are covered with knobbly projections, rather like ginger. They are about 10 cm (4”) long by 5 cm (2”) wide and have yellowy-white or purple skins and a smoky flavour. Instead of containing starch, as potatoes do, they contain the sugar, insulin, which can be eaten safely by diabetics. Most people, therefore, find them extremely digestible although unfortunately some are allergic to them.
The name ‘Jerusalem artichoke’ is perhaps misleading. Jerusalem artichokes are in no way related to glob-~ artichokes, whose flower heads, rat1 than tubers, are eaten, although s people state that they are similar in Nor have, they anything to do with Holy Land. ‘Jerusalem’ may be a corrupt.
Form of the Italian name, girasole (sunflower) or of the Dutch place name, Ter Neusen, where the artichokes were grown in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
But, however they got their name, they are a very worthwhile crop for the gardener. They can be boiled, either with or without their skins, fried, baked or made into Palestine soup. They also make a useful salad vegetable at a time of the year when salading is sparse in the den and expensive in the shops.
Thinly dice them raw and dress with a vinaigrette sauce. Alternatively, cook the artichokes and serve them cold, rather like potato salad.
Suitable site and
When your Jerusalem artichokes are fully developed they will form a row of plants at least 2.4 m tall, so plant them to suit the layout rest of your garden. This may be along a fence or wall, or as a screen to hide insightlyheap or old garages or sheds.
Although they prefer an open, sunny site they grow quite happily in a shaded spot. They also make an excellent windbreak. Plant on the north side of tomatoes,or other tender crops.
Jerusalem artichokes are virtually pest and disease free so you can plant them in the same place year after year without mishap. If you cannot afford to leave a permanent space for them, however, choose their site particularly carefully. It is easy to miss a few of the smaller tubers when clearing the ground at the end of the winter and these will grow up likethe next year, so pick a site where it will not matter much if you have the odd plant appearing during the following summer.
The hardy Jerusalem artichoke will do well on indifferent soil— provided it is not waterloged—but a little attention to the soil is repaid with a heavier crop. If you have garden compost to spare, dig it in sometime during the autumn or early winter—a good general rate is one barrowload every 8 sq m (8 sq yd). Jerusalem artichokes also like plenty of potash, so dress the soil generously with wood ash a few days before planting. Alternatively, you can use fishmeal at a rate of 100 g per sq m (3 oz per sq yd). Lightly hoe the wood ash or fishmeal into the soil.
Do not give any nitrogenous fertilizer or manure at planting, however, as the result will be a luxurious growth of foliage at the expense of tubers and the whole exercise will have been a waste of valuable time and space.
Jerusalem artichokes are not fussy, but they do not grow so well on very acid soils. A few weeks after digging and adding manure, test your soil with a soil test kit and add lime to achieve a pH of 6.0-6.5.