Although its name says different, this plant is not an artichoke and it definitely not originated from Jerusalem. I know that you are used to many-layered globe artichokes you can find in any supermarket, but Jerusalem artichokes (Sunchokes) taste entirely different. Plus, you won’t use flowers (the buds of a thistle) of these plants but tubers for both cooking and medicine.
Jerusalem artichokes are actually a native plant to North America. Most Indian tribes used those nutritious plants for centuries as food and remedies. After discovering this crop in Massachusetts, French settlers brought their tubers to Europe. Since then, this plant has become one of the main ingredients used in French cuisine. Nowadays, people often consider this tasty, tuberous, and nuttier plant as a sweeter version of the potato.
Why You Should Plant Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are tasty, low in calories, and easy to grow since they are undemanding. Plus, they are an ideal choice for beginners. With little maintenance, they will be available for you all winter long.
This perennial ‘sunflower’ prefers colder climates and produces knobbly, white-fleshed tubers you can eat both raw and cooked.
Standard types in the US are French Mammoth White, which gives us large yields and smooth-skinned Golden Nugget. I also like compact Dwarf Sunray because there is no need to peel their tubers and their flowers are lovely. They will definitely fit your garden.
If you decide to grow this crop with delicious below-ground tubers, you need to provide plenty of space to its growth. As a sunflower relative, this plant has attractive flowers on the top of 10 feet (3 m) tall stem.
Their beautiful flowers of 2 inches (5 cm) are bright and yellow. Leaves are long about 4 to 8 inches (10 – 20 cm) and wide approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm). You can expect to see a flourishing of your Jerusalem artichoke in late August and September.
The only issue with this veggie is that you will have it in your garden forever once you plant it. You simply can’t get rid of it!
Advantages of Jerusalem Artichoke
- Regulating the level of glucose in the blood – The glycemic index (GI – the ability of particular food to increase the blood level of glucose) of Jerusalem artichoke is 11. That means that this plant is in a group of low GI food, which can provide a slow and stable fluctuation in blood glucose levels.
- Cholesterol control – Soluble fiber this plant contains reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) in blood and may lower the total level of cholesterol in your blood.
- Control blood pressure – Since this veggie is low in sodium and high in potassium, it will help you lower blood pressure.
- Blood cells formation – One cup of this plant contains 28% of the daily recommended value of iron and 20% of the daily recommended amount of copper. Both minerals are essential for forming new blood cells. Plus, iron is a crucial part of the proteins which delivers oxygen to every cell in our bodies.
- A prebiotic effect – Prebiotics are actually non-digestible fibers which feed and stimulate the activity of beneficial bacteria from your gastrointestinal tract. Jerusalem artichoke contains inulin, which is excellent in stimulating the growth of bifidobacteria. At the same time, this prebiotic fiber will fight harmful bacteria in your body.
- Solving numerous digestive problems – This plant contains a lot of B-vitamins, including vitamin B1 (thiamine) which supports the hydrochloric acid in your stomach and may solve most digestive issues.
- Liver detoxification – It contains proteins, especially sulfur-containing essential amino acids, including, methionine, taurine, cysteine, homocysteine. They are crucial for cleansing our livers from toxins.
- Disease prevention – By eating this veggie, you may significantly decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and altered mood.
- Boosting the immune system – Thanks to containing antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E, Jerusalem artichoke helps in eliminating free radicals and protecting the body from inflammation and even cancer.
Where to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes?
The great thing is that you can grow Jerusalem artichokes anywhere, regardless of climate, the type of the soil, and amount of sunlight. You can plant this extremely hardy plant in February.
Since they are perennial plants and grow tall, it is an excellent decision to find a permanent spot for them in your garden, ideally on the north side. That way, their 6.5 to 8 feet (2 – 2.5 m) tall foliage won’t shade the other crops.
Always keep in mind that they can grow new tubers next season from the roots left in the soil. It is definitely impossible digging out every piece of roots. So, you can be sure that it will start growing next year without your effort or wishes.
How to Plant Jerusalem Artichoke in Your Garden
1. Find the right space
What is the right space for your Jerusalem artichokes will depend on how many tubers you want to harvest or how many their flowers you wish in your garden.
Since you can grow them almost everywhere, you need to make sure they don’t disturb other plants. On the other hand, while blooming, their flowers look beautiful. Therefore, you may want to have them near your house and enjoy extraordinary blossoms.
2. Prepare the soil
Even though these veggies can handle almost every soil, even clay, they will really thrive in loose, fertile ground. Provide them well-prepared, pH-neutral, nutrient-rich soil, and just wait for this fantastic plant to thrive.
An ideal place for them should be well-drained and fully sunny. The great thing is that you don’t have to sow Jerusalem artichokes from seeds. You just need their small, young tubers. Avoid larger ones, since it is harder to transplant them.
Place tubers approximately 6 inches (15 cm) deep in the ground, and about 12 inches (30 cm) apart. If they are sprouting, take care not to break shoots off and try to point them upwards. Also, organize rows to be about 35.5 inches (90 cm) apart.
In case you want more plants to grow than tubers available, you can cut them into two or three pieces (depending on the number of existing buds).
Since Jerusalem artichoke is a high plant, you need to keep it stable. At first, add one more layer of 6 inches (15 cm) of soil or compost around the plant base, to prevent stems from breaking. Use trellis, stake, or cage to help your veggies grow freely.
To help stems standing upright and make flower heads less top heavy, you should cut them off in mid-summer. Also, removing flowers before forming the seeds will prevent spreading the plants, plus you will get larger and meatier tubers.
If you live in a windy region, it is necessary to support your plants. If wind damages their stems, you will experience lower yields.
Prune the foliage in autumn after start turning yellow. Leave about 3 inches (7.6 cm) stumps above soil level. To keep the soil warm during winter, you should place remaining pruning over plants. That way, you will protect tubers in frosty weather.
After putting tubers into the rows, you need to cover them with enough soil. After that, add a layer of about 4 inches (10 cm) of natural fertilizer, compost, or all-purpose fertilizer all around. Once they mature, your plants won’t need any additional fertilizer.
If your garden is large and you want to grow a lot of Jerusalem artichoke plants there, you should prepare a mixture of 100 pounds (45 kg) of fertilizer for every 100 square feet (9 m2) of garden space.
Usually, this veggie doesn’t need extra watering except during arid conditions. Pour water around tubers at least once after planting and keep them watered a little bit while growing.
If you want your veggies to develop strong roots, you can water them 1 to 3 times per week in the very beginning. Once the plants form, let them use the necessary water from nature.
You can harvest Jerusalem artichoke at any time from late autumn to winter, but it will be sweeter and more delicious if you pick it up after a frost. The easiest way for harvesting the tubers is by a garden fork.
If you don’t want them in your garden next year, you should remove every tuber. However, be prepared that it will be a challenging job. Very often it is a ‘mission impossible,’ and you will probably find new plants in that part of the garden the next spring.
On the other hand, if you want to grow this beautiful plant for years, the only thing to do is to find an appropriate corner of your garden for them, add some fertilizer in spring, and let them replenish themselves.
After cleaning the dirt from the tubers, you should rinse them with water, and dry entirely. Store them in paper bags at the safe, humid, and cool place. If you want to use them for re-planting, it is better option picking out smaller roots.
In general, you don’t need to store tubers at all. Just keep them in the ground and prolong the harvesting time throughout winter. Believe it or not, you can collect your veggies until sprouting in the spring.
Good companions for Jerusalem artichokes
|Bush beans||Lemon balm||Rudbeckia|
Companion Planting Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichoke is both an edible and ornamental plant which attracts numerous beneficial insects, pollinators, and birds. Therefore, it is usually a good companion for many other plants, including vegetables, flowers, and herbs. However, avoid planting this veggie near tomatoes and potatoes, since it can inhibit their growth.
a). Good companions
Some plants such as lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower have a lot of benefits if you grow them near your Jerusalem artichokes. On the other hand, veggies such as beans, rhubarb, or even peanuts will help this plant to get enough nitrogen from the soil.
b). Bad companions
Avoid planting tomatoes and potatoes near your Jerusalem artichokes. Those two crops can’t reach their maximum potential near those tall plants.
Jerusalem Artichoke Pests and Diseases
Basically, Jerusalem artichokes are resistant to pests and diseases. In some cases, you will need to solve some issues with:
Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails feed on the young Jerusalem artichokes seedlings. If you notice the telltale slime trail on the ground around your plants and their leaves, you should use copper can, eggshell barriers, or beer traps to keep those creatures away.
Sclerotina is a fungal disease which may cause rot of the base of your plants. In a case these fungi appear, you will spot a white fluffy mold on affected parts of your Jerusalem artichokes. If you notice it, you have to destroy infected plants to prevent fungi from entering the ground. Once they reach the soil, they may remain in it for years.