All About Growing Jerusalem Artichokes

Once they're established, growing Jerusalem artichokes is more a matter of containing than encouraging them. These productive, nutty-flavored tubers can stand in for potatoes.

  • growing Jerusalem artichokes
    Jerusalem artichoke strains vary by skin color, root shape and maturation time. Shown here, from left to right, are ‘Red Fuseau,’ ‘Stampede,’ ‘White Fuseau,’ ‘Red Rover’ and a flowering Helianthus tuberosus plant.
  • sliced Jerusalem artichoke
    Fry sliced Jerusalem artichokes as you would potatoes, or bake slices in a low-temperature oven for a long period of time to make “potato” chips.

  • growing Jerusalem artichokes
  • sliced Jerusalem artichoke

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Potatoes aren’t the only terrific tuber out there. Native to central North America, Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) — often called by the more modern name “sunchokes” — are so prolific they can become invasive, but if handled properly, they will be a productive and rewarding crop. The edible parts of these plants are their knobby roots, which have a crisp texture like that of water chestnuts. When cooked, they become a soft, nutty alternative to potatoes.

Types to Try

American and European gardeners have been selecting superior strains over the course of 300 years growing Jerusalem artichokes. A few of these are distinctive enough to bear variety names. Keep in mind that unnamed strains grown by local gardeners may be a great fit for your garden, so look for them at local farmers markets or plant swaps. You can also try growing from supermarket sunchokes, purchasing and planting them in early spring.

Strains vary by skin color, root shape, and maturation time. White-skinned strains include the early-maturing ‘Stampede’ variety, which develops crisp, round roots quickly enough to be grown in climates with short summers. The roots of slower-growing ‘Clearwater’ and ‘White Fuseau’ are longer, which makes them easier to scrub and peel.

Red-skinned strains include ‘Red Fuseau,’ which has red skin over topshaped roots with few attached round nodules, making the roots easy to clean. The roots of ‘Red Rover,’ ‘Waldspinel,’ and a few other red varieties are so long that these varieties are sometimes called “fingerling sunchokes.”

All of the varieties mentioned here are available from Oikos Tree Crops.

6/10/2019 3:25:57 PM

There are well over 400 recognized varieties of Sunchokes AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, although they are not from Jerusalem nor are they Artichokes. They're called Topinambours by the French, and by the Algonquins 'Kaishúcpenauk', a compound of "sun" and "tubers". Kaishúcpenauk, from - Thomas Harriot. A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (Kindle Location 273). The Mohawk name is Ohnennata’ó:we, original potato. Let's all take a moment to pronounce the Native names ... OK, long enough. To those of the Manglish persuasion they're called Fartichokes. More on that later ... Helianthus tuberosus are a native to Northeast America, from the Carolinas into Canada and west to the Great Plains. They were spread around the world during colonial days just as the potato and corn were. They were a staple for the Native Americans and early pioneers and others until the 1930s when, probably because of the Great Depression and food shortages, they gained the reputation of being a poor man's food. What a shame. A friend of ours in Tasmania remembers her mother cooking them when she was younger. In Europe they gained the same popularity until WWII era, when again, because of food shortages and over-use, they gained the notoriety of being a poor man's food. They grew on the farm when I was a kid. Neither my grandparents nor my parents wanted to do anything with them, (OH! Those things!) but I loved to get into the patch and eat them raw in the fall. Today they're a high priced item in many gourmet restaurants and from most suppliers, up to a ridiculous $25 per pound! Closely related to the familiar Sunflower, all parts of the plant are edible. Another related variety is Helianthus pauciflorus, normally found in the Great Plains and south-central Canada. These ones spread by tubers and by seed. They can apparently be cross pollinated with the eastern varieties which only spread by tubers. When harvested in the fall, start eating the roots in small helpings to see how they affect your gut, they aren't called Fartichokes for nothing! If you eat naturally and have a good helping regularly, at least twice a week, the gas issue(!) should disappear if it even shows up. If you eat processed food with any type of preservatives or take antibiotics, your gut flora will be 'off' and gas could be a problem even if you take just a short break from regular helpings, perhaps a major problem. Small helpings of Kaishúcpenauk eaten regularly will help balance your gut flora and your health and reduce the gas to nothing. Long term cooking, several hours, will break the inulin down into fructose, much less likely to cause gas. Fermenting them like sauerkraut will also break down the inulin. Native Americans would build a pit fire, get the coals hot, cover them with dirt or leaves, sometimes the stalks and leaves of the Kaishúcpenauk, then layer on the 'chokes and cover them with dirt or leaves and allow them to cook for a whole day before eating. They are tasty and the long cooking converts the inulin, but then, you lose the good effects of the inulin. Freezing overnight will also breakdown the Inulin as will fermenting them as sauerkraut. Inulin is a prebiotic and is very diabetic friendly, even after breaking down into fructose its low on the Glycemic scale, better than potato starch for diabetics. If the Inulin breaks down however, you loose its prebiotic benefits. There is some evidence that regular use of Inulin may have a positive effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and several intestinal disorders from Leaky Gut to Colon cancer. Either way, as Inulin or fructose, they are low on the Glycemic scale and a good replacement for potatoes for diabetics. I have three varieties. Two are knobby tubers, one white and one red. The white ones, Stampede, I bought from an online supplier several years ago, the red ones, Red Fescue possibly, I found in a small flower bed in town, DuBois, PA. in 2017. There are at least three other patches in town too. I have no idea what types they are. Just proof that they used to be very popular, but have been forgotten. They both grow about 5' to 7' tall and the large, 3" bright yellow flowers are tender enough to eat raw in salads. They smell like chocolate but taste like the roots. The third type I found growing feral in the woods near Punxsutawney, PA., home of the infamous Punxsy Phil woodchuck. I live in DuBois, about 15 miles north of Punxsy. The tubers on these look very similar to white carrots and are very easy to clean. Those flowers however, are too tough to chew raw. When either steamed or boiled, they resemble squash. The tops on these grow to 12'! Double the height of the other ones, need a privacy screen? Once you know what to look for, they can usually be found most anywhere in the eastern half of the US. They can be found in old flower gardens in cities, towns and out in the country, and sometimes wild in the woods. They can be found in many other areas around the world where they've been taken. My varieties don't seed at all, but there are some that seed readily and others that rarely seed. They all spread very well from the roots. They are perennial from zones 8 to 3. Beyond zone 8 they need to be chilled below 50°F for a month or two for dormancy. Beyond zone 3 they need to be heavily mulched to protect them from the intense cold, then uncovered in early spring, or stored in warmer storage but below 50°F, then planted early, as long before the ground warms up to 50°F as is practical. The cooler the summer, the higher the Inulin content. They like dry weather, are nearly drought tolerant and do not like being wet. They will spread throughout a garden and can be hard to get rid of if you decide to clean them out, so put them where you can keep them contained by mowing or with good borders and let them go! They're care free, disease free and the tender shoots in the spring are loved by deer, cattle, goats, sheep, groundhogs, rabbits, ducks and some chickens. The roots can be fed to chickens and pigs. The tops are tough, but can be fed as fodder to goats, pigs and cows. They have to be cut while quite green which can reduce or ruin root development. Slugs and voles like the roots and can be a problem. Let some chickens or ducks patrol the patch and they'll take care of the slugs. Some chickens like mice and voles too, after all, they're mini-raptors! Any roots left on the surface after harvesting are appreciated by rabbits, chickens and squirrels, squirrels probably being the major means of the tubers being spread around. If you plant them and then decide to get rid of them later on, you can simply mow the area as you would your lawn. The roots will disappear in a couple years or so. If you want to revert the patch to other garden goods immediately, then you'll have to resort to spraying with herbicides. You won't be able to get all the roots out no matter how carefully you dig, unless you actually sift all of the soil through a sieve. Smothering with cardboard or landscape cloth or carpeting or heavy mulch will also work, but you won't be able to use the ground for at least a year until they smother. If you want to grow Kaishúcpenauk, you will have to dedicate an area just for them. On the bright side, the Kaishúcpenauk can be used in place of corn or alongside corn in the Native American Three Sisters planting scheme. When the Kaishúcpenauk break ground, plant corn alongside or skip the corn and just use the Kaishúcpenauk for the bean scaffolding. When the corn or the Kaishúcpenauk are 6" high, plant the pole beans among the stalks. When the beans are up 6" and starting to climb the corn and/or Kaishúcpenauk stalks, plant your Squash. The tall stalks give the beans support. The beans give the corn, Kaishúcpenauk and Squash Nitrogen. The squash shade the ground and the roots conserving moisture for all. And if you plant a climbing squash or melon, you might want to keep them in separate hills from the beans for easier picking. They can be dug in the fall after the tops die and turn brown, or in the spring before they sprout. If your soil doesn't freeze, you can dig them any time throughout the winter from the time the tops die off until the roots start to sprout. When the soil gets around 50°F they're triggered into sprouting. Like turnips, they get sweeter after hard frosts or a long winter's freeze. The inulin breaks down into fructose as they age and freeze, this is what makes them sweeter and helps reduce the gas. Its claimed that they can be stored in a root cellar like carrots and other root crops, mixed with soil, sand or sawdust and kept damp but not wet. They will rot if too wet and they will wilt if too dry. Commercial yields with commercial varieties, commercial planting, fertilizing and harvesting are calculated at a ratio of 1 to 30. That's 1 lb. planted with 30 lbs. yield. They're great raw, steamed, roasted, baked, boiled, mashed, chunked into soups and stews, pickled, fermented, baked, grilled, pan fried, and for some, deep fried. To me, when added to soups and stews, they taste like turnipy potatoes but to my wife, they taste like grilled sweet corn! I'm almost jealous! They seem to have a different flavor for some which could explain why there are some people who don't like them. We've canned them like potatoes, pickles, relish etc. Goo-o-od! I'll dry some and see about making flour this year. Its a great thickener for stews and gravies. It bakes like Buckwheat flour so you have to mix wheat flour for it to raise, or make flat bread, which is OK too. A blend of 1/3 Kaishúcpenauk flour and 2/3 rice flour is supposed to be great and its gluten free. It can either be chipped and dehydrated then ground or boiled, mashed and dehydrated then ground. When chips are dried, they can be tossed with Olive oil and herbs or spices for a healthy alternative to potato chips. I made wine from the flowers. Its very earthy, not bad as is, or for mixing with other wines. I also made wine from tuber broth. Its totally different for a drinking wine for my taste, but after it ages it makes a great cooking wine. The French and Germans make a liqueur from the roots that's supposed to be quite special. A brewer in the US also makes root liqueur. Nutrition Facts Serving Size: 1 cup raw slices Calories 110 Calories from Fat 0 Amount Per Serving and/or % Daily Value* Total Fat 0 g (0%) Saturated Fat 0 g (0%) Cholesterol 0 mg (0%) Sodium 5 mg (0%) Total Carbohydrate 26 g (9%) Dietary Fiber 2 g (10%) Sugars 4 g Protein 3 g Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 10% Calcium 2% Iron 25% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Calories: 2,000 2,500 Total Fat Less than 65 g 80 g Sat Fat Less than 20 g 25 g Cholesterol Less than 300 mg 300 mg Sodium Less than 2400 mg 2400 mg Total Carbohydrate 300 g 375 g Dietary Fiber 25 g 30 g

9/13/2017 2:31:31 PM

Can I plant jerusalem artichokes now (early Sept) for flowers in the spring?

11/3/2014 6:40:41 AM

someone gave me some tubers to grow and i did . got some tuber the first time not real big and the plant only got about 4 feet tall they come up on there own from the ones i miss but not until late in the growing season , i'm in east central Florida, i put out tomatoes around Feb 14th. the sun-chokes don't come up till may or later, how do i get them to sprout earlier. do they need a cool down period to sprout.would a few weeks in the refrigerator get them to sprout?

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