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Jerusalem Artichoke

Helianthus tuberosus

I found this great quote on the internet about Jerusalem Artichokes:

In 1621 the writer John Goodyer wrote of the Jerusalem Artichoke, “…in my judgement, which way soever they be drest and eaten they stir up and cause a filthie loathsome stinking winde with the bodie, thereby causing the belly to bee much pained and tormented…. more fit for swine, than men.

This may be a little harsh but the truth is that they can have quite a dramatic effect, giving them their nick name of 'fartichokes'.

I personally like their nutty flavour, and creamy consistency.  In my opinion, they are worth a try! They will be available in fruit & veg shops early winter, and grow very easily from the tubers you buy.  Look for organic, and locally grown to ensure best results.  Jerusalem artichokes are related to sunflowers (hence their American name of Sunchokes).  The tubers should be planted about 10cms deep, 90cms apart at least, as they grow to a decent size – over a metre tall (up to 3m in ideal conditions) and up to a metre wide.  Over summer, you can use them to help create areas of shade within your vegie patch.

Good companions are tomatoes and cucumbers.

I have read for optimal harvest, flowers should be removed at bud stage.  We didn’t bother, and left the flowers on.  Once the plants begin to die back in autumn, the tubers can be removed.  Store them in similar conditions to potatoes, as they will shoot readily if exposed to light. If stored tubers start to go soft and blacken off; plant them out. You can store them in the ground, by cutting back tops to stalks about 20 – 30cms high, which serve as a marker. 

Tubers can be cooked like potatoes.  Scrub the skins and either boil, steam or bake.  They can be sliced, blanched and frozen.  Add them to winter casseroles or soups.  They can also be sliced and eaten raw in salads, where the crunchy texture is similar to water chestnut.

Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow, and the spent tops make a good mulch.  I have read plants can be invasive if any tubers are left in the ground; perhaps conditions at our place are a bit too harsh; as we haven’t really found this to be a problem.  They will tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, and are useful for breaking heavy soils.  They will grow in full sun to part shade, and require little maintenance.

But just remember to enjoy them in moderation!

How to freeze Jerusalem Artichokes:

Peel and slice. Place in cold water with juice of ½ lemon to prevent discolouration.  Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water then cool in iced water for 2 minutes.  Drain and spread on a tray in a single layer.  Freeze for 30 minutes.  Then pack into freezer bags, remove air and label.  They will keep for at least 6 months.

Resources for Growing Organic Veggies & Herbs:

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