This is the first post of this kind, but I think it is important. I’m going to post on a variety of crops and you will be able to find links to all of the posts on crops by going to the ‘crops’ heading at the top of the page. I’m also hoping to do one on recipes that use the different crops, but I only have so much spare time.
Today we’re talking about Jerusalem artichokes. I had never heard of Jerusalem artichokes until I moved out here to the farm. They grow to be about 8-12 feet tall and have a small sunflower looking flower at the top. The edible portion of the plant is a tuber that grows beneath the soil.
The reason that I am making the first post of this sort is because I think that the Jerusalem Artichoke should be a staple to all sustainable gardens. Jerusalem Artichokes (also called Sunchokes) area carbohydrate rich tuber, much like a potato, but Sunchokes store their energy primarily as inulin which is a fiber composed primarily of fructose. It makes this crop a good source of fiber and quite appropriate for diabetics and as a healthy source of carbohydrates. The only problem is that with the high fiber content, the food is also sometimes referred to as ‘fartichokes’.
In addition to providing a good source of carbohydrates, the plant is extremely easy to grow in most climates, but especially in Northern latitudes. There are no known pests or diseases that disturb this crop. It grows very well and while it doesn’t produce nearly as much as a healthy potato plant, it is easy to plant and grown lots of plants in order to get a substantial yield.
You plant the Jerusalem Artichoke similarly to potatoes. You take 1-2 oz piece of a tuber and plant it in the dirt. It will grow. There are other sites where you can easily find proper spacing and rows and whatnot, but it really doesn’t matter with this crop. In fact, it is difficult to get all of the tubers when harvesting and there have been complaints that the volunteers become a weed problem. So once you plant Jerusalem Artichokes in your garden, it is best to keep them in that spot… forever. On the bright side, they don’t really spread (unless you are tilling the area where they used to grow and spread the tubers around or if you let the rhizomes spread by not harvesting them every year), they are just hard to get rid of once you start growing them in an area.
The stalks of the plants can be used as a low quality animal feed, and some of the large straight stalks can be dried and used as light weight stakes. As a good source of human food and an OK source of animal food that is resistant to disease and pests, the Jerusalem Artichoke can be a nice addition to a garden. And they taste good, recipes are to come.