Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are a hardy, tall, herbaceous perennial that grows up to three metres. Their flowers are yellow and sunflower-like. They can grow in any soil but prefer light, sandy soil of good fertility. It does best in temperate climates, in warmer more humid areas it can still be very productive however the tubers will need to be stored in a plastic bag within the crisper compartment of the refrigerator before being planted in late winter.
Jerusalem artichokes produce many edible tubers. They contain no starch so they are healthy for diabetics. Their carbohydrate is in the form of inulin and laevulin, which are readily metabolised as the natural sugar, laevulose. To retain as many nutrients as possible tubers should not be peeled and can be boiled or baked, when very fresh they can be grated raw in salads. Multiple plantings of the Jerusalem artichoke can provide an attractive windbreak for the vegetable or flower garden. The flowers can be cut for decoration; this also is believed to increase tuber yields.
Propagate using any small piece of the tuber left in the soil or media after harvest. Plant carefully as it can be hard to eradicate (in cooler areas). The recommended planting time is spring, however winter will suit it in our climate. Plant by cutting the tuber into 2 or 3 sections, each one with a node, and cover the tubers with soil or media to a depth of 10 cm. Rows should be 70 cm apart with 25 cm between plants. Jerusalem artichoke needs a good supply of potassium.
Harvesting & Storage
The tubers can be harvested 4 weeks after flowering. Although the flowers are pretty, you will produce more tubers if the flower buds are pinched off as they appear. Remove as many as you require as they do not store well out of the ground. They can be stored in slightly damp sawdust or sand in a dark place. Refrigerate in a plastic perforated bag in the bottom of the fridge. Featured picture: