How many of you are saying what are Sunchokes? Jerusalem Artichokes? I discovered them in one of my CSA (Community Support Agriculture) produce boxes about 5 years ago. They a tasty little tubers- they are a little sweet and nutty tasting. They sorta look like a cross between a fingerling potato and ginger. Size 1″-4″ inches long and about 1-1.5″ wide. They are good in stir fry, roasted root veggie dishes or by themselves. And they are prolific when you plant them! (Yet somehow they are like $6/lb at the store!!)
Winter harvest- sunchokes on left. This amount of sunchokes were harvested from an area about 3″wide by 9″ long.
How expensive are they to grow: Dirt cheap. First of all, do not go out and buy these from a gardening store or online to plant! Since they spread you should be able to score some off Freecycle (see link on right side of page), Craigslist, Buy Nothing Project, a neighbor or a your local city blog. I got mine off Freecycle. If you cannot score some off these sites you could buy some organic ones at a local store to start out your patch. You will only need to get tubers your 1st year… you will leave some of the small tubers in the ground each year to provide your next batch the following year.
Warning: They spread if they are not contained. Do not plant then in the open- they need to be boxed in or have root barrier around them that goes deep & is strong. One tuber can turn in 75 tubers by the end of a season! I have mine planted next to the house boxed in with a cement border that has always been there.
Where should I plant them? They need 6-8 hr of sun a day in summer. An 18 inch pot per sunchoke works. Or a boxed off area in the yard where they cannot spread. I have an area about 1 ft by 5 ft planted with them and we get enough to eat them throughout the winter. They will get 4-8ft tall with beautiful yellow daisy-like flowers 🙂
How deep to you plant? Spacing btw plants? It is recommended that the sunchokes are planted 2-6 inches deep and 18 inches apart.
Maintenance: Make sure you water them once in awhile, but they are pretty drought tolerate. Here is Seattle I watered them once this year and they still went crazy. When they flower do not let them go to seed! You want the energy of the plant to go to the tuber growth. Seems sad but yes I am going to tell you to cut them down after they bloom. I do usually enjoy the bloom for a week before cutting the flower off. Before 1st frost cut to ground and if you live in an area where there is frequent frost or snow cover in thick straw. If planting in same spot year after year add compost to soil to keep it fertile.
Harvest: Best to harvest after 1st or 2nd frost, they get sweeter after going through a frost. If your ground doesn’t freeze in the winter you can harvest all winter long. Make sure you have really harvested (thinned) them out before end of March/April timeframe before they start shooting up again.
Storing them: They store in the fridge 1-3 weeks. If you live in a climate where the ground freezes solid you can store them longer, up to 3 months. Do not wash them before storing. Keep them in a cool and dark place 30-45 degrees.
Prepping them for eating: Clean with a vegetable brush and get into the crevices so you don’t eat dirt, break them apart if you need to. You do not need to peel off the outside of them! They taste great with the skin on them.
Recipes: I make them up as I go-usually roasted with other root veggies or thrown into a saute.
To learn about other root veggies check out my post on oca.
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