Jerusalem artichokes

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Jerusalem artichokes are a great plant.   Each plant can grow 7 or 8 feet tall.  They have yellow flowers like a sunflower, but rather than having only one flower like most sunfowers, 450px-sunroot_top1a single Jerusalem Artichoke plant can have 10 flower buds on it.  It’s not the flowers that we are interested in though, although they are nice to look at.  It is the root, or tuber of the plant that we want.

I live in USDA zone 5-6.  Of course even on my own small slice of land I have microclimates.   Jerusalem artichoke grows great around here.

So this is one of my favorite times of the year, because all the plants are waking up from their winter slumber. The apple and peach trees are blooming.  We’ve had a run of unseasonably warm weather so everything is blooming very early.  It’s actually kind of dangerous because our true frost free day is between the middle and end of May, so if we get a frost after the fruit trees bloom then a lot of next fall’s fruit could be lost.

p10100011So I saw some Jerusalem artichokes coming up on a patch of land out front.  You  can see what they look like.  Kind of pointy, lance like leaves covered in hair.  If I remember right, the stems are also kind of hairy.  Over the course of the summer these little green plants will grow 7 or 8 feet tall.

Jerusalem artichokes don’t make a bunch of seeds like sunflowers.  Jerusalem artichokes spread underground through rhizomes.    The rhizome is what we eat.    Jerusalem artichokes can become quite invasive if they like their environment and are left to spread.

I had maybe a ten square foot area out front that p1010005had these little puppies coming up from last season.  Yup, they can stay in the ground right through cold New England winters.  Dig em up when you want to harvest them, as long as the ground ain’t frozen.  So I wanted to dig some up to replant in different areas and also have with dinner.  Go ahead and click Gon the picture to expand it.

You can see that from a small plot, that I don’t do anything to, you can get a fair harvest.   Each of the roots looks kind of like knobby gingerJerusalem artichokes like poor, sandy, dry soil and full sun.

p1010009Here I cut one in half so you could see the nice white inside.  See they look like knobby ginger.  You can use Jerusalem artichokes just like you would use potatoes.  The thing is Jerusalem artichokes don’t contain starch like potatoes.  They have inulin (whatever that is).  But it’s good for diabetics because the inulin isn’t converted into sugar like starch is.

I peel them first, then I slice them and use them like water chestnuts or steam them with salt and butter.  They taste pretty good, kind of like a potato, but sweeter.

I wanted to dig them up to replant some of them in a couple other spots on my property.  I’ve heard that the Indians, errr Native Americans, used to plant them all over the place so as they traveled from hunting ground to hunting ground there would be Jerusalem artichokes already there growing for them and supplying a ready food source.  So I decided to plant them around some of the places that I walk.  So I’ve doing some guerrilla planting.  I’ve been planting them along the edges of fields, powerlines and anyplace else that looks dry, sandy and sunny.   This summer and summers going forwards they will continue to spread.  I’ll remember where they are and I can dig them up whenever I please.  Kind of like the original prepper Johnny AppleseedDo you got that!?!?! If you are able to start planting food crops in your neighborhood in the woods, roadsides, parks, ponds and lakes. Just like diversification is good with your financial portfolio, you should also diversify your garden.  Spread it out.  You do have to be careful though not to plant any food where the real owner may spray chemmies on your food.  You can find Jerusalem artichoke tubers for sale on the Internet. Buy a few now and you will have them forever.

Get outside everyday!!

And while I was ambling and rambling I saw some of blueberry bushes blooming.  If we don’t get some cold weather it’s going to be an early season for everything.

p1010010Years ago I used to pick wild mountain blueberries and make homemade wine.  It was actually pretty good.  Just goes to show put enough sugar in anything and it will be palatable.  You do have a lot of sugar squirrelled away don’t ya? I still have a bunch of waterseals laying around.

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10 Responses to “Jerusalem artichokes”

  1. Mike Says:

    Abraham,
    How closely do these things taste to potatoes?

  2. Abraham Says:

    They’re not starchy like potatoes and they are sweeter. I like them sliced and steamed with salt and butter or cut up like waterchestnuts and added to soups or stirfry. They’re good, just different than potatoes.

  3. GrumpyUnk Says:

    Good idea on planting these along areas you frequent.

    Wanted to let you know that since New Years, I have adopted and been following your “Get outside” advice as a mantra.

    My wife and my mental hygiene thanks you.

  4. Abraham Says:

    Grumpy-That’s great about getting outside. It’s the best investment of time you can make. Sure as heck better than watching the TV.

  5. Ellen Says:

    I want my Jerusalem artichoke plant to flower. How do I do this? It didn’t flower last year, but did once previously, and the butterflies loved it. Thanks, Ellen

  6. Abraham Says:

    Ellen:

    A fertilizer high in phosphorous like bone meal, egg shells or a balanced organic fertilizer may help. Are they getting enough sun? Is the soil dry and kinda sandy like they like it? You may try digging them up in the fall taking a look at them and replanting them. It seems like every time I disturb mine that they come back with a vengeance. They’re generally pretty invasive.

  7. Indiana Dave Says:

    I don’t doubt that JA’s grow better in sandy soil, just like potatoes. But, they grow pretty well in Indiana’s clay too (just like potatoes).

  8. Marcy Says:

    I wanted to learn how to grow these and realized from your photos that I already am growing them! A friend shared them a division with me. Called them “false sunflowers”. They came up nicely last summer and I used them for cut flowers, they were lovely and had good vase life too! I will dig some up to divide and have a taste as well.

  9. Judy Says:

    Abraham, I live in SE MO. Very sandy dry, poor soil; sounds like Jerusalem artichoke Heaven to me. However, I need to find tubers to plant; would appreciAte any help. Judy

  10. ratchet garden shears Says:

    The information and facts at this website is enormously worthwhile. I have discovered numerous tips and tricks.

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