Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) also know as sunchoke, sunroot and earth apple. It is a species of sunflower that produces an edible tuber instead of seed. It is native to North America and was cultivated by native Americans for centuries. This is how the Jerusalem Artichokes looked in August before they flowered. They grew to about 10 feet tall and flowered like crazy. 

I cut the stalks back to about 5 feet after they flowered. From what I have read, I should have cut all the flowers off leaving the stalks and leaves to continue growing the tubers. By cutting the flowers the plant will focus most of its energy into producing tubers. This plant is one of the first in the garden to die back to cold weather. 

It is best to wait until a couple frosts have come before you harvest the tubers. The colder the weather the sweeter the tubers, so they say. I had planned on harvesting them sometime in December, but I never got around to it, then the ground froze. We just had a warm spell, it was in the 60's two days ago, so I thought I should get out and do it. 

There was a casualty in the process. I usually buy the best garden tools I can afford. I thought I had done that with this pitch fork, but I didn't realize the main part of the fork was welded on the the frame in two small spots. I will make sure the next one is constructed better.

So here is the harvest. I think I would have had more if I hadn't cut the stalks back so much. I will just cut back the flowers this season and see if the yield is better.

Here they are cleaned up. Some earth worms got into a few of them. I wonder if I harvested earlier, maybe the worms would have not gotten to so many. I will use the worm eaten ones as my seed crop for this season. They didn't do a lot of damage, mostly just cosmetic. 

So I ended up with about 11.5 pounds of Sunchokes. I put about 4 pounds aside to replant for this season. I originally planted about 1.5 pounds so that is a pretty good return. 

There are many ways to cook them. They are very good raw. We chose to saute them with onions and butter. They can be boiled, mashed, baked or anything you would normally use potatoes with. They have a slight nutty / earthy flavor. Eaten raw they remind me a little bit of water chestnuts. 

I read many warnings about the bodies inability to digest Inulin, a carbohydrate found in the tubers. This leads to some mild to severe cases of flatulence. I believe this quote from 1621 by John Goodyer describes it best:

"which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."

I will say I could have powered a small methane generator after eating the amount you see on the plate. I think if you ease into eating them you could build up the gut flora to handle them. I will let you know how the ongoing experiment goes. =)


  1. Try cooking them for a long time. Try them in a crock pot stew or something. I have heard that the inulin breaks down this way and we can digest it.

  2. I will try that. My fiance had um... more trouble than I did with them. =) I will try throwing some into a stew, that sounds good. Thanks

  3. Nice blog comment helianthus tuberosus I like helianthus tuberosus this is hallty is the valuable herb which for long

    time has won popularity in national medicine.chicory extract was also often prescribed by herbalists of recent

    centuries to cure a whole host of ailments; the herbalist of the middle ages often recommended herbal remedies made

    from the helianthus tuberosus as tonics, as laxatives, and as diuretics.