Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberoses), also known as sunchokes or canadian potatoes, are not related to the globe artichoke at all, in fact they are closer to the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). With small sunflower-like flowers and growing up to 2m tall they resemble them, apart from the starchy tubers which is the focus of harvest.
Jerusalems grow well in Newstead; they are frost tolerant and enjoy our soils and hot summers. They can make effective wind or shelterbreaks.
Autumn – Harvest when the foliage dies back. Cut the stems to about 10cm high and lift the tubers, taking care not to leave any in the soil because they are prolific propogators and can become invasive. They can be left to over winter in the soil if not all harvested in autumn.
Winter – Plant tubers through to early spring in 10- 15cm trenches 40cm apart. Incorporate organic matter, compost, lime before planting.
Spring – Keep up the weeding. Mulch. If tubers break through the surface cover them with soil and it can help to hill up the stalks with 5-10cm of soil, to give the plants more stability.
Summer – Continue weeding and watering. Mulch well. Some growers nip the flowering buds out of the planst to improve tuber growth but it is lovely to have the bright flowers on display in summer.
Generally – best to fertilise in autumn before planting and then leave them be – too much nitrogen can make foliage grow at the expense of tubers. The fresh tubers have a better flavour but if left in the ground can be less gaseous to the eater.
Eating – They can be ‘farty’ bnecause of their carbohydrate make-up, but peeling them improves things on that front (though a lot of the nutrients lie just under the skin) or steam first before peeling. Roast, steam, soup, gratin, burgers. Add grated nutmeg to improve the flavour.