Gardening: Jerusalem artichokes grow under most prairie conditions

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Jerusalem artichoke is to be eaten like a potato tuber: boiled, baked, fried, in soups or stews or raw in salads.

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Jackie Bantle Jerusalem artichoke flowers in early September. Jerusalem artichoke flowers in early September. Photo by Jackie Bantle /Supplied photo

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When most of us think of artichokes, we think of the green, scaly, unripe flower buds found on the grocery shelf in the grocery store.

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However, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as Sunchoke, is grown for its edible underground tubers and is a completely different plant than the spherical artichoke.

Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America, is extremely hardy and grows in most prairie conditions.

Although sometimes referred to as “Canada’s Potato,” fall is an excellent time to plant Jerusalem artichokes on the prairies.

Jerusalem artichoke is one of the easiest plants to grow in a garden. Because they form tubers underground, sandy loam to loamy soil is best for growth, but any soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter and free of stones and hard clumps of clay.

As with any root crop, regular watering is an advantage (approx. 2.5 centimeters per week) – especially in dry years.

Jerusalem artichoke flowers in early September. Jerusalem artichoke flowers in early September. Photo by Jackie Bantle /Supplied photo

The average ripening time for most Jerusalem artichoke varieties is 130.

Tubers should be planted in late fall or early spring. Do not water newly planted tubers in the fall.

Sourcing tubers for planting can be a challenge. Fall is the best time of year to find tubers at your local farmers market. Some retail stores will have tubers in the spring.

Whether in spring or autumn, the tubers should be planted 10 cm deep, 30-35 cm within the row and 60-100 cm between the rows. Each piece of tuber should have at least two eyes or buds to plant.

In spring, hill plants are grown from a height of 30 cm; This will help give stability to the tall trunk.

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After the plants emerge, mulch the area around the plant with straw to conserve moisture, reduce weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Extremely high soil temperatures reduce the yield.

To optimize tuber production, it is recommended that the stems be cut back to 1.5 meters in late summer and the flower heads removed. This way, excess water and nutrients are not lost to the tip growth, but rather focus on replenishing the tubers.

A Jerusalem artichoke plant provides around 400 grams (one pound) per plant, depending on the variety.

Harvested tubers are 5-8 cm in diameter, 10 cm long and gnarled.

Tubers of wild forms of the Jerusalem artichoke are much more gnarled and smaller than domesticated species. The outer skin color of the tubers ranges from creamy white to brown to red. The flesh color is usually off-white.

Like potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes respond well to nitrogen fertilizers. However, overfertilizing Jerusalem artichoke promotes excessive tip growth and adversely affects tuber production. Top dressing plants in early spring with compost or well-rotted manure at least every two years ensure adequate fertility.

Jerusalem artichoke plant in early August, about 2m high. Jerusalem artichoke plant in early August, about 2m high. Photo by Jackie Bantle /Supplied photo

Sunchoke plants can grow up to 3 m tall, depending on the variety. The plants grow relatively quickly and produce yellow sunflowers 7-8 cm in diameter in mid-late summer. The height of the plant suggests that Jerusalem artichoke can be used as a miniature protective belt around smaller garden areas. They also make a lovely background plant along the north edge of a perennial bed.

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The tubers are best harvested late in the fall and best after at least one deadly frost. During the growing season, the tips accumulate sugar. In late summer or early fall, the sugar is transferred to the developing tubers. There are also several reports that the nutty taste improves significantly after the first killing frost.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers are harvested at the end of September. Jerusalem artichoke tubers are harvested at the end of September. Photo by Jackie Bantle /Supplied photo

Ideal storage conditions for Jerusalem artichoke are 0 ° C with 90-95% relative humidity.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers are thin-skinned and do not store well unless they are kept moist in a root cellar or packed in the refrigerator. Harvested tubers should be refrigerated for short-term storage. For long-term storage, the tubers are best stored in a cool place in damp sand.

Tubers should not be washed before storage, as the skin is easily damaged.

Jerusalem artichoke is to be eaten like a potato tuber: boiled, baked, fried, in soups or stews or raw in salads.

This column is courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society. Contact the company by email at [email protected] or visit their website at saskperennial.ca. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/saskperennial. All Saskatchewan Perennial Society events are on hold until further notice.

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