Jerusalem artichokes are grown from tubers, in a similar way to potatoes. This unusual vegetable is actually a species of sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus), found in central North America. Also called sunroot, sunchoke or earth apple, it provides very attractive tall stems of flowers in late summer. The tubers are not to everyone's taste so try some before growing.
Soil Type: Any deeply dug soil that is not waterlogged.
Conditions: Full sun or partial shade.
Ease of Cultivation: Easy.
Type: Root Vegetable.
Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.
When to Plant: Early spring.
Harvest Season: Lift the tubers from October to early spring.
They are usually grown in the same spot each year so prepare the ground well with plenty of organic matter and mulch in winter.
As they grow very tall, up to 8ft (2.4 metres), they are best sited at the north or western edge of the vegetable plot, so as not to shade out other crops. They also making an ideal windbreak.
Sunroots thrive in most soil types but do best in fertile clay soil. Although, light sandy soils make harvesting much easier.
Plant in early spring (March) in drills 5in (12cm) deep, allowing 18in (45cm) between tubers. In heavy soil, plant only just below the surface.
If you have more than one row, allow 30-36in (75-90cm) between rows.
The stems are quite fragile so need support from strong winds. A post at each end of the row, with strings run either side, should be sufficient.
Weed by hand until all the shoots have emerged above the soil. Earth up when stems are about 12in (30cm) high.
Generally disease free. Susceptible to slug damage.
The main problem is that the plants can grow quite vigorously if not kept in check. So make sure that no pieces of root are left in the soil if you decide not to grow them again.
Once the foliage starts to change colour in the autumn, cut the stalks down to about 12in (30cm) high (to provide a marker), then dig them up as and when required.
The tubers can be left in the ground throughout the winter and lifted when needed. The tubers can also be lifted and stored in a dark frost-free place, like potatoes.
Save some of the tubers for replanting the following year.
Some varieties need peeling and others just a light scrub. Varieties with smooth skins are easy to peel, while others can be quite knobbly. Clean the tubers well and boil in salted water with a teaspoonful of vinegar or lemon juice added, for 15-20 minutes. The tubers can also be steamed, which will take a little longer depending on size. Serve with melted butter.
Parboiled tubers can also be sauteed or roasted like potatoes.
The tubers are low calorie, so good for slimmers and rich in potassium.
Although quite often just sold simply as 'Jerusalem Artichoke', there are a few good named varieties available.
Jerusalem Artichoke (Common) produces knobbly irregular-shaped tubers with a pale purple-brown skin. Peel before cooking.
Jerusalem Artichoke 'Dwarf Sunray' a smooth thin white skinned type that does not need peeling. Compact growth habit. Height to 4ft. Available at Crocus.
Jerusalem Artichoke 'Fuseau' is a traditional less knobbly white skinned variety making it easier to prepare and cook. Available at Marshalls, Suttons and Mr Fothergills.
Jerusalem Artichoke 'Red Fuseau' is a red skinned version.
Jerusalem Artichoke Stampede is a hardy variety that matures early, with good sized white round tubers. Height 6ft (2.5m).