Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus)
Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are a close relative of the well known Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). They are equally as tall, hardy and beautiful as their cousins and even more productive.This plant has many names, the most descriptive being ‘Sunchokes’ or ‘Fartichokes’.
I call Jerusalem Artichokes ‘everyone’s best friend’ because they have so many uses in a homesteader’s, prepper’s or permaculturalist’s garden.
First, they are tasty and nutritious. They have direct health benefits. Jerusalem Artichokes store their energy as Inulin instead of sugars, that means they are a must for many diabetics.
Inulin is one of the favourite foods for our gut bacteria, which thrive on it. The happier they are, the healthier we are too!
While on the subject of food, Sunchokes have one little teensy-tiny drawback. They make you produce and pass prodigious quantities of foul wind. That is where one of their nicknames comes from…’fartichokes’. It’s pretty obvious where that comes from.
There are reputed remedies such as eating fennel with your fartichokes. That isn’t too bad, they taste great together too. Realistically though, I find that this ‘phenomenon’, for want of a better word, only occurs for the first couple of meals of the season, then it settles down. There are those who would disagree with me though!
That’s all from 3 planted tubers!Secondly, they are so productive. Take a look at the mass of tubers that I dug up last year. That’s from just three planted tubers! I got more than 2 kg and left a lot in the ground for this year.
That brings up another strength. Once you have Jerusalem Artichokes you will never be without them. They will regrow from a small part of a tuber left in the ground, or from peelings in your kitchen scraps. It’s best to plant them in an area where they can be wrangled easily.
What more can these things offer?
Once in the ground, you hardly have to water them. If you live in an area where you get a little rain all year, that ‘hardly’ turns to ‘never’. Of course, a little TLC will give you bigger tubers.
These things get pretty tall!Their rapid growth is an advantage when you want to quickly shade an area, such as a window in full Sun or more delicate plants. Ours regularly top three metres in a couple of months.
The size of the leaves and their dense pattern can block a lot of sunlight too.
Lastly, the beautiful flowers attract while swarms of pollinators and predators. Strategic planting means that other plants can benefit from the presence of these insects.
The flowers van be sacrificed in favour of larger tubers. Cutting the flower buds before they open saves energy in the plant thst can be redirected to storage.
One thing we do at Ligaya is to have a little patch between the fruit trees. The height of the Sunchoke flowers delivers predators and pollinators straight into the fruit growing zone, ready for action where they’re most needed.
What do you reckon them? Aren’t Jerusalem Artichokes one of the best plants to have in your food garden?
Oh yeah! Jelina just reminded me, the best way to cook them is roasting with fennel and other tubers such as carrots and potatoes. They have a starchy, nutty taste that is just divine.
Dense Leaf growth helps in Summer.