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Home » Organic Gardening

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop

Submitted by on December 16, 2015 – 8:36 am 17 Comments
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Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are a pretty cool crop to grow. Not at all related to globe artichokes, they’re actually a member of the sunflower family.

The tubers that grow underground are the edible part. They’re kinda like a knotty potato. What’s great about root crops and tubers is that they are easy to conceal and make a really good survival/guerrilla gardening plant. They grow wild in some places, or can be planted in the wild for future forage (they need full sun to thrive). These guys also spread like crazy, and come back year after year with no further effort on your part. The more you harvest, however, the better the plants will be the following year. You’ll get bigger tubers if you keep them thinned out.

Check out the progression of our Jerusalem Artichokes as they were grown and harvested this year…

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

May 2015: The Jerusalem artichokes that I planted last Spring have emerged, and are a little over a foot tall.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

August 2015: The Jerusalem Artichokes are humongous! They’re taller than the chicken coop now! I noticed that aphids love the plants, but don’t seem to cause too much damage.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

September 2015: The Jerusalem Artichokes are blooming, but the lower leaves are beginning to die off. I should have measured how tall these plants got. As you can see, they’re huge!

The tubers spread by probably 3x their original area in one year. Be warned, they can become invasive!

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

Here’s a close up of what the blooms look like. You may find them growing wild where you live.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

December 2015: The stalks have all dried up and the plants have died back for the winter. I like to let the tubers go through a few good frosts before I dig them up to eat. This way they’re less starchy and have a better flavor.

The plants look like nothing more than dead sticks in the ground.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

Here’s the same area after I’ve pulled up all of the dead stalks. They break off very easily at ground level. Once they’ve been removed, you can’t even tell anything was ever there. All that remains is a ground cover of chickweed.

By the way, I’ve heard that dried Jerusalem Artichoke stalks are great to use with a bow drill for making fire by hand. Never tried it, but it’s worth noting.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

See? It just looks like a weedy garden spot. Nobody would ever know there’s food under there.

But there is!

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

Using a shovel, I easily uprooted several small tubers with just a few digs. I don’t want to dig them all up yet because they don’t store well at all. After being out of the ground for more than a day they start to get really rubbery and deteriorate extremely quickly.

I’ll keep them stored right where they are in the garden through the winter, and dig them as we want to eat them. Whatever is leftover will grow back again in Spring and multiply throughout next year.

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

Here’s one of the tubers dug up and washed off a little. See how knotty they are? Some are worse than others. It’s a good thing you don’t have to peel them ’cause that would be a huge pain. Just scrub them off really well with a stiff produce brush. (I’ve had this brush for years and love it.)

Jerusalem Artichokes: A Good Survival Crop! Follow us through a year of growing and harvesting these yummy tubers. newlifeonahomestead.com

Right now my favorite way to prepare the tubers is to cover them in melted coconut oil, tossed with rosemary and garlic, and roasted until tender. Sometimes I add parsnips or carrots, if I have them. Here’s the recipe for you to try if you want: Herb Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes.

Are you growing Jerusalem Artichokes?

17 Comments »

  • Joy says:

    I got my sunchokes at a grocery store years ago. Some years they do great some years not so much. Taste has been compared to water chestnuts. They make beautiful flowers. I had a friend who ate the leaves. They used to be sold as pasta. They’re supposed to be great for diabetics

  • Sheri says:

    Your so lucky you have a place to put them in ground! Last spring I purchased some sunchokes at my local grocery. Organic for $3.99 a pound. I had tried to obtain them via nursery but no one had them. I put them in huge landscape pots to see how they would do. They got huge! but before they ever put a flower on the winds picked-up and started blowing them over. The water demands became huge and I would need to water up to 3 times a day.I was thankful for my rain barrel.

    QUESTION: If I built a grow box that’s made to disassemble (like a potato box) would they stay contained to the box? I’m currently fighting back horseradish and don’t want another invasive.

  • Meghan says:

    I love Jerusalem artichokes and they do store well but you must get a few five gallon buckets and put a few inches of dirt, a layer of artichokes, more dirt another layer, etc. (so they aren’t touching each other) until it’s close to the top and then top with at least a few inches of dirt firmly packed. Then add the lid and keep them in a place they won’t freeze but will stay fairly cold like a basement. Then you can take out just what you need for that day and add dirt back on top and preserve the rest.

    I also boil them, puree them and then smear the puree on dehydrator trays and dry it. Then I run the dried product through the food processor and make powder. When I boil some potatoes, I also rehydrate some of the powder and and use it to thicken the potatoes as this adds inulin which is a good for feeding your gut bacteria. You don’t want to use too much of this powder or you could get outrageous gas.

    I boil just a few potatoes and drain them mostly (but they are still fairly wet), then I add in a cup of frozen grated cauliflower (usually the cores that I would have thrown away) and mix until thawed by the hot potatoes and then a few tablespoons of powdered dehydrated jerusalem artichokes and use the immersion blender. I may add milk – as necessary, a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and sometimes powdered “ranch” type flavoring. It’s really yummy – tastes like potatoes but much lower in calories (and useful to not have wasted the cauliflower cores) and it’s really good for gut bacteria – such a deal.

    I live in zone 8a and I planted only 12 in a raised bed to control their spread and, the first year, I harvested at least 20 pounds of these tubers (I think much more but I didn’t weigh them), I harvested as soon as flowers came and many of them were really big but, man-o- man! They are a drag to wash (I kept the skins on). Still, it was worth it.

    In our zone they can’t be left in the ground for long so I had to search and find a way to preserve them and the trick about keeping them in dirt was excellent. I do enjoy these fresh and roasted but they will give some gas and could lead to much worse for some people so tread carefully. Do you know they sell this stuff? Check out this site for some recipes: http://www.inuliflora.com/en/raw-superfoods/organic-jerusalem-artichoke-powder/

  • Eula says:

    I bought some from Amazon and planted those but they don’t seem to be making very large roots yet. We live in the bottom half of zone 8B and have only had them 2 summers

  • Jessica K. says:

    Quick question… How hardy are they in terms of handling the cold of winter? I would love to grow some of these, but live in the North (pretty much zone 2 although the map sometimes claims zone 3, lol) Are they like potatoes in terms of flavor? Ok, I guess that was two questions technically, lol:)

    • Kendra says:

      The first time I cooked the artichokes, they tasted like potatoes to me. My husband thought so, too. But we hadn’t allowed them to go through any frosts before we harvested that batch. This time around we let them stay in the ground much longer and through several hard frosts, and when I cooked them they tasted to me like the heart of a Globe Artichoke. Which I LOVE. Much less starchy, and even a tad bit sweet.

      I’ve read that they’re hardy to zone 2. I’d totally give them a try if I were you! Just mulch them heavily if you’re worried about the ground freezing too much to dig. Let me know if you try them!

    • Jessica, I’m in zone 2 as well. It’s mid April and the permafrost has finally receded enough to dig in the garden here. The sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) survive quite well in the frozen ground and pop up when the conditions are right. Wait until the tops die back in the autumn and after they’ve gone through a couple frosts before you dig them up to reduce the “gassy” effect. However, in zone 2, we need to harvest them all before the permafrost seals them in, and also replant what you plan to don’t eat. We are looking for alternatives for storing through the winter. We tried the “bucket of dirt” idea, and it worked fairly well. I am planning to also boil, mash, and freeze some this coming year since we have the extra freezer space. By the way, we feel they taste much much better than potatoes, but everyone is different.

  • RW says:

    This was such a neat article and I love how you showed what they look like at each stage. I’ve been toying with the idea of growing these but think I’ve made up my mind, they are a plant and forget kind thing, my fav!!!

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