From August onwards, the flowering of the Jerusalem artichoke delights the eye and serves as a food source for insects until autumn. We humans have to be patient a little longer before we can enjoy the fine, nutty aroma of the root tubers. The Jerusalem artichoke is not ready for harvesting until October, and from then on it adds a special note to winter recipes. Did you know that Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) – also called earth artichoke or Jerusalem artichoke – is actually a sunflower? If you want to cultivate this root vegetable, you need one thing above all: enough space. You can find out how to plant Jerusalem artichokes in your garden and then use them here.
The right place in the garden: Root vegetables with an urge to spread
Anyone who says, “I want this one in the garden, too” should consider carefully: Jerusalem artichoke is a proliferator that quickly conquers neighbouring areas with its sprouting tubers. If you are not put off by this, you can give the plant a nice sunny spot away from the vegetable beds. And of course you can install a root barrier from the outset.
It becomes problematic when gardeners no longer want to grow Jerusalem artichokes. The plant is a survivor and sprouts again from even the smallest piece of tuber. So you can’t get rid of it that quickly. The only thing that helps is to remove all the young shoots until nothing moves. That takes patience.
If you give the plant enough space in the garden, you will also experience its beauty. With its dense foliage and pretty yellow flowers, the two-metre and taller perennial even serves as a privacy screen. The flowering period begins in August and the yellow flowers, reminiscent of sunflowers, shine until September. This pleases bumblebees and other insects.
Besides, other gourmets can keep the Jerusalem artichoke in check quite well: Field mice cheekily drop in for a self-harvest in autumn. The voles are no strangers to food either. If you don’t begrudge the rodents that, you can cheat them: Simply harvest the Jerusalem artichokes from October and then wrap the tubers in damp sand in a cool cellar.
Jerusalem artichoke: planting tips
Choose a spot for the Jerusalem artichoke bed away from the vegetable beds. From mid-March to the end of April, plant the tubers in holes about 5 to 10 centimetres deep. The location should be sunny, the soil rich in humus and slightly sandy.
In heavy soil, the tubers tend to be planted higher, while in light soil they tend to be planted deeper. There should be a distance of about 50 centimetres between the tubers.
Jerusalem artichoke varieties
There is a great variety of Jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichoke tubers are round or pear-shaped, some are even branched. They are available with white skin (e.g. ‘Arancha’), yellow skin (e.g. ‘Gute Gelbe’ and ‘Topstar’) and reddish-purple (e.g. ‘Rote Zonenkugel’ and ‘Violet de Rennes’).
They also differ in growth height and size of their tubers. Compact-growing varieties such as ‘Kompakte Violette’ or ‘Dwarf’ are therefore suitable for pot cultivation. If you prefer a rich harvest, choose a high-yielding variety for the field, such as ‘Bianca’, ‘Red Flame’ or the already mentioned ‘Gute Gelbe’.
Jerusalem artichoke: versatile and delicious
Jerusalem artichoke is one of the most uncomplicated vegetables. It grows in both light and heavy soils, is easy to care for and produces an astonishingly large harvest.
The light-coloured tuber tastes good fried, as a puree, deep-fried into chips or grated raw in a raw vegetable salad. A mixed root vegetable pan with Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beetroot is also a delight.
The fibre inulin contained stimulates digestion. Undoubtedly a healthy vegetable that is also available in winter. However, you should not eat too much of it. Otherwise, you may experience a slight stomach ache. It is therefore better to approach the right amount carefully at first.
It is best to harvest the Jerusalem artichoke immediately before cooking. The tubers quickly lose the water they contain. However, if well packed, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days.