Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), often called sunchokes, are root vegetables that are eaten and prepared much like starchy potatoes. Contrary to their name, Jerusalem artichokes are actually native to North America and are very easy to grow—to the point of almost being considered invasive. This is the perfect vegetable for novice gardeners!
Their tall yellow flowers will bring a bright splash of color to your garden through the summer before you are rewarded with an abundant winter harvest. Best planted in the spring a few weeks before your last frost date, Jerusalem artichokes will grow at a moderate pace and reach maturity in about 20 weeks.
|Botanical Name||Helianthus tuberosus|
|Common Name||Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, sunroot|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||6–10 ft. tall, 3–5 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Summer, early fall|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
How to Plant Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes can be planted in areas of your garden where more fussy vegetables won't grow. The plants grow tall and can easily take over space, so an entire bed will often be dedicated to them. Make sure they won't shade other crops and consider using a root barrier to stop their spread into unwanted areas.
If you do plant them with other veggies, good companion plants include corn and rhubarb, but don't plant them beside tomatoes. Their height and robustness mean they can act as a good windbreak for more sensitive plants.
Jerusalem Artichoke Care
Jerusalem artichokes can be grown in full sun or partial shade. If they get at least six hours of sun a day, this will help ensure the best yield.
These root vegetables can grow in just about any soil— they have even been known to produce harvests in heavy clay soils, although the yield is not as impressive. They just won't tolerate soggy conditions. However, they grow best in loose, well-drained, fertile, slightly alkaline soils.
Once established, sunchokes can handle periods of drought. But, for the best yield, a regular and even once-weekly watering schedule during the growing season is recommended, especially while they are establishing.
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperatures for growing a bountiful Jerusalem artichoke crop is between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When planting the tubers, temperatures should be a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are expecting a hard freeze, a protective layer of mulch will help them to survive.
Fertilizers are not generally needed for growing Jerusalem artichokes. If your soil is not fertile, add some organic matter to ensure a high yield.
Jerusalem Artichoke Varieties
There are a few varieties of Jerusalem artichokes. Why not try a few different kinds to see which ones you prefer to eat? Common types include:
- 'French Mammoth White': Widely available and produces nicely-sized, white, knobby tubers
- 'Golden Nugget': Has a tapering tuber, a smooth flavor, and slices easily
- 'Fuseau': Produces large, smooth tubers early in the season that have a somewhat smoky flavor
Jerusalem Artichokes vs. Globe Artichoke
Jerusalem artichokes are entirely unrelated to the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus). This plant is considered to be a true artichoke and has an edible globular flower and very different growing requirements.
Harvesting Jerusalem Artichokes
You can harvest them anytime from October to December, but Jerusalem artichokes are much sweeter and more flavorful after a frost or two. They usually take around 110 to 150 days to reach maturity. Add a thick (12 inch) layer of mulch after your first frost to extend your harvest. This will keep your ground from freezing, buying you a few more weeks to harvest your sunchokes. If you harvest later in the season, your sunchokes might taste sweeter, but they won't contain as much of their beneficial inulin dietary fibers.
The roots can be located and harvested with the assistance of a fork or hand rake—just be careful not to damage tubers. Mechanical potato harvesters can be used, but they may need to be modified because of the smaller size of Jerusalem artichokes.
Sunchokes can be stored in your refrigerator for around 10 days or in a root cellar with temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few months.
Freshly harvested, Jerusalem artichokes can be used in salads, or they can be cooked like potatoes.
Jerusalem artichokes plants can easily grow to reach 10 feet in height. If you want all the energy to go into tuber production, cutting them down to around 4 feet during the middle of the summer is advised.
Propagating Jerusalem Artichoke
The best way to grow Jerusalem artichokes is by planting the tubers in early spring. They should be spaced around 12 to 18 inches apart and planted no more than 5 inches deep. Make sure you don't plant too deeply as this can result in a poor harvest. The "eyes" should be facing upward, and the tuber pieces should weigh at least 1.75 ounces—smaller pieces can also result in a lesser yield. The soil should be moist but not saturated.