Jerusalem artichoke Growing
Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a sunflower from the family of composite flowers (Asteraceae), which grows wild in rough quantities in North and Central America. The first part of the botanical name derives from the Greek words “helios” for sun and “anthos” for flower. The second part is Latin: “tuber” means tuber. The German name Topinambur, on the other hand, is based on a misunderstanding – a French researcher brought some Brazilian natives of the Tupinambá tribe to Paris in the 17th century. The tuber-sunflower was assigned to this people for not quite comprehensible reasons. The vegetable then kept its name until today.
After a wedding in which Jerusalem artichoke was considered a delicacy, potatoes increasingly replaced vegetables in the 18th century, as their tubers were easier to store and to integrate into crop rotation. In recent years, the Jerusalem artichoke tuber has been rediscovered for its health-promoting ingredients.
In Germany, the tuber is mainly popular in Baden, but also in Lower Saxony. The people of Baden know above all the “Topi” or “Rossler”, a schnapps distilled from Jerusalem artichokes. Other names include Jerusalem artichoke, earth sunflower, eternity potato, tuber sunflower, earth artichoke or sugar potato.
Appearance and growth
jerusalem artichoke is a perennial perennial shrub that grows between two and three meters high. The tubers form green, roundish and rough-haired stems, which branch in the upper part. They have stemmed, ovoid, also rough hairy leaves with a length between 10 and 25 centimetres. The bright yellow flower capitula, very reminiscent of sunflower blossoms, have a diameter of five to ten centimetres, sit in cones on the long stems and appear from August on and then into September.
The shrub forms runners that end in beet-shaped to rounded tubers. These store inulin and serve as an endurance organ for the winter. The appearance of the potato-sized tubers varies greatly depending on the variety: their shape can be reminiscent of pears, spindles, apples or ginger tubers and they can be violet or brown in colour. The inside of the tubers is white.
Location and soil
Jerusalem artichoke is an easy to cultivate vegetable. In winter it tolerates temperatures well below freezing. The location should be sunny, the soil less calcareous, humus and slightly sandy. But be careful: the perennial shrub grows strongly. If you assign the perennial plant a place surrounded by a root barrier, you have virtually no work with it. You can also plant the vegetables at the edge of the vegetable garden or along a garden fence, where the up to three metre high plant offers attractive privacy from July to November.
Crop rotation and mixed cultivation
Since the plant grows strongly, it should be planted away from other vegetables or with a root barrier. After a few years, when the harvest is lower, the Jerusalem artichoke should either move to another place in the garden or you can grow your own offspring from the tubers.
The best planting times are spring (mid-March to late April) and autumn (October and November). Place the tubers like potatoes at a distance of 60 x 50 centimetres in the soil, about five to ten centimetres deep. If you enrich the soil with a little compost before planting, you will give your Jerusalem artichoke a good start.
Supply the tubers occasionally with compost and water only on sandy soils and in dry periods. In spring surplus shoots, when they are knee-high, can be pulled out.
Harvesting and recycling
The tubers are harvested like potatoes and as needed, throughout the winter, as long as the soil is not frozen. Depending on the variety, the Jerusalem artichoke tubers are ready for harvest from October. A sure indication for the beginning of the harvest time is that the herb turns brown. For each tuber planted, you can get about ten times as much from the soil. The only disadvantage that the Jerusalem artichoke has over the potato and why the latter has prevailed is its lack of shelf life. The thin skin does not protect the tuber from drying out, which is why it should always be stored as cool and moist as possible. For this reason, you should replant some of the tubers immediately after harvesting – or process them quickly. You can use the tuber, which tastes nutty or artichoke-like, with or without shell, raw or cooked: Steam it in butter with or without spices, cook it into a fine soup, process it into rösti or puree or enjoy it finely sliced as a Jerusalem artichoke carpaccio and salad with a light vinaigrette. Sprinkle the cut surfaces quickly with lemon juice so that they do not turn brown.
Jerusalem artichoke as a medicinal plant
It has been increasingly regarded as a health-promoting vegetable for some years now. Unlike potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes do not contain starch, but inulin. This multiple sugar makes root vegetables so valuable because they pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine. The inulin is only broken down in the large intestine. There it serves as food for bacterial strains and, if consumed regularly, promotes a healthy intestinal flora. Thanks to its satiating effect and simultaneously low calorie content, Jerusalem artichoke is also used to support diets.
The Jerusalem artichoke tuber is winterproof, tolerates temperatures well below freezing and is therefore ideal for harvesting when needed. So that the soil does not freeze and you can reach the tubers late in the year, it is worth covering the soil with straw or hay.
The Jerusalem artichoke variety ‘Good Yellow’ has round, even and smooth tubers and is considered the best culinary variety. Bianca’ is a slow-growing variety with cylindrical to pear-shaped tubers. It grows up to two and a half meters high. Gigant’ is an early variety with cylindrical to pear-shaped tubers. Fuesau’ forms round daughter tubers. Red zone ball’ is a late variety with large round oval tubers. Forest spindle’ is medium late and has spindle-shaped, slightly reddish tubers.
Basically, Jerusalem artichoke can also be propagated by sowing, but it is much easier and more practicable to plant the tubers in autumn or spring. It is important to put the freshly cleared tubers back into the soil, because they dry out quickly.
Diseases and pests
Occasionally the downy mildew or downy mildew appears on the plants – but in general Jerusalem artichoke is very robust. However, the perennial sunflower is very popular with voles. Although moles do not eat the rhizomes, their digging activity can cause damage to the roots.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.