How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes
The potato-like tubers of Jerusalem artichokes have a sweet, delicate flavour, slightly reminiscent of the globe artichoke.
The vegetable is thought to have been brought to Europe from Massachusetts early in the 17th century, and certainly has nothing to do with the city of Jerusalem. It is a member of the sunflower family, and the name probably derives from the Italian name for that plant girasole.
In summer, a row of Jerusalem artichokes makes an attractive and effective windbreak, and the plants are easy to grow. Their chief shortcoming is a tendency to reappear in subsequent years unless great care is taken to harvest every tuber.
Planning the crop
Choose a warm, well-drained position, preferably where brassicas were grown the previous season. If the land is in good heart it is unnecessary to add manure; otherwise, to produce large tubers enrich the soil with well-rotted manure or compost in the autumn or winter before planting.
How many to grow
Each seed tuber should yield 3 lb (1.5 kg) -that is, 42 lb (19 kg) per 20 ft (6 m) row.
The small knobbly tubers that used to be grown have been superseded by two improved varieties. ‘Fuseau’ and ‘New White’ are both smooth-skinned and have more flavour than earlier kinds.
How to grow Jerusalem artichokes
In February or March, use a draw hoe to make a furrow 5 in. (130 mm) deep and plant the tubers 18 in. (455 mm) apart in the bottom of the furrow.
Alternatively, plant the tubers individually at this depth with a trowel. Allow 3 ft (1 m) between rows.
When you cover the tubers, leave a ridge about 2 in. (50 mm) high over their tops. Spread a dressing of general fertiliser along this at 2 oz per square yard (60g per square metre) and hoe it into the surface.
When the stalks of the plants are 6 in. (150 mm) high, draw up another 1 in. (25 mm) of soil. Repeat this every two weeks or so until there is a 6 in. ridge.
At this stage, drive a 6 ft (1.8 m) stake or cane 2 ft (610 mm) into the ground at each end of the row. Run wires between the stakes and tie the plants with soft string as they grow, so that wind will not rock them and expose the tubers.
Pests and diseases
Jerusalem artichokes may be attacked by cutworms, root aphids and swift moth.
Their principal ailment is sclerotinia disease.
The tubers will be ready for lifting by the end of October, when the top growth begins to turn brown. Cut the stems back to within 12 in. (305 mm) of the ground.
The tubers may be left in the ground until needed during the winter, the cut stems serving as a guide to their position. When harvesting, make sure to dig up even the smallest tubers to prevent re-growth.