Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberous) can also be known as Sunchokes. It is curious that they are neither true artichokes… nor are they from Jerusalem! They are in fact a member of the sunflower family originating in eastern North America.
The plant is a hardy, tall, herbaceous perennial growing up to 2m tall. It features attractive yellow flowers, however it is recommended that the lower buds be pinched out to increase the yield of the edible tubers underground. The tubers are used a bit like a potato, and they are similar to a ginger root in appearance. Jerusalem Artichokes have a unique, creamy, smokey flavour.
Jerusalem Artichokes are easy to grow, but can run wild in the garden. Contained garden beds or large crates are ideal growing spaces to keep them in check. It is essential to dig up all the bigger tubers and replant the small ones each year so the quality and taste does not deteriorate.
Avoid feeding them with too much nitrogen, but use a good supply of potassium such as Sulphate of Potassium and chicken manure, otherwise the top green growth will grow at the expense of good fleshy tubers.
The tubers can be harvested 4-6 weeks after flowering. Jerusalem Artichokes contain Inulin which makes them low in calories as well as promoting good gut bacteria. Their delicious taste is opposed to the flatulence they can cause in their digestion (just a polite warning). After the tubers are harvested, well washed and peeled they can be mashed, baked or chipped. They also give a delicious creamy, smokey texture to soups.
Handy tip: An old method of lessening the flatulence is to boil up the peeled tubers and toss out the water. Repeat the process twice more before eating.