Besides weeds and a stronghold of goldenrod, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) aka sunchoke was one of the few plants that we inherited when we moved into this place. At the time only dead stalks remained and I wasn’t quite sure what member of the Sunflower Family they were.
In the spring I pulled a few rogue stems up and the tell-tale tubers came out of the soil with them. My first thought was, “Yay, a surprise food!” and my second was, “Oh shit.”
For those that are unfamiliar, a bit of background. Jerusalem artichokes are a Sunflower Family plant that grow edible tubers that taste sort of like artichokes, hence their name. The tubers are often used as a “healthier” substitute for potatoes as they have a lower glycemic index. For this reason you will often see them for sale in health food stores, and if you are looking to grow the plant I would suggest going there first as a local tuber source rather than buying online. These plants are so easy to grow. If you have trouble growing potatoes, you will not have a problem with Jerusalem artichoke. They grow themselves.
And now for the bad news. This plant is persistent. You will never get rid of it once you’ve got it. EVER. NEVER EVER. No. Really.
I used to grow this plant in a large garbage can over at the roof garden, and despite toppling the container to extract the tubers, I was never able to get the tiniest pieces out of the soil. Every spring it would come back again full force. That was in a container. Just imagine what they can do in the ground.
And this is where I am today. It is late summer and my plants are well over 2 stories tall. I’d measure them but they are so tall, I am not sure how to go about that feat. They are definitely taller than the original stalks that were here when we moved in last year. They have surpassed them as well as the clothing line we installed. And then some. I can only blame care (watering, pruning, etc) as well as the duck manure I added to the soil in the spring for their dominance now.
Jerusalem artichokes taste best when they have been kissed by the cold. I will dig mine up come late fall, once a hard frost has hit but before the ground freezes. I will likely give much of it away as I predict an abundance that is too much for 2 people without suffering gastrointestinal distress (Sunchokes are often called “fartichoke” for a reason). And then in the spring I will pull up the excess that will inevitably attempt to spread far and wide.
I will not be so caring and generous next season. That’s a promise.