Growing Jerusalem artichoke
This June I have also dug up the Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke bed and have a wheelbarrow full of these amazing knobbly root vegies from a bed of several square metres. They are best harvested when the plants due down over winter and ideally after good frosts to get the best flavour. Rather than harvest the whole lot at once, you can also dig them as you need them over winter as they stored best in the ground. Having said this I find if I wash and dry the roots I can keep them in airtight containers in the fridge for several months.
The reason I have dug the whole bed is that I haven’t dug them up for the last few years, and I feel the tubers are losing their vigor and need dividing. These tubers are often regarded as a permanent vegetable because any which left in the ground will reshoot, and once you have got them, you have got them, and they can could become weedy if their spread was not controlled.
Reputed to be the most productive root crop per square metre, these fast growing plants shoot in spring and reach 3m high by the time they are flower in autumn, producing beautiful heads of yellow sunflower-like flowers. These flowers also last well when picked for a vase. I love their interesting earthy and nutty flavour beloved by many celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and while they can be eaten raw, boiled or stir fried, I like them best roasted or cooked in soup.
While I love this vegetable, my family are not as keen as I am and always laugh about their other common name which is……….. ‘fartichokes’. That is because this root vegetable contains a special carbohydrate called inulin which causes flatulence, yet this same substance is known to be a wonderful prebiotic and good for gut health. This effect can put many people off trying them, and I must admit that I need to time when I start consuming them according to what I have planned. Yet sometimes they have no effect on me and from what I have read, I believe their windy effect is reduced when you eat them regularly.
Each year I aim to try and test this theory by eating them every day for a month, but I haven’t been game. They are also low GI and suitable for diabetics, and high in iron making them a wonderful vegetable for vegetarians. So if you have never tried them before try a small serve and build up tolerance.
This root crop is so easy to grow and reputedly the most productive root vegie per square metre. They really are the perfect winter vegie because they are harvested in winter, taste great ……………….. and they even keep you warm at night!