THE BACKGROUND OF JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES
The jerusalem artichokes are not easily found in stores although it is a vegetable. However I feel the trend is looking up for the artichoke tubers as gardeners and others discover that these are very low in calories and are considered to be excellent for feeding colonies of good bacteria in the stomach. This makes the jerusalem artichokes a "Prebiotic"by its actions. A prebiotic as defined by the Wikipedia free encyclopedia as"A non-digestible food ingredient that stimulates the growth of or activity of bacteria in the digestive system which is very beneficial to the health of the body"
They are definitely easy to grow in your garden and they thrive well in adverse situations but if you are not careful with these artichoke tubers,you may never get rid of them from your garden. It is consider by some to be a weed however we will go into how to prevent that from occurring in your garden a little later in this page.
History Of Jerusalem Artichokes Tuber
I rarely go into the history of a plant but this one is so unusual that I thought a little background may be quite interesting. The American Indian new well of the properties of this vegetable and the explorer Champlain returned to France from North America with the jerusalem artichokes in hand around 1605. This artichoke eventually became a staple in the food diet of the pilgrims which gave rise to a new food in a "new Jerusalem." There is still another theory on the eventual name of the tuber as some believed it was an odd interpretation of the Italian word for sunflower-girasol. This comes from the fact that the flower of the jerusalem artichokes resembles that of a sunflower.
There are several other theories as to how this quite unusual name was given to this vegetable but I won't go into them in depth here. It just well stated that the fresh tubers have become widely available in the U.S. and are especially popular in community gardens throughout the country.
HELIANTHUS TUBEROSUS OR JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES ALSO KNOWN AS SUNCHOKE
This particular vegetable is a root crop and growing jerusalem artichokes can be easy to deal with in your garden. As I stated before this is a type of sunflower that will grow anywhere from 5 to 10 feet in height. However unlike the globe artichoke,where the edible parts are the flower buds,the tubers growing beneath the surface are the edible part. It is very low in starch and to my taste resembles a water chestnut. This is different from other starchy vegetables in that the primary stored carbohydrate in these tubers is inulin rather than starch.The consumption of these jerusalem artichokes results in the inulin being converted to fructose in lieu of glucose making it easily tolerated by diabetics. I guess it could be used in as a viable source in the U.S. but farmers are concerned with its weedy properties.
After the tubers are kept either in the ground or refrigerated the inulin makes its conversion to fructose and this enables the jerusalem tubers to acquire a much sweeter taste. If you dehydrate them or grind them up into a powder,storage can last for very long periods without any deterioration to the sugar or protein. They maybe used in similar ways as you use a potato or they can be eaten raw,as I was told by a friend,or made into a flour or even pickled. I will provide some ways you can use these tubers at the end of this page and invite you to provide some input into the way you utlize this versatile vegetable.
PLANTING JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES
Propogation is by tubers so to get started in the growing of these artichokes it will be necessary to purchase tubers. Jerusalem artichokes can be purchased from "Johnny's Selected Seeds" on line. I provide this information as a courtesy as I receive no renumeration for this.
There are about a dozen seed pieces per pound. Plant tuber pieces upon receipt, or you can store in vegetable crisper in refrigerator until spring. Whether you plant upon arrival or in the spring, make sure they are where you desire to have them grow. If you don't the plant maybe hard to eliminate from the spot chosen. If you are going to plant them in the spring do so two to three weeks before the last frost. Cut or break into one or two eyes per piece. Plant pieces 4" deep and 12-18" apart. Do not allow cut seed pieces to dry out before planting. Almost any garden soil will do, even wettish or droughty soils.
It would not be wise to fertilize them as rich garden soil will produce very nice foliage growth but a very low yield when it comes to the tubers. Jerusalem artichokes should only be watered during periods of extremely dry weather. These are excellent survivors in long weeks of no moisture. As the plants begin to mature and flower buds appear,unless you want to save some of the flowers for cutting,cut off the flower buds as this will increase the yield of the tubers. The sunflower like flowers will appear sometime in August and well into September. These plants can grow from zones 3-9. The time of planting to harvest is 120 to 150 days.
THE HARVEST OF YOUR JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES AND STORAGE
Harvesting the tubers is about the same as that of potatoes. You harvest the crop when the leaves die back. You must dig them up using a good spading fork. In contrast to a potato vine, which is weak and has usually disappeared before harvest,the jerusalem artichoke continues to have a strong stem even though the leaves have died back. A potato tuber can easily be seperated from the stem but these tubers are strongly attached to the stem and further constrained by intertwining roots. Artichoke tubers will wilt and soften much faster than potato tubers and so they can't be left at very low humidities for too long before storage.You may leave just a few in the garden for the following season just be cautious so that they do not wonder to areas you don't care to have them.
Storage Of Your Artichokes
They can be frozen or kept refrigerated in plastic bags. They can be stored un-dug in the garden, or in the root cellar as long as tubers are kept moist to prevent shriveling. The next crop can be planted from harvested tubers or you can leave some in the ground to grow agains using about a dozen seed pieces per pound. Plant tuber pieces upon receipt, or store in vegetable crisper in refrigerator until spring. Note the tubers need to be purchased in the fall.
GROWING JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES IN A CONTAINER
Here is a way to prevent the spread of your artichokes over the garden,if this is a concern of yours or maybe your existing vegetable garden is not large enough to accommodate the plants then growing jerusalem artichokes in a tub on your patio maybe ideal and provides for a very low maintenance vegetable. You can plant them at the same times indicated above and using a bagged top soil,with little fertilizer,plant them and watering will only be necessary when the foliage begins to appear in a wilted state. Then when the leaves eventually die back just tip the pot and out rolls a bunch of larger tubers ready to make a soup or use in a salad. You might one to save some for another growing crop. My suggestion would be to raise the artichokes in an additonal pot and save for replanting.
It maybe good to add a little mulch to keep your tubers from drying out because that will cause the the tubers to wilt and will be of no use to you in the kitchen. This may not produce a large yield but at least you had the pleasure of growing some jerusalem artichokes without using limited garden space or no garden at all.
Disease And Insects Not A Really Huge Problem
Slugs,however,really take to the young shoots in the spring. The plants need to have some kind of protection. The best protection comes from a mulch of oak leaf mold. I would also try the readily available slug pellets found at any garden center. These pellets are very effective and worked much better than the use of beer or other expensive methods of eliminating these pests from your garden.
GOOD REASONS TO GROW JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES
You can peel them and make small dice-like pieces and then put them into a salad with melted Brie cheese and roasted beets. It makes a delicious dish to add to your table. Try cutting them into very thin rounds and after you fried them with a little olive oil,scatter them over an arugula salad. Your guests will simply be amazed. Just take the jerusalem artichokes whole,including the exterior skin,and roast them in the oven like you would any baked potato also drizzle with olive oil,salt and pepper. It is very creamy and smooth with a distinct nutty flavor. Please add your comments below.
HOW DO YOU USE JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES
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