Jerusalem Artichokes: The wonder veg

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Jerusalem artichokes don’t have too many fans among gardeners. They grumble that once established they’re hard to get rid of and quickly dominate an area of their plot. But their longevity and ability to thrive where others falter are reasons why we’re happy to give over some of our land to this nobbly root veg.

Here a just a few things that, for us, make the Jerusalem artichoke a vegetable worth embracing:

They're easy to grow

Jerusalem artichokes are one of the most unfussy vegetables you could wish to grow.

They start life as tubers, planted at the same time as spuds but, unlike their more popular starchy cousin, they don’t need much attention once they're in the ground.

They’re not particularly bothered about soil quality, "earthing up" is not required, and they only need watering in particularly dry spells. So you really can stick them in the ground and forget about them.

They keep coming back

Once established, your Jerusalem artichokes will come back year after year.

They can grow from small snippets of tubers, which is why getting rid of them is tricky, so when you harvest them make sure to leave a few bits in situ and you’ll be rewarded with a highly productive perennial crop.

Just take a little care when digging to not spread them beyond their designated patch.

A striking feature

While the edible action goes on below ground, above the surface you’ll be treated to one of the most striking sights on the plot.

They’re tall plants that often reach the giddy heights of 5 metres and are topped by bright yellow flowers that are not too dissimilar to a sunflower (they’re also known as ‘sunchokes’).

As such they make great plant screens to cover an unsightly fence or fill an unattractive corner of the garden.

Winter food

Jerusalem artichokes can be dug up from late autumn through winter, making them one of the few homegrown veg you can enjoy during the colder months.

Cut back the stems when the leaves start to turn yellow and lift the nobbly tubers, which tend to clump together, as required.

Great tasting

Best of all, Jerusalem artichokes taste great. We like ours roasted—they‘re slightly sweet and a little bit nutty—or they can be steamed, fried or cooked however you would cook a potato.

They also make a great soup which goes well with a bit of spice for some extra winter warming comforts.