Jerusalem artichokes are one of our best perennial producers. Wild “sunchokes” are also relatively abundant in the wild around here. They make a fantastic food source for emergencies or even in your regular diet.
It’s early-October and our Jerusalem artichokes have already bloomed and died. Which means that It’s now time to harvest the tubers.They are a beautiful plant in the summer, especially when in full bloom. In the fall they turn into a tall hollow stem with crispy dried leaves. There is no tuber to harvest until the plant has matured and dried. In the wild, the dead and dry plants will blend into just about any back ground so, if you’re planning to wild-harvest these, it may be best to scout out the plants earlier in the year and return later when the plant has dried and the tubers have developed.
I’ve learned that it’s best to either dig the tubers or “flip” the plant’s root ball out of the ground. Simply pulling the plant stem will not do much but bring the small tubers out or the plant stem will just break off at ground level. I like to use the Forager’s Camp Knife from Baugo Blades to do this.
I normally take only the largest tubers. The small ones are placed back into the hole that is created and covered back up with soil.
Once the large tubers are harvested, we decide which ones we’re going to eat and which ones will be used as starts for the next “patch”. Jerusalem Artichokes are very prolific. We start a new patch every year from the tubers that we do not eat. We even get enough every year to hand out to others so they can create their own sunchoke patches. Large tubers can be cut into 3 pieces and planted as 3 bulbs.
The tubers store as well as a potato. The ones in the above photo will be used in tonight’s dinner. They’ll be cut into thirds and boiled until soft and served with butter and salt. They taste very much like a potato when served this way. We’ve also sliced them into 1/8″ slices and put them in stir-fry dinners just as you would a water chestnut. They taste very similar.
Occasionally I will see Jerusalem Artichokes in the produce section of some grocery stores, they’re a diabetic-friendly carb. I would imagine that store-bought tubers could be used as starts also. We plant the tubers in the fall at least few weeks before the frost.