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Jerusalem Artichokes

Have you seen this vegetable before?

Knobbly Jerusalem Artichoke tubers

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are not the most aptly named of plants as they do not have very much to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes. The first part of the name comes from the Italian girasole, meaning sunflower. Round about September the tall canes are topped with small, yellow flowers that look very similar to sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). The botanical name shows that they are part of the same family but the common English name just shows that we have a long tradition of mangling foreign words, taking girasole and imagining that the traders were saying Jerusalem!

The botanical name also demonstrates that they are not related to the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Whereas globe artichokes are thistles with edible flower buds, we eat the opposite end of Jerusalem artichokes, digging up the rather grub like tubers from underground. Thinly sliced and raw they taste like water chestnuts; cooked up they are delicious roasted whole or blended into a soup.

I harvested mine this weekened. They were grown in a pot from a couple of left over tubers out of the veg box last spring. This week I dug down and was pleased to find that I had a decent harvest: almost 600g. I can’t remember exactly how much went in the ground but it is a good rate of return, particularly since they have required minimal work and also yielded those beautiful flowers as a visual harvest. The larger tubers went towards a delicious soup. The smaller ones got replanted. I will repot them a bit later in the year to increase the number of pots and also to refresh the compost and I hope to have an even better harvest next winter.

  • Phil Cheesman

    Ah, artichokes. With a capital F… :o) We need to think of how to plant our small vegetable bed this year – a friend from work suggested maize, as it takes minimal ground space…

    • basswulf

      Yes, those are the ones.

      I’m not sure I’d go for maize. You can plant it in blocks but it needs a generous spacing between each plant and I’ve found it to be fairly unpredicatable in the UK climate as well as being seen as a treat by the gastropod population.

      If you like oniony things, how about Welsh Onions (Allium fistulosum)? You can pick them at various stages (including the tops for greens) and, being perennial, they will keep going and going until you dig them out. They are pretty hardy and, if you let some go to flower, pretty to boot.