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How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are a versatile and nutritious vegetable easily grown in your garden. They are my favorite type of crop because you plant them, they grow well without much intervention – even during Arizona’s long, hot summers – and then you can harvest a large crop at the end of the season. If you would like to add an easy-to-grow crop to your garden, keep reading, and I’ll share my best tips for how to grow Jerusalem artichokes. 

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

What are Jerusalem Artichokes? 

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are not artichokes, but instead a sunflower family member rich in inulin (a prebiotic fiber supporting gut health), vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), and minerals like iron and potassium. Historically, they were cultivated by Native American tribes and later adopted by European settlers due to their nutritional benefits and versatility. Sunchokes are native to 45 states and are a valuable perennial that is hardy to zone 3. Learn about more of my favorite perennial crops in this blog post.

Planting Jerusalem Artichokes

The hardest part about growing sunchokes was finding them to plant. They weren’t available at my local grocery stores, and the ones I found online were out of stock. Eventually, I ordered a plant from Territorial Seeds and got some tubers from Gurney’s Seeds. Both types yielded a successful harvest. 

Plant Jerusalem artichoke from transplant or tuber

If you live in a cold winter climate, plant sunchokes in the fall before the ground freezes or once the soil is workable in early spring. Mulch fall-planted roots well.

Plant in early spring in mild winter climates. Here in the low desert, we have a long planting window from February through May

Plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers

Choose a location with plenty of sunlight. The more sunlight these plants receive, the larger the harvest will be.

They prefer slightly alkaline soil. The soil doesn’t need to be overly rich but should be loose and well-draining. Tubers grown in heavy clay soil will be smaller and harder to clean. I planted mine in the ground in native soil that has been amended for several years with wood chips.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers developing
Jerusalem artichoke tubers developing

If you plant directly in the ground, tubers that remain in the soil will resprout in the spring and can become invasive. If you don’t want them to spread, contain them by planting them in large containers (5-10 gallons) or with other barriers. 

April 20 (planting date), April 29, May 2
May 5, May 10, June 2

Plant transplants at the same level as the nursery pot. Plant tubers whole or cut into pieces with 1-2 eyes and plant about 4 inches deep. Allow 2-3 feet between plants, as they can grow quite tall (reaching up to 8 feet).

Water well after planting. Check that soil remains evenly hydrated but not waterlogged until sprouts appear. 

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Growing & Harvesting Sunchokes

Water deeply throughout the growing season, allowing the top several inches to dry before watering. Mulching plants helps them retain moisture. Fertilization is not necessary. Plants are generally not bothered by pests, but pollinators love the blooms. Learn more about other plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators in this post.

As sunchokes grow, they produce tall stalks.

Jerusalem artichoke plant before flowering

Eventually, those stalks are covered with small yellow flowers that resemble sunflowers.

Jerusalem artichoke growing with flowers
Jerusalem artichoke growing with flowers

The plants grow larger and eventually die as temperatures cool in the fall. Once the plants die back, wait at least two weeks before harvesting to allow the skins to harden.

Sunchokes’ flavor improves after a frost, so in cold-winter climate areas, you can also delay harvesting until just before the ground freezes. 

Jerusalem artichoke flowering and dying back
Jerusalem artichoke flowering and dying back

To harvest, use a digging fork to gently loosen the soil around the base of the plants and carefully unearth the tubers without damaging them. Keep digging around the perimeter of the plant. You’ll be amazed at the spread and reach of the many tubers that develop. Leave one or two in the ground to plant next year’s harvest. 

Jerusalem artichoke growing tubers below ground
Jerusalem artichoke growing tubers below ground

Similar to harvested sweet potatoes, it’s best to brush the dirt off the sunchokes, but do not wash them until ready to use them. 

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichoke harvest

Storing Jerusalem Artichokes

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

Sunchokes don’t store well, so it may be best to leave them in the ground and use them as needed for several weeks. They dry out quickly and should be kept in a plastic bag in the fridge. This keeps them fresh for 2-3 weeks. Although it changes the texture, you can wash them well and then chop and freeze. Frozen sunchokes are best eaten within a few months

An Unpleasant Side Effect of Sunchokes

Some people avoid eating Jerusalem artichokes due to a common side effect: digestive discomfort. Jerusalem artichokes contain high levels of inulin, a soluble fiber the body does not digest. While inulin is a beneficial prebiotic that promotes gut health, its fermentation in the colon can produce gas, leading to bloating, flatulence, and general discomfort.

Jerusalem Artichoke Flower
Jerusalem artichoke flower

Fortunately, there are several strategies to lessen the digestive discomfort associated with consuming Jerusalem artichokes:

  • Using small amounts. 
  • Soaking the sunchokes overnight, rinsing them, and boiling them in fresh water can help partially break down the inulin.
  • Adding lemon to the boiling water allows heat and acid to break down the inulin. 
  • Pairing Jerusalem artichokes with digestive aids such as ginger or fennel, known for their gas-relieving properties, can help alleviate discomfort. 

Using Sunchokes

To use, scrub the skin well to remove any dirt. Since they have a knobbly surface, a vegetable brush can help scrub away impurities. While peeling is optional, it can help create a smoother texture for specific recipes. If you choose to peel, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the skin. Remember that the skin is edible and nutrient-rich, so you may prefer to leave it on.

How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

You can slice, dice, or chop sunchokes into your desired shapes. Thin slices are great for roasting or chips, while chunks or cubes work well in soups and stews.

Jerusalem artichokes have a nutty flavor and crisp texture and pair well with rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I enjoy them roasted with carrots, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts

If you grow sunchokes, what is your favorite way to use them? I’d love to try other ideas. 

Vegetable Planting Guide: A Visual Planting Guide for Low Desert Vegetables

Arizona Vegetable Planting Guide helps you learn when to plant vegetables in Arizona and whether to plant seeds or transplants.

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