Sunchoke

 

 
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The sunchoke, also known as Jerusalem Artichoke, is a type of perennial sunflower grown for its edible knobby root, which resembles a potato. It has a delicate nutty, crunchy taste, can be eaten raw or cooked, and is so hardy it can be grown almost anywhere.

 

 

type of perennial: vegetable

VarietiEs

Sunchokes come in more than 25 varieties, which vary in skin color, shape and nobbiness. Mammoth French White, Stampede (an early-to-mature variety), Brazilian White, and Brazilian Red are all popular varieties. Sooke is known to have a smoother texture, making it easier to peel.

 

 

WHERE SUNCHOKES THRIVE

Regional compatibility

Sunchokes are native to eastern North America and can be grown just about anywhere. They do equally well in Texas heat and on the frozen plains of New Brunswick, but it's most productive in northern, cooler regions.

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Optimal shade & sun

Sunchokes require at least six hours of full sun a day to produce big tubers. You can grow them in partial shade but the tubers will be much smaller  


RESILIENCE

Adaptability to climate extremes

Sunchokes are hardy and versatile plants. While somewhat drought resistant you'll need to water them at least once a week if you want a big crop of these tasty tubers. They're only moderately salt resistant but can withstand lots of rain, wind, and heat. Prolonged flooding will rot these tubers.

 

drought resistance

Sunchokes are mildly drought resistant. They can grow with little water but if you want a big crop, water at least once a week.

 

 

PREP YOUR SOIL

optimal type of soil

Sunchokes, as with most tubers, prefer loose and sandy soils that allow the enlarged roots to expand easily. They also do just fine in nutrient-poor, rocky soils. If your soil is hard-packed or contains lots of clay you'll grow tiny sunchokes, which are difficult to harvest.

 
 
 

GROW IT

Planting

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When planting in the garden:

Order seed tubers or slips in the early spring so they arrive in time for planting when the soil warms. Store in a cool place until ready to plant. If you want to get more than one sunchoke out of each tuber, use a clean, sharp knife to cut them so there are at least two eyes per piece. An eye is the dimple you see on the surface of the sunchoke where a shoot will form to become the leafy part of the plant. If you plant tubers with only one eye you reduce the vigor of the plant. Avoid making more than one cut surface per piece. Too many cuts will leave the tubers susceptible to fungal diseases. The rough skin helps to protect against infections. Let the cut tubers heal or scab over for a few days before planting.

You can also just skip this step and plant the seed tubers directly in the ground. Regardless, plant seed tubers at least six inches deep and 12 inches apart. Once these tasty tubers are established they're hard to remove so take the time to consider where you want them to be for the long haul.


 
 

Growing

Sunchokes have a tall sunflower-like bloom that is so beautiful it's easy to wait for the harvest. These easy-to-grow plants require no trellising or pruning. In colder regions you can protect them from the winter weather by covering the crowns in a layer of straw mulch, which feeds the plant with nutrients as it breaks down. 

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  WaterinG

This no fuss plant should get enough water from rain in most regions. If you live in a particularly dry area, you can water your plants up to an inch of water per week to help the tubers grow. It is possible to overwater sunchokes and cause the tubers to rot. So let the soil dry out completely in between waterings.

 

Mulching

To protect them from winter weather, the crowns should be covered under a lay of mulch made from wood chips or straw, which provides shelter and nutrients as it breaks down. When spring arrives, the leftover mulch can be replaced with manure, prepping the soil and plants for the growing season.


CHALLENGES

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pests

Sunchokes are burly tubers that resist most pests in the summer. Wireworms, a yellow sender soil pest, can tunnel into the root and damage the tubers but they are only a problem if you plant root crops in areas that used to be covered in grass. The sunflower maggot can also bore inside the stem, destroying the plants' ability to transport water and nutrients and eventually killing the plant. This pest can be hard to eradicate because most of the time you don't know it's there until the plant falls over and dies. They also overwinter in the soil so it can be difficult to get rid of them once they're established.

Diseases

Prevent white mold rot by planting your sunchokes in well drained areas. Soggy tubers can lead to moldy tubers. Downy mildew can also be a problem in areas with high humidity but it only affects foliage so your tubers are safe underground.