The Q&A Archives: growing jerusalem artichokes

Question: I live in zone 6, and would like to plant some jerusalem artichokes, but I don't know much about the plant. When should I plant them? What kind of sun exposure do they need? DO they need fertilizing or staking? Thank you for your time and assistance.

Answer: The Jerusalem artichoke, (Helianthus tuberosus L.), also known as sunchoke, can be produced throughout the United States. The edible portion of this member of the sunflower family is the tuber or swollen end of an underground stem, which in some respects resembles a potato. However, unlike most starchy vegetables, the principal storage carbohydrate in sunchokes immediately after harvest is inulin rather than starch. When consumed the inulin is converted in the digestive tract to fructose rather than glucose, which can be tolerated by diabetics.

These plants grow best in full sun, and will adapt to various soil types and cultural conditions. However, for best results, they should be planted in fertile sandy loams or well-drained river bottoms in which tubers are easier to dig. Generally soils suitable for potato (Solanum tuberosum) and corn (Zea mays) production are suitable for Jerusalem artichoke production. The varieties that grow best in your area include Stampede, Fuseau, and Red Fuseau.

You can broadcast a 6-12-6 fertilizer at planting time (spring is best, as soon as the ground can be worked). Additional feeding is usually not required. Jerusalem artichokes are vigorous growers and thrive in sunshine and ample water. Space tubers 15-24" apart. The plants should not need staking. Best wishes with your Jerusalem artichokes!

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