Jerusalem Artichokes : Also called the sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour.
Tubers look similar to ginger roots, with light brown skin which may be tinged with yellow, red, or purple depending on the soil they are grown in. They are 3 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Jerusalem artichokes may be eaten raw or cooked.
This crop is adapted to various soil types and cultural conditions. However, for best results, it should be planted in fertile sandy loams or well-drained river bottoms in which tubers are easier to dig. Generally soils suitable for potato and corn production are suitable for Jerusalem artichoke production.
Generally it is suggested that 500 to 700 lb per acre of 6-12-6 be broadcast in the row. This rate may be increased on soils low in natural fertility.
Planting should be early in the spring, when the soil can be satisfactorily worked. Whole tubers or pieces of tubers that are no less than two ounces and have two or three prominent buds should be planted. Smaller seed pieces will reduce yields but larger seed pieces (over 2 oz) will not significantly increase them. Do not allow cut seed pieces to dry before planting. Plant 3 to 5 inches deep, in rows 36 to 42 inches wide with 15 to 24 inches between plants.
Cultivate shallowly and only as needed to control grass and weeds as the planting is being established. During plant establishment, grass and weed problems will be reduced by shading since plants grow over 6 ft high. Tubers begin to form in August and may become 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
The crop should not be harvested until after frost. Tubers dug later in the season are sweeter but have less inulin. Tops should be cut with a mower. Plow open the furrow, pick up the tubers, place in field containers, and remove from the field. Hand rakes can be used to great advantage in locating the tubers. Because of their small size it is necessary to use a small, modified potato harvester to mechanically harvest the tubers.
Handling and Storage
The skin of Jerusalem artichokes is very thin. Care should be taken in handling to avoid skinning, cuts and bruises. The skin is also susceptible to rapid moisture loss so the crop should be put in storage immediately after harvest. Cold storage facilities should have high humidity (85 to 95% relative humidity) and a temperature near 32 0F. Under these conditions, tubers can be kept for several months. If the tubers are to be washed, fresh water sanitized with bleach should be used.
The Jerusalem artichoke is a very strong growing perennial and can become a weed problem. Since it is nearly impossible to harvest all the tubers in a field or garden, there will be a large number of volunteer plants the following spring. It is important to destroy all these volunteer plants before they can set tubers in August.
- Grow strains known to be high yielding and have good color.
- Use only healthy root pieces.
- Plant early in spring as soon as the soil can be worked properly.
- Plant in 36- to 42-inch rows and 15 to 24 inches between plants.
- Cover roots 3 to 5 inches deep.
- Leave crop undisturbed until killed by frost.
- Store tubers at high humidity and a temperature near 32 oF.