Have you ever grown sunchokes?
Perhaps I should step back and ask: Have you ever tasted sunchokes?
Oh man. Wow. Delicious. If you never noshed on this particular tuber, you really should do something about that. Sunchokes — aka Jerusaleum artichokes — are a fantastic, delicious and remarkably healthy starch. They’ve got a taste that’s somewhat reminiscent of artichokes, and a starchiness that roasts, mashes and purees well.
They’re also a little homely. But that just adds to their appeal.
Like potatoes and sweet potatoes, the edible part of this plant is hidden from sight until harvest time. The part we eat is the tuber; a knotty root that generally grows right at the base of the plant. The rest of the plant stretches high toward the sun, and is topped with cheerful yellow flowers.
Sunchokes are related to sunflowers, and they look it.
They are also an easy-care perennial that’s native to the United States. Doesn’t get much better than this: a native, perennial flower that rewards gardeners with an abundant harvest of easy-to-store and delicious-to-eat tubers. That’s everything I love about sweet potatoes, plus perennial and native. Can a gardener ask more from a plant?
(Sunchokes are also horribly invasive, so they aren’t perfect. But, they’re pretty damned close.)
So. Sunchokes are awesome, and should definitely be in every front yard vegetable garden (back yard gardens too). But, there aren’t any in this garden. Not yet. In fact, I’ve actually never grown them before; the tubers are always a bit pricey, and by the time I’m done buying my seeds every spring, I just never seem to have the budget left for sunchoke roots.
But then I saw them at the food store the other day.
If we can grow sweet potatoes from the grocery store, why not sunchokes too?
So I bought a pack. And, after forgetting about them for about a week, I planted them yesterday. That’s right. While snow flurries danced past my window, I planted my first summer flowers.
I filled an empty plastic container with a bit of potting soil, and then half-buried each of the tubers. Why didn’t I bury them completely? Well, partially because I didn’t have a lot of potting soil on hand (most of my potting soil is in the unheated garage and is frozen solid at the moment), and partially because I want to easily monitor progress.
Because, well, I’m not sure what to expect. Fresh green growth? Or, stinking mold and yuck? I’m hoping for roots and leaves and — eventually — a tasty harvest. Time will tell.
Have you grown sunchokes before? Any tips to share? If so, please share!