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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Jerusalem Artichoke — Sunchoke

Sunchokes at harvest 1
Sunchokes also called Jerusalem artichokes plant grow harvest
Sunchoke tubers at harvest

The sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, is a variety of perennial sunflowers grown for its edible low-starch tuber which looks much like a small potato but tastes like a water chestnut.

The sunchoke is a hardy perennial that grows from 5 to 10 feet tall. The plant has rough-textured leaves 4 to 8 inches (10-20cm) long and is topped with small yellow flowers 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) across.

The name Jerusalem artichoke is a misnomer: the plant is not related to the artichoke, though the sunchoke’s flavor may be reminiscent of the artichoke. The plant is not from Jerusalem: the name is probably derived from the Italian name for sunflower, girasole, which means turning to the sun.

Here is your complete guide to growing Jerusalem artichokes–sunchokes.

Sunchoke Quick Planting Tips

  • Sunchoke tubers can be planted in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring.
  • They are best planted in soil that has warmed to 50°F (10°C).
  • In warm-winter regions, sunchokes can be planted in winter. Sunchokes require 110 to 150 days to reach harvest.
  • Yield: Plant 5 to 10 sunchokes for each household member.
Young sunchoke plants plant grow harvest
Young sunchokes: Jerusalem artichokes also called Sunchokes can be planted in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. The tubers are best planted in soil that has warmed to 50°F (10°C).

Where to Plant Sunchokes

  • Plant sunchokes in full sun.
  • The sunchoke prefers loose, well-drained soil but will grow almost anywhere. Add aged compost or sand to planting beds before planting; loose soil will make tuber harvesting easier.
  • The sunchoke prefers a soil pH from 5.8 to 6.2.
  • It is best to plant sunchokes in a dedicated bed; once established they will spread rapidly and may require some effort to remove. Tuber spread can be controlled by root barriers.
  • The sunchoke grows tall; it can be planted densely to form a screen or windbreak.
  • Sunchokes will survive a hard freeze if protected by a layer of soil or mulch.

Sunchoke Planting Time

  • Sunchoke tubers can be planted in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring.
  • Sunchokes are best planted in soil that has warmed to 50°F (10°C).
  • Sunchokes grow best in temperatures ranging from 65° to 90°F (18-32°C).
  • In warm-winter regions, sunchokes can be planted in winter.
  • Sunchokes require 110 to 150 days to reach harvest.

More at Jerusalem Artichoke Plant Starting Tips.

Planting and Spacing Sunchokes

  • Plant sunchoke tubers 2 to 6 inches (5-15cm) deep, 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) apart.
  • Space rows 36 inches (91cm) apart.

Container Growing sunchokes

  • Sunchokes can be grown in containers but will quickly fill a small container.
  • Choose a container at least 18 inches across for one plant.

Sunchoke Companion plants

  • Grow sunchokes with corn, rhubarb, and peanuts.
  • Avoid planting sunchokes with tomatoes.
Sunchoke plants in late summer grow harvest
Sunchoke plants in late summer

Watering and Feeding Sunchokes

  • Sunchokes grow best with an even, regular supply of water but can survive long periods of drought once established.
  • Sunchokes require no extra feeding; they grow best in soil rich in organic matter.

Caring for Sunchokes

  • Sunchoke tubers grow, divide, and easily spread. To contain sunchokes install wood, plastic, metal, or masonry barriers at least 24 inches (61cm) deep in the soil.
  • Avoid deep cultivation near sunchokes; they are shallow-rooted and spread to 18 inches (45cm) away from the main stem.

Sunchokes Pests and Diseases

  • Aphids may attack sunchokes. Pinch out infested foliage or hose the aphids off the plants.
  • Sunchoke tubers can rot in wet soil but are generally disease-free. Plant in well-drained soil and quickly remove diseased plants.

Harvesting Sunchokes

  • Sunchoke tubers will be ready for harvest is 120 to 150 days after planting.
  • Sunchokes are ready for harvest when leaves die back; lift tubers with a spading fork.
  • Cut off flower stalks as soon as they appear to encourage tuber development, not seed, production.
  • Plants also can be “lodged” once flowers appear; step on stems at soil level and bend them to the side diverting energy to the tubers.
  • Sunchokes harvested after a light frost will be sweeter tasting.
  • Tubers left in the ground will regrow the following season.

More at How to Harvest and Store Jerusalem Artichokes.

Storing and Preserving Sunchokes

  • Sunchokes will keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
  • Set sunchokes in a cold moist place and they will keep for 2 to 5 months.
  • Sunchokes can be frozen or left in the ground until needed; protect over-wintered sunchokes with a layer of mulch.

Sunchoke Varieties to Grow

  • Stampede’.

About Sunchokes

  • Common name. Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke
  • Botanical name. Helianthus tuberosus
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin. North America

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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