Reach for the sky

by Jane Moore

I'm always rather staggered by Jerusalem artichokes. Firstly, by their impressive and evocative name....secondly, by their sheer size!

Jerusalem artichoke root tubersI'm always rather staggered by Jerusalem artichokes. Firstly, by their impressive and evocative name; it makes me think of exotic locations with correspondingly interesting cuisine and highly sought-after seasonal foods of subtle flavour.

Secondly by their sheer size! Jerusalem artichokes get absolutely enormous - on average at least five or six feet tall (the best part of two metres) - and that's in a season! I've grown them for years and every year I am amazed by their general gusto and growing power. And then in autumn the whole enormous forest of stems erupts into the massive bouquet of the cutest, chirpiest little sunflowers - so sweet. In fact that's how the Jerusalem artichoke got its name - it's a corruption of the French word for sunflower, girasole. Nothing more exotic than that - bit disappointing really!

Jerusalem artichoke plants in flowerOnce you've planted Jersusalem artichokes you've got them for an awfully long time. Even the tiniest bit of tuber will sprout and grow so it's easiest just to devote a corner of the plot to them and let them run slightly amok. Ours do a lovely job of screening off the compost heap at the shady end of the plot where we'd struggle to grow anything else. And they pretty much look after themselves which makes them my kind of plant!

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Gardeners' World Web User 11/11/2007 at 19:04

As a new grower of Jerusalem artichokes,I am looking for different ways to cook them. I roasted some last Sunday alongside potatoes, which were tasty, but I would welcome further tried and tested ideas.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/11/2007 at 22:12

I am a new allotment plot holder, well six months now ( and I seem to read about Jerusalem artichokes quite a lot. First I need to taste them, I keep mistaking ginger for them in the supermarket, I need to know where to get some tubers from as I haven't seen a local greengrocer for years (disappointing... but that's another story). hope to hear where I can purchase soon. Thanks.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/12/2007 at 16:29

Grew runner beans this year for the first time. Usually grow french beans. Planted into raised concrete planters with 8ft cane wigwams. They did fantastically well, with a bumper crop which lasted for more than six weeks. Good size and very juicy with pods regularly reaching up to 30cm in length. Got a very good return from the packet - all or most of the beans sprouted. We had so many plants we sold some at a plant sale!

Gardeners' World Web User 11/12/2007 at 09:37

I have never grown Jerusalem artichokes before, are they easily available and will they grow well in my garden? It is well protected and as we live 1.5 miles from the north east coast will they survive, my other veg do fairly well but this is new to me. Originally from Kent, my father grew them when i was a boy and they would bring back great memories of his lush allotment many thanks.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/06/2008 at 20:34

I grew a batch of Jerusalem Arctichokes but my wife who does the cooking was not impressed with them. The tops died off over winter and around February the flat area where they once were became the depository for our annual pile of farmyard manure. As the months progressed and the pile got smaller we noticed blanched stalks among the manure. It became clear they were Artichokes trying to reach the daylight. We decided to risk a little taste, and after a good wash and stripping of a strong outer layer tasted the soft white inner. It tasted a bit like celery. Are there any records on whether this has been tried before or if it has any culinary value. We have sufferd no ill effects. I would love to hear your comments.

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