My Sunchoke Adventure

As the lockdown progressed in time, I started pondering to myself how could I be a little more self sufficient? How could I grow a little more food for myself and my family? Given the resources available to myself I began scouring the internet for options, and after looking at videos on youtube and various articles on the internet I became more and more intrigued with the prospect of trying to grow Sunchokes this coming year.

For those of you not familiar with Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes), they are native to North America, and are related to sunflowers. They are a perennial plant that can grow 5 to10ft tall, their roots are high in inulin, and can be consumed raw or cooked. I researched how to grow them and the overall consensus was that they should be planted with the following conditions for best success:

  • loose, well-drained soil
  • Space sunchoke tubers 12 to 18 inches apart, 4 to 6 inches deep
  • Space rows 4-6 feet apart
  • Soil temperature at planting should be at least 50F (10C), prior to planting.
  • Plant in full sun
  • Do not plant in areas that are consistently wet
  • Plants are drought tolerant, but produce better with a regular supply of water.
  • pH of soil best between 5.8 and 6.2
  • Plant in a dedicated bed if possible or mow around for control
  • Sunchokes are typically harvested in late fall. They require 110 -150 days to maturity

Hoping that I have convinced you that your going to grow sunchokes, you’ll need a source of sunchoke tubers.  They can often be found at the farmers market or your local grocery store, online (Ebay, Amazon), and online growers.

Sunchoke Tubers

I was now left with no tubers, and struggled finding a good source. I turned to the Nextdoor App. A neighbour not too far away, luckily came to my rescue and provided me with a paper bag full of tubers. I was a little skeptical at first that they may grow as the tubers were a little soft to the touch and not firm. Nevertheless, with no other choice I planted them a little deeper then last time and kept them in my garage to protect them from the squirrels. Once they started sprouting I moved the them outside in the sun. The squirrels still came around for a snack but were much less aggressive once the plants were growing. I am proud to state that my plants now range from 4” in height to 18” in height and are growing fast.

My new Sunchoke Plants

My order of sunchokes seeds has not yet arrived, so all I can promise as they when they arrive I can do a follow-up on how successful I am in growing them from seeds.

Assuming I am successful in growing sunchokes, my plan is to start consuming some of them in the fall. From research i hear that what i have listed below are some of the best ways to enjoy them:

  • Baked sunchokes – Sprinkle sunchokes with oil and seasonings, then Bake well-scrubbed tubers at 350F for 30-40 minutes.
  • Sunchoke stir fry – Substitute sunchokes for water chestnuts in your favorite stir fry recipe.
  • Steamed sunchokes – Steam whole sunchokes for 10-15 minutes. Serve with butter and a sprinkle of parsley or other seasonings you prefer
  • Sunchoke chips – Thinly slice sunchokes and drop into hot oil. Fry chips until lightly browned. Salt and season to taste.

A word of caution – keep in mind that they are very invasive once they gain a foothold in your garden so be careful. This invasiveness can be good if they’re planted far from any other cultivated areas.  Personally I like knowing that perennial supply of food that I can be grow all  the time.

My research also indicated that unlike other root crops, sunchokes cannot be stored for long periods. They have a thin skin and dry out easily. They keep best in the ground, dug as needed for use. In northern areas, a thick layer of mulch may keep your sunchokes accessible longer. In colder climates some people have success bringing them indoors into a root cellar or cold cellar where they remain buried in a pot with dirt over the winter prior to planting again

If you have grown sunchokes before please leave a comment, tip or suggestion, alternatively if you have a favorite way to cook them please leave a suggestion below.

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