Friday, October 17, 2008

Swapping Success!

Last week I got an email from someone via GardenWeb who wanted to trade some of his Jerusalem artichokes for my daffodils. As luck would have it, I was just in the middle of digging the bulbs for separation and transplant. And I'd been thinking about planting Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, for some time. I'm glad for the trade, because I remember my aunt remarking how expensive the planting stock was when she ordered them. But they're not too handsome, are they?

The Jerusalem artichoke is a North American native, with all the usual advantages conferred on native species. This close relative of the sunflower is noted for being pest-free, very hardy, and tolerant of both poor soils and a wide range of rainfall. It's difficult to eradicate the plant on purpose once you plant it, let alone accidentally from mere aggressive harvesting. The plant will renew itself from its edible underground tubers, which are said to (vaguely) resemble the artichoke in flavor. I'm told the only sure way of getting rid of the plant is to turn pigs loose on it. Pigs will dig for food, and keep digging till there ain't no more food.

I'd like to hear from anyone out there who has grown and eaten this plant. One book on wild plants that I read claims that Jerusalem artichokes have an alarmingly low calorie count, and that it causes flatulence. Given the plant's properties, it seems like a good emergency food for hard times. But if the calorie count is really that low (70 calories/pound), it seems barely worth the effort of harvesting and preparing. Anyone care to offer a conflicting report?

Anyway, I now have my planting stock. Three cheers for seed swapping and all good barters! If you garden and you haven't yet looking into trading seeds through GardenWeb, you should check it out. I've done half a dozen trades and I've never been burned. I've now got one more fall chore to do before winter sets in. The only question is where to put these ineradicable plants.

Please share your sunchoke recipes in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Thought of you when I read this post over lunch on Jerusalem Artichokes:

They sound very err... windy!

Kate said...

Oh dear. I had no idea these things were quite so fartacious. Here I thought that they'd be a good staple for hard times. But now I may have to reconsider. Thanks for pointing me towards that article, Ali. These may end up just being food for the bees.

Sandy said...

From what I've read, our bodies process the sugars in Jerusalem artichokes as fructose, which makes them OK for diabetics. They're delicious. I'm not diabetic, but I eat them like candy, and haven't noticed any extra, ummm...wind. I bought a handful at Fleur de'Lys a week or two ago (, then bought a pound through Pure Sprouts last Saturday. Of those two batches, I planted half and ate half. We'll see where it goes!