20 Feb 2023

The How and Why of growing Jerusalem Artichokes

Spot the real sunflower - most of these are Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)

My new discovery for the veg patch last year was Jerusalem Artichokes, also known as Sunchokes. I grew them for the sunflowers, little knowing of their many health benefits!

I'd resisted growing Jerusalem artichokes until the day they were served up as a side veg at a particularly posh restaurant meal that I was invited to attend. First tastes didn't provoke a eureka moment but that smooth blob of puréed sun-chokes piqued my curiosity. Was this a useful addition to the veg patch? And was their reputation for causing flatulence justified? 

There were two important things that started my growing experiment:  

One, the plants are in the same plant family as sunflowers;  so it's a double win for the veg garden to get cheerful pollinator attracting sunflowers and, of course, those edible tubers after the flowers have faded. Plus seedheads in the autumn for birds to munch on. Triple win! 

Secondly, I read that specialist tubers are not obligatory so I grabbed a bag of Jerusalem artichokes from the veg aisle in my local supermarket to start the experiment - and, even better, they were at sale price being at their 'best before' date.  

Sunchoke leaves are less serrated than regular sunflower leaves.

Growing them is easy: 

I dug a foot wide shallow trench in a sunny corner of the veg patch, forked in some compost from my Hotbin (although any compost would do), buried the tubers about 4 inches deep, spaced them 8 inches apart, then covered them over again with soil. Job done. And then watered and waited. Probably longer than was necessary but the tubers can be left in the ground until needed. Just wait until the flowers have finished. So simple. 

They didn't need earthing up like potatoes, they didn't need staking like tall sunflowers - unless your site is very windy - plus they're fairly pest resistant. And each tuber planted produced around 10 to15 more which I have roasted, pureed and mashed. Deliciously nutty, but their gassy reputation is warranted in my case. Enough said.

But not to be put off by their wind producing side effects, this year I'm bordering the veg patch with an extended row of Jerusalem Artichokes. Why? because they have some very good health benefits.

A harvest of home grown winter vegetables
Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes from October through to January! 

So let's talk health benefits ...

These tubers are allegedly a nutritional powerhouse.  They're a good source of antioxidants which makes them gut-friendly and immune-boosting. They're also packed with fibre, iron, potassium and phosphorus. (Huh? I had to find out what phosphorus is in relation to the human body, rather than soil!  It's a mineral that supports the formation of bones and teeth, repairs cells, normalises the heartbeat, kidney function and muscle contractions. So .. pretty important stuff.)

But what they're most famous for is their high inulin content. Inulin is a carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic, feeding your good gut bacteria to keep your innards healthy.  It's hard to digest so when it reaches the intestines, it feeds the gut bacteria which then produce methane gas ... yes, the source of their nickname, fartichokes. 

That aside, Jerusalem artichokes are touted as a good substitute for potatoes being low carb, low sugar and full of fibre. 

They're still a bit of a novelty for me and I now know to eat them as a treat rather than every day and certainly not in any great quantity as I could feel (and hear!) the effect they had on my intestines for a couple of days. 

There is a way to lessen the gassiness ...

I've read that there are three ways to reduce the side effects of Jerusalem artichokes.  The first is to gradually increase the amount eaten in order to get your body to adapt; the second is to boil the sliced tubers in lemon juice which turns the inulin into fructose thereby making them sweeter but less gassy. The third is to slice and pickle them, retaining the nutty flavour and crunch.  Option 3 sounds interesting!

So, a potato substitute with health benefits and cheerful flowers ... will you give them a go this year?

A few of the ultra-delicious recipes I've tried!

If you're new to cooking Jerusalem artichokes, can I steer you in the direction of Riverford Organic Farmers website?  Here you'll find not only a few of the recipes that inspired me but also some good advice on preparing the tubers if you watch the video in the first recipe listed below.

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes with mushrooms, rosemary and garlic - still my favourite

Jerusalem artichoke and bacon gratin - cheese, bacon, cream and sunchokes, delicious.

Jerusalem artichoke and leek soup - the perfect soup using available veg from the winter garden. 

Happy munching! 

And here's Charles Dowding showing how he grows his Jerusalem Artichokes:




  1. Hi Caro,
    I've never grown Jerusalem artichokes, but I did have a problem with perennial sunflowers, which very nearly took over my garden. Which brings me to the other reported attribute of Jerusalem artichokes - that they're very difficult to control. Have you found this? Are they best grown in a contained area, to stop them taking over?
    Many thanks, Graham

    1. This was my first year of growing JA's so I've yet to see if any unrecovered tubers from last year reappear. I haven't heard of perennial sunflowers, they sound interesting! I imagine yours have seeded themselves around for a takeover bid of your garden. Jerusalem artichokes will grow again from tubers left in the ground so, as long as you dig around to find them when ready to harvest, you should be okay!

    2. See also Mal's comment below - lots of good advice there! :)

  2. We love these as a seasonal treat. The season is from December to March so all the more welcome. I make a point of digging up the whole crop and only replanting a couple, because they will takeover if left to their own devices. Also, put the peelings in the food waste not the compost heap. We had them sprouting up all over our garden after mulching with our compost. Because I had sown sunflowers I was late in pulling them up. (It takes a good year for them to flower in Scotland.). Baking the skins has become a real gourmet fad of late. They are nice - if roasted to a crisp and sprinked with parmesan!

    1. Thanks for these tips, Mal. I've scrubbed my JA's rather than peeling them but it's still good advice not to put any loose chops bits in the compost! I tend to roast mine (with mushrooms and bacon) but would peel them when making soup.

  3. I remember my father growing these many years ago, he only planted them the one year, but we seemed to have the artichokes keep coming back for years to come as we could never get them all out of the ground. We never really took to the taste, and the flatulence was a seriously unwanted side effect. Also, preparing them was a bit tedious with all the knobbly bits, potatoes were much simpler.

    1. Your comment has made me smile, thanks Will! You've shown the downside of Jerusalem artichokes for many ... luckily I like them, as does a lady that I garden for so I'm able to share. As I work outside on my own, the side effects are not such a problem :-)) and I love the thought that eating JAs is having a good effect on my digestive system - it counteracts the buns I like to eat, haha!

  4. Thank you Carol for the fascinating information about digesting this delicious vegetable. I still have a fair few in the garden and need to make more effort to eat and share! Friends love the flavour it must be said. I feel inspired to make a video, promoting them and shall quote you regarding nutrition and digestion.

    1. Aah, thanks for reading and commenting, Charles, very glad to have triggered inspiration for a video! The video is excellent, I've added a link to your video at the end of my post. And this year I won't be digging a trench for my JAs but snuggling them into the mulch one by one as I have now learnt from your video. Cheers! x

  5. How fascinating! I really must look out for some at the supermarket and give them a whirl.xxx

    1. Definitely! Try them out in both kitchen and garden, Dina - I love the yellow 'sunflowers' they produce so if you like them, they're a good addition to the garden! You might find you need to look in the posher supermarkets or perhaps a farmers' market? Would love to hear how you get on with them! xx


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