What’s not to like about sunchokes? They grow dramatically in one season, reaching heights of 10 feet. In September, when other plants are losing steam, sunchokes are just starting to flower. They add a lot of interest to your garden.
Plus you can eat them! Find out more about sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) here.
I have to admit there is one drawback with sunchokes– The roots do spread a lot.
The root is the part you eat, and even if you can’t eat all you grow, a soup kitchen such as Friends of Night People can use all you can give them. If you keep harvesting your sunchokes, you should be able to control them.
In reality, it’s easy to miss a root, especially one that sneaks beyond the perimeter of the bed you’ve set aside for sunchokes. The root stays underground where you can’t see it. It’s not until the next spring when the stem pops up that you realize the sunchokes have migrated beyond their plot and have infiltrated the adjacent perennial bed.
One thing you can do to control sunchokes is to plant them in pots.
I tried that this past year, planting them in mid-November 2013. I clustered the pots near the fence and surrounded them with leaves to help protect the roots from thawing and freezing. Despite our harsh winter, all of the pots except one sprouted.
The sunchokes planted in pots were smaller than the ones I planted in garden beds– I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps the pieces I planted in the garden bed were bigger than the ones I planted in the pots. Maybe I didn’t water the pots enough– A garden bed will stay moist longer than a small pot will. I know some of the pots weren’t in very sunny areas, so that may have stunted their growth.
I had one large and spectacular sunchoke plant in a pot that suddenly turned brown just before it flowered. I think I may have watered it with water I had leftover from boiling corn– The water might not have been completely cool. Bummer. I was still able to harvest some nice roots from that plant.
Watch the video below to see how the sunchokes looked in May, in September and this past weekend when I harvested them.
If you’d like to try growing sunchokes, I’d be happy to give you some. The only catch is that I don’t want to mail them, so please arrange to pick them up. If you don’t live near me (I’m in the Eggertsville area of Amherst), you probably work with someone whose cousin lives out this way and can get them to you– Western New York is like that.
If you’re interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can make sure I’m here or have them available for you when you stop by.
If you got sunchokes from me in previous years, how did they do? Did they grow well? Did they spread too much? How did you prepare them? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.