You will find Jerusalem
artichokes in most textbooks but in few gardens.
The knobbly tubers are used as an alternative
to potatoes – fine for slimmers but not
to everyone’s taste. Buy some and try them
before planting a row. These grow anywhere hardy
plants will tower up to 10ft (3m) or more –
an excellent screen or windbreak but a line of
them will form a light-robbing shield for lowly
vegetables planted below. The name indicates a
close relationship to the sunflower and not the
Middle East – it comes from the Italian
word girasole (sun follower).
Tubers bought from the greengrocer or supermarket
can be used for planting. Choose roots which are
the size of a small hen’s egg.
Time between planting and sprouting: 2-4 weeks.
Expected yield per plant: 3-5lb (1.5-2.5kg)
Approximate time between planting and lifting:
Ease of cultivation: Easy – but staking
will be necessary.
· Not fussy at all, provided that the soil
is neither very acid nor subject to prolonged
water logging in winter. It is a useful plant
for breaking up heavy land.
· Dig the soil in autumn or early winter
and incorporate compost if the soil is short of
Plant in rows 18in (45cm) apart, with a distance
of 36in (90cm) between rows. Plant 6in (15cm)
deep, and replace earth carefully. Make a low
ridge with a rake.
Planting time: Usually February and March; less
usually January to mid April.
Lifting time: November to January; can extend
from mid October to mid March.
Looking after the crop
· Use a hoe to earth up the base of the
stems when the plants are about 1ft (30cm). Water
when the weather is dry.
· Insert a cane at each end of the row
and run plastic-coated wire on either side of
the plants. In this way they will be protected
from the wind.
· During the summer months remove flower
buds as they form and feed occasionally with a
· Cut down the stems to about 1ft (30cm)
above the ground once the leaves have turned brown
in autumn. Lift the tubers as required between
October and early spring – cover the stem
bases with straw or soil in severe weather.
· At the end of the season reserve some
of the tubers for planting purposes. Make sure
that all tubers have been removed from the soil
– any left in the soil will grow as weeds.
The usual planting material is a white-skinned
type bought from the greengrocer or supermarket,
so the variety is not known. If you can, buy a
named variety from your garden centre or nursery.
Fuseau: This is the one to buy – long, white
tubers with a far smoother surface than the ordinary
variety. The plant is also more compact, reaching
only 5-6ft (150-180cm).
Boston Red: Attractive rose-red skin, but just
as knobbly as the greengrocer artichokes.