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Jerusalem Artichoke

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Jerusalem artichoke

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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).

Plant facts
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: 40-50 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Easy – but staking will be necessary.

Soil facts
· 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 humus.

Planting
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.

Calendar
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 liquid fertilizer.

Harvesting
· 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.

Varieties
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.

Troubles
Slugs
Sclerotinia Rot


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