Sunhoke harvest

Part of my preparation for winter is getting all of the potted plants off the driveway, or at least as many as possible. Many of the pots have been moved into the garage, have been positioned under the deck, or have been emptied of their non-hardy plants and tired potting mix. Some of the pots this year were edibles that have already been harvested: potatoes (a disappointment), sweet potato (not bad), and the final crop to harvest: sunchokes.

Also known as "Jerusalem artichokes"-- one of the most misleading common plant names of all time -- these members of the sunflower family (Helianthus tuberosus) produce tasty edible tubers, and it's time to dig them up!


This was my first year growing these plants, having been introduced to them at one of the Schlafly Gardenworks meetings. As you can see my plants are done for the year:

I grew these in pots as they produce dozens of tubers and spread by rhizomes, and I didn't really have a space in the ground that was appropriate for a 7-10' (2-3m) tall perennial -- they can get even taller than that in a good spot.

Today I'm just going to harvest the two smaller pots, leaving the larger one for another time.

Dumping the first into the wheelbarrow, I see several small tubers:

I wasn't expecting large tubers because of the small pot, and I'm happy with these.

Just like with the potatoes and sweet potatoes, pill bugs have been enjoying the bounty too:

The second pot produced longer, thinner tubers -- still quite small:

Those look better for planting than eating. My plan is to put some of these in a field near my house (yes, the same field where I release the captured mice).

Sunchokes are native to the US and have naturalized widely -- you may have seen these growing as "weeds" along the side of the road or in fields -- and are so simple to grow. Some people have said that these have no flavor or taste like dirt, so different plants may be more palatable than others. Mine are delicious and a little nutty, so I'm going to ensure that I have plenty of these around.

They're difficult to digest for some people, producing "gastrointestinal discomfort", so eat small portions until you know how your body handles these.

I'll store these tubers in a zipper bag in the refrigerator all winter, with a damp paper towel in the bag to provide a bit of moisture. If left on the counter these will turn soft and rubbery very quickly -- less than 24 hours.

I'll harvest the big pot today -- can't wait to see those tubers!

Want to see the sunchokes in flower? Take a look at this previous post.


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Teri  – (December 1, 2012 at 10:17 AM)  

I'm going to pot plant potatoes and sweets this next year - and in TN sow bugs are crazy common. Do you think lining the bottom of the pots with fine screen would keep them out?

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 1, 2012 at 11:16 AM)  

Your post is well-timed. We haven't harvested ours either (first year for us as well). I wasn't sure if I should harvest them at all or simply leave them in the ground for next year. I guess I should dig them up just to see what is there...

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (December 2, 2012 at 5:00 AM)  

I like the flowers (from the previous post about the chokes). I didn't know that they might be difficult to digest, thanks for the warning!

Alan  – (December 2, 2012 at 7:14 AM)  

Teri: if you can cover all of the holes with screen that would surely help. I don't know if they're good enough climbers to climb up and enter from the top. Make sure the soil/potting mix doesn't have eggs in it either.

barbie  – (December 4, 2012 at 3:33 AM)  

Is that where the pill bugs feast?! I have had no luck with sweet potatoes - how do you do it?

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