Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as sunchoke, is not fromJerusalem and not an artichoke. Instead, it takes its first namefrom girasole, Italian for “turn toward the sun,” which issomething this plant and other sunflowers do from dawn to dusk. Inlate summer, beneath the 7-foot, bright yellow sunflowers lierough, tuberous roots with a nutty flavor. They’re tasty fresh orcooked like potatoes.
WHERE IT GROWS: All zones.
PLANTING, CARE: Plant tubers on the north side of thegarden, where they won’t shade shorter plants, or in a space youcan contain (in the narrow strip between the sidewalk and garage,for example). Four to six weeks before the last spring frost, plantthe tubers whole or in two-eyed chunks (eyes up) 5 inches deep. Ifyou have to plant in open garden, surround the plants with the kindof plastic root barrier that’s often sold to contain bamboo. If youdon’t, they’ll spread and become pests.
HARVESTING: Start digging tubers for harvest after the firstfrost, which sweetens them. You can leave some tubers in the groundfor winter harvest and for next year’s plants, or dig all thetubers and refrigerate them. Any tuber you leave in the ground willregrow and spread.
Scrub or peel the tubers; submerge them in water with a littlelemon juice added to prevent browning, then dice them to use likewater chestnuts in salads or stir-fries. Or steam them until tender(about 15 minutes if whole, 5 to 10 minutes for slices) and seasonwith butter, tarragon, or lemon juice.
BEST VARIETIES: For smooth tubers (easier to clean), try’Red Fuseau’, which doesn’t bloom readily. For lots of rather roughtubers, try ‘Stampede’.