Gardening

How to plant Jerusalem artichoke

Helianthus Tuberosus

Jerusalem artichoke, also called potato sunflower, is a plant of the same genus as sunflower. Native to eastern North America, it was cultivated by the native peoples of the region before Europeans arrived. Its tubers are rich in inulin, a fructose polysaccharide, which gives them a light sweet taste. They are usually eaten cooked, but can be eaten raw in salads if cut into thin slices.

Climate

Jerusalem artichoke grows best in temperate climates, but can be grown in regions with other climatic conditions, although productivity is usually lower. The low temperatures kill the leaves and stems of the plant, but the tubers resist very low temperatures, re-sprouting when the temperature conditions become favorable.

Brightness

This plant needs direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily. Most cultivars produce better in places with long days (therefore productivity is generally lower in tropical regions).

Ground

Cultivate preferably in well-drained, light soil, without stones and other debris, fertile and rich in organic matter. This plant can be grown on poorer soils, but the tubers produced will be larger if the soil is fertile. It is also quite tolerant of pH and soil type, although heavy soils are not suitable, especially if prone to waterlogging.

Irrigation

Irrigate to keep the soil moist, but not soaked. Although the plant can withstand very short periods of drought when it is well developed, the tubers have a better appearance and quality when water is not lacking.

Planting

Jerusalem artichoke seeds resemble sunflower seeds, and can be used to start planting, but the normal thing is to plant the tubers. These are planted whole if they are about the size of a hen’s egg, or cut into pieces if they are much larger, but always leaving at least two or three yolks (eyes) per piece. Tubers should be between 10 and 15 cm deep, spaced 30 to 60 cm apart. The rows can be spaced from 30 cm to 1 m. Planting in temperate regions is done in the spring.

The seeds can be sown in the final location in regions where the winter is not very harsh, or in sowing, being transplanted to individual pots when they are large enough to be handled. The plants can thus spend their first year in pots, in a place protected from the cold, and planted in the final place after their first winter.

Jerusalem artichoke or potato sunflower can withstand the wind well, which added to the fact that it can reach 3 m in height (however it is much smaller in hot climates), make it one of the ideal plants to form protection barriers against the wind in a vegetable garden.

Cultivation

Remove invasive plants that are competing for nutrients and resources in the first months of planting. Jerusalem artichoke can be an invasive plant in some regions, so its cultivation should be somewhat limited to its planting area, and at the end of cultivation, no tubers should be left in the soil.

When the plants are 30 cm high, pile up soil near the stems, up to about 15 cm high. This procedure leaves the plants more stable, reducing the risk of tipping. If subjected to the wind, it may be necessary to tie the plants to vertical poles or poles.

Flowers can be removed when they appear, so that the plants focus their resources on the tubers, increasing productivity. However, flowers can be a good source of food for bees.

Harvest

If the tubers are planted in the spring, the harvest can be done in late autumn, when the aerial part of the plants is drying up, or in winter.

As the tubers cannot be stored for a long time at room temperature, just harvest what is necessary for the moment, leaving the excess tubers in the soil. However, it is recommended that all be harvested before they sprout in the spring, including those that are very small, to avoid having an excess of plants per area.

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