Also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, these vigorous perennial tubers can be dug in the fall and stored in tight
containers to conserve moisture, or in the spring for an early fresh vegetable. Taste and texture resemble water
chestnuts. Also used as ornamentals for their 6' annual foliage with golden daisy-like flowers on top. Caution: plant sunchokes in an area that is easy to control; they will spread and are nearly impossible to eradicate."
So we read in the Fedco Moose Tubers Catalog last year. We were particulary interested in the Walspinel variety because of the promised rosy color. Waldspinel sunchokes are from Austria originally, wald means forest/woods and spinel is a gem. We liked the idea of planting an invasive forest gem because we have some great perimeter woods that needed something low maintenance. Besides, sunchokes are indigenous to NE, though the indigenous variety is called Stampede, and you can get that one from Johnny's. These guys are called Jerusalem Artichokes because of a misnomer. The Italian word for sunflower is girasole, and that sort of sounds like Jerusalem, and incredulously, the name seems to have stuck. We like calling them sunchokes because of their sunny faces all summer - a much more fitting name. We planted ours in early spring. We literally just dropped the tiller in the woods and tore up a 3'x5' spot for them. We planted 5 pounds and harvested nearly 30 pounds on November 13th. They key to keeping a nice productive sunchoke patch is to not harvest all of the little knobs, and they'll divide and proliferate in spring. Theoretically, we won't have to plant them again - unless we want to try some other varieties, of course. This year, they were the last crop out of the ground, and they all went to The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond for a Farmer's Dinner event on November 14th. Chef Steve Atkins roasted them and turned them into an amazing pureed soup with a brown butter drizzle and fried sage leaves. It was stupendous, and I can't help but think that they tasted particularly good because we let them sit in the ground through a couple of frosty nights. Search out sunchokes for winter eating - they're a great keeper and awfully tasty, too. They roast up nicely like potatoes and are good in gratins, soups and roasted veggie dishes. And in the spirit of the season, they think that the Wampanoag Indians of Plymoth Plantation fame are said to have eaten these and shared them with our intrepid pilgrims. Enjoy!!
You dig them up with a pitchfork, trying really hard not to spear them with the tines. Note my interested helpers standing by...
There they are! They just kept coming, and I'm sure I missed enough to ensure a good crop next year!