The Elusive Jerusalem Artichoke: Gourmet’s Delight Or Prepper Stash?

jerusalem artichoke harvest small

A wheelbarrow full of Jerusalem artichokes, half what a single small row gave us last autumn.

I started two patches last year. One in the last row of our Potato Patch, which is a carefully managed large garden bed of several thousand square feet that til now grew exclusively organic potatoes. The other site was just a 20×20 foot patch of ground where I tilled, added a little horse manure and planted the remaining tubers and left them to fend for themselves. Jerusalem artichokes are native to Nova Scotia and do well here almost anywhere except saturated ground, but they are super hardy, and I mean HARDY! They will do well most anywhere in almost any soil, except in extreme conditions such as deserts and the Arctic. That single garden row yielded about 150 lbs of chokes last autumn. That 20×20 patch? We left it to its own devices; never weeded it or watered it or did anything else with it. This spring right after the thaw it was so full of chokes they were erupting out of the ground. We harvested another 200 lbs of chokes out of it and I know we didn’t even come close to clearing out the patch as we intentionally left many to spread on their own.

The Jerusalem artichoke bed.  We tilled this small 20x20 foot patch, added compost and planted tubers, then left it to its own devices, never weeding or watering it.  It still yield hundreds of pounds of chokes the next spring.

The Jerusalem artichoke bed. We tilled this small 20×20 foot patch, added compost and planted tubers, then left it to its own devices, never weeding or watering it. It still yield hundreds of pounds of chokes the next spring.

The beauty of Jerusalem artichokes is the yield. Nothing gives more food per square foot. A mere 5×5 foot patch of ground, tilled with compost added, can yield an easy 100 lbs of chokes. The taste is heavenly, like artichoke hearts.

jerusalem artichokes small

Jerusalam artichokes gone feral. I found this patch in a meadow deep in the forest, where it has probably maintained itself for years if not decades.

They are a superb survival food, which is why we plant them. I set surplus tubers in little patches here and there around the forest and meadows, leaving them to grow and spread. If the day ever comes we need a food reserve, they will be there as they reproduce and multiply vigorously and need no human maintenance. To give the best yields, they do need that compost and tilled ground so they can invest all their energy into the tubers, but even the wild ones still provide a great food source, yielding about 50 lbs of harvest per 25 square feet.

To read a good article on cultivating them, follow this link.  Though you can skip all the advice about pruning them back, clipping leaves and making supports.  I have noticed a trend in modern gardening toward babying your plants.  But if you are trying to grow a significant proportion of the food you eat, you can’t be bothered with that silliness, and with chokes, it’s completely unnecessary.  Trust me, if you till, add compost and plant, they will grow.  Try stopping them.

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