Weird things you can grow: Jerusalem Artichokes

weird thingsJerusalem Artichokes (also called sunchokes) are another plant with a weird, fun name. I brought some to work to try to give them away, and because I work at a library, this prompted a whole conversation about the origin of their name.

So, according to this article, Samuel Champlain thought they tasted like artichokes (they don’t, in my opinion), and

when Jerusalem artichokes arrived in Italy sometime before 1633, the Italian word for sunflower, “girasole” which means “turning to the sun,” was somehow later corrupted into the word “Jerusalem.”

So there you have it. More convoluted, and only slightly less charming, than the story behind Good King Henry.


Jerusalem artichokes are an interesting perennial vegetable that can be eaten in roughly the same ways as a potato. The plants themselves will grow very tall (like 6 feet) and look like sunflowers (without the flower part). They are easy to care for, but you should dig them up in the fall, harvest some to eat, and then cover the rest back up to grow for the following year. If you don’t do this, they will gradually spread around your garden. Mine are growing in a raised bed, like this:


I have dug some up to give away every year, and this patch has still doubled in size in three growing seasons.

I bought my original seed sunchokes from Hope Seeds – variety Skorospelka – in the spring of 2013, I think. They’re sold out of all varieties right now, but if you’re in the Edmonton area, leave a comment on this post and I’d be happy to share some with you (I’m serious. I have so many); or wait until next spring.

Time to give out an arbitrary rating!


  • Jerusalem artichokes have been very hardy in my garden, even in this raised bed.
  • They are pretty tasty – or at least, they’re easy to integrate into other dishes, as you would with potato. (I don’t find they have a very strong taste.)
  • They spread in a manageable way, and create enough new plants to share. Some people find them a bit too spread-y, but I haven’t found that so far.
  • It’s fun to eat vegetables that you dig up from the ground, and that’s a fact.
  • They make you fart. Which is fun.
  • They grow quite tall and straight, like sunflowers, so they would be good as a privacy hedge.

More info:

A Gardener’s Table – Taking the Wind out of Jerusalem Artichokes
Mother Earth News – All About Growing Jerusalem Artichokes

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