Jerusalem artichokes look like they’d be a perfect prepper survival food crop. The roots grow in poor soil, can take extreme winters, are borderline invasive and are abundantly productive with no care.
When I first planted Jerusalem artichokes back in my Tennessee garden, I thought they would be the perfect temperate survival crop equivalent to cassava, my beloved tropical survival food crop.
I planted them with the help of my daughter Daisy, who was two at the time. I dug holes in the hard clay and she tossed a tuber in each hole. Then we covered them over for the winter.
The next year we had an abundance of tall, beautiful Jerusalem artichoke plants. In fall, they burst into glorious bloom.
I cut flowers for the table, and we awaited the frost so we could dig our first tubers.
At some point in November or December, the cold came in and killed the top of the plants. It was time to harvest!
With excitement, I started digging, pulling up a bucket of tubers from each gigantic Jerusalem artichoke plant.
I was right! They were a great temperate alternative to cassava! An easy, no-care, productive root that could keep us alive through societal collapse.
We scrubbed the clay-covered tubers clean and I sliced one up to try raw. The flavor was pleasant, nutty and little sweet. I decided to slice and sauté some in butter and garlic for dinner, which I did, and they tasted excellent!
But then something happened. My digestion revolted against this “perfect temperate survival crop,” and I experienced the worst intestinal pressure I have ever felt.
It turns out that Jerusalem artichokes cause terrible gas. Cassava never caused me such discomfort! My temperate survival crop was a bust. It felt like my stomach was going to bust!
With that in mind, I still plant and grow Jerusalem artichokes. Many people will tell you that their effect on your digestion can be mitigated by fermenting or other special preparation, or by slowly adjusting your gut biome to their consumption.
In a recent video, I harvest Jerusalem artichokes and talk about what I love and hate about this vegetable:
From the few plants we grew, we managed a small harvest of roots.
It’s just enough for seed, and not enough to test any anti-gas theories.
I had three sons help me with this video and the photography in this post. CJ manned one camera and ER manned another, while Roger took photos of the process on his own camera.
My main camera is now the Canon R6, which is a spectacular camera for video, handling very low light and giving you a stable image.
I set that one up for the ground shots, while CJ followed me with the 80D on a Glidecam for the walking shot.
That has nothing to do with Jerusalem artichokes, though. Except that it takes longer to harvest and plant when you are also making a video.
This is the time of year to plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers. They do not store well at all on the counter or out in the open and should be immediately replanted or stored in a somewhat moist medium through winter.
We usually plant them back in the ground immediately.
Bury them about 4-6″ deep and let them sleep through winter. In the spring they will grow. Once sprouts start emerging from the ground, the tubers deteriorate rapidly as they are used to fuel the new growth. The time to dig and eat Jerusalem artichokes is during the cold months, between the time the tops of the plants freeze down and the new shoots emerge in the spring. That’s it! Though the tops of the plants can be used as a good animal feed during the warm months.
We tucked our Jerusalem artichokes here and there in the Grocery Row Gardens. Here you can see me digging up a frosted Jerusalem artichoke plant amidst a profusion of blackberry canes.
Just dig a little back from the main trunk of the plant so you don’t piece the tubers. The roots cling tightly to the bottom of the plant and the varieties I’ve grown do not spread out much from the base.
Next year I hope we harvest more, so I’ll have more to plant. I like to grow the roots and replant them, since it’s easier on the digestion than actually eating them.
Next year we’ll have to try fermenting the roots. That sounds like a good option. Rachel already makes very good ferments from cabbages, beets and radishes.
It’s not hard, and if it makes this vegetable digestible, I may have a little less hate and a bit more love for the darn things.
Hope you all had a Merry Christmas. Today we’re going to plant some more ginger, and as always, I’ll film a little video and take you along.