It is November. Soon winter is coming and it is time to harvest the Jerusalem artichoke before the ground is full of frost. Whether to harvest in October, November or not at all depends on the climate but in Denmark the ground is usually frozen in November.
The easiest way to harvest Jerusalem artichoke is using a garden fork and your hands. I usually persuade my husband to do the digging while I sit my knees, keeping a close eye, ready to grap the small tubers when lifted from the ground. Even though not related, the tubers reminds me of potatoes because of the way they grow and are harvested.
Despite the name, Jerusalem artichoke is not related to artichokes either. Some say the flavour reminds them of artichoke but I find the flavour more nutty, especially when eaten raw.
Tubers of Jerusalem artichoke.
Remove all tubers
When harvesting Jerusalem artichoke try to remove as many tubers as possible. Even the smallest tuber will grow into a big plant the following year so unless you want a massive wall of Jerusalem artichokes, remove as many as you can. I wouldn’t call the Jerusalem artichoke invasive but don’t leave the plants unattended for a few years.
Secure next years harvest
For some years I have left approximately 15 tubers behind, wanting to make sure I had enough plants the following year. Like a breeder of pedigree dogs, I planted only the biggest and most beautiful tubers, hoping the offspring would take on the qualities from their parents.
I have never seriously given it much thought if it worked or not, at least not until now.
Last year, for some reason, I didn’t pay much attention to leaving the right tubers behind. I guess, I figured I would get plenty of Jerusalem artichokes as always but I was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of the tubers this year are really big and beautiful but unfortunately I didn’t get as many as I am used to. Some of them are really small too.
That is why I will find the biggest and most straight tubers from this years harvest and put them in the ground again, hoping for bigger harvest next year.
Big beautiful tubers. Their appearance look a bit like ginger root.
If you have never grown your own Jerusalem artichokes, try it. They are very easy to grow and you cannot get it wrong. Buy the tubers from a garden centre or get them from a friend and plant them in well-prepaired soil in March or April. The planting depth should be 10-15 cm and the tubers 30 cm apart.
In a few months the plants will reach a height of 150-300 cm and get beautiful yellow flowers. The Jerusalem artichoke is related to the sunflower and you will see a resemblance in both leaves, stems and flowers.
Leave the plants until autumn and start harvesting.
Newly washed tubers. Ready to dry before storing.
I have heard people say that Jerusalem artichokes only last a few weeks in the fridge and a bit longer if stored in a cool, dark place but I have managed to store mine for a lot longer, almost for a year.
When harvested, wash the tubers in order to get rid of any soil. Now leave them to dry before handling them any further. You don’t want the tubers to get warm, you just need them to dry. If they get too warm, they will start to soften and get really wrinkly. They will still be edible but they will have lost their crunch.
I usually leave them on a big tray or in a basket in the barn for up to a week in order to dry. They are perfectly fine as long as the tubers don’t get too warm or cold (frost).
When dry, I put them in a box made of polystyrene. The box will help keep the frost away but you still need to check on them once in a while, especialley if the weather gets really cold.
Put a layer of tubers in the box, add a layer of paper and then a new layer of tubers. Keep on going till the box is full or the tubers used.
The paper separates the layers, keeping them nice and dry. Should one tuber start to rotten, remove it and the ones around it. The rest should be fine. Keep the box in a cool place but not cold. You want the temperature in box to be 5-10 degrees Celsius.
If any tubers are left when you reach spring, put them in the ground or give them to friends and family.