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September Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Jerusalem Artichoke

The tallest perennial in our garden is the Jerusalem Artichoke. Helianthus tuberosus is a perennial sunflower native to the Eastern United States. This is a great plant for the Fall garden at the back of the border.

Also known as Sunchokes, the Jerusalem Artichoke is a perennial plant that grows from a tuber. The tuber is edible and can be used like a water chestnut in salads or stirfry.

The flower is a lovely sunflower type bloom. The golden yellow blooms attract all kinds of pollinators. The blooms are fragrant and smell like chocolate!

Our patch of Sunchokes is over 10 feet tall this year, thanks to all the rain we received early in the Summer.

Native Americans ate the tubers and traded them to other tribes. Once European settlers moved in an found out about this native tuber that could be used like a root vegetable, they began shipping the tubers back home to Europe. The tubers were truly appreciated by the French who like adding it to soups.

Contrary to what you might think, Jerusalem Artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem and they are not artichokes. The tubers might taste something like an artichoke. These tubers became so popular in the early 1600's that they were cultivated as a crop and shipped to other areas. They have sense naturalized and it is now impossible to know the original native range. They can be found growing from Canada and the state of Maine, as far West as North Dakota and Texas and down South into Flo
rida.

If you'd like to have a patch of Sunchokes, keep in mind that they multiply more than rabbits! Each little piece of tuber will make another plant. So once you have Sunchokes, you'll always have them. This is truly a perennial you can plant and forget.

Jerusalem Artichoke tubers are best dug in Fall or Winter, depending on your climate. Clean dry tubers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. They are good eaten raw in salads or sliced into stirfries or steamed and eaten like a potato. Sunchokes are a nutritious tuber high in protein and iron and surprisingly low in starch. Unfortunately, the tubers cause severe flatulence in some people, so you might not want to eat them before going out.

And of course, leave it to the Germans to figure out a way to make a liquor out of Jerusalem Artichokes! In Germany, the tubers are made into a type of Brandy and other types of alcoholic beverages.

Due to its wide growing range, Jerusalem Artichokes can obviously be grown all over the United States. Plant them in full sun in soil well amended with compost. Once the plants emerge, mulch them well to retain moisture and keep down weeds. Water well during periods of drought to encourage larger tubers for eating.

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