The sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, is a variety of perennial sunflower grown for its edible low-starch tuber which looks much like a small potato but tastes like a water chestnut. Sunchoke tubers can be planted in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. They are best planted in soil that has warmed to 50°F. In warm-winter regions sunchokes can be planted in winter. Sunchokes require 110 to 150 days to reach harvest.
Description. The sunchoke is a hardy perennial that grows from 5 to 10 feet tall. The plant has rough-textured leaves 4 to 8 inches long and is topped with small yellow flowers 2 to 3 inches across. Sunchokes will survive a hard freeze if protected by a layer of soil or mulch. Tubers rapidly spread and divide but can be controlled by root barriers.
The name Jerusalem artichoke is a misnomer: the plant is not related to the artichoke, though the sunchoke's flavor may be reminiscent of the artichoke. The plant is not from Jerusalem: the name is probably derived from the Italian name for a sunflower, girasole, which means turning to the sun.
Yield. Plant 5 to 10 sunchokes for each household member.
Site. Plant sunchokes in full sun. The sunchoke prefers loose, well-drained soil but will grow almost anywhere. Add aged compost or sand to planting beds before planting; loose soil will make tuber harvesting easier. The sunchoke prefers a soil pH from 5.8 to 6.2. It is best to set sunchokes in a dedicated bed; once established they will spread rapidly and may require some effort to remove. The sunchoke can be planted densely to form a screen or windbreak.