Many gardeners would know the globe artichoke, a close relative to the thistle family and commonly served in restaurants, but may not be familiar with Jerusalem artichokes. These plants are very closely related to the sunflower and are often mistaken for one when they develop their bright yellow flowers in autumn.
It’s not the flowers that are consumed but the knobbly tubers that develop just under the soil surface. These tubers have a distinct nutty flavour and crunchy texture and are used in soups, soufflés and vegetable pies.
Tubers should be planted about 30cm apart as the soil warms up and any time from late August is ideal. Soil preparation is important as the more fertile the soil, the better the crop. Plants can be trimmed back to encourage bushy growth and will flower through autumn.
As the plant starts to die back the tubers are ready to harvest but due to the moisture content within them, they are best consumed soon after pulled out of the ground as they dry out very quickly. It’s best to plant tubers for the next season back into pots or a garden bed for winter or they will tend to shrivel up and not be viable when it’s time to plant them again.
Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state. You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.