Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jerusalem Artichokes (Also Called Sunroots) and Jacaranda Trees

Source: Wikipedia
The time to grow Jerusalem artichokes in my region is past (January and February), but come September, I'm going to plant a big crop of them.

Jerusalem and Globe artichokes are part of my plan to grow as many perennial edibles as possible, providing my family with food year after year without my having to replant/re-seed.

As I mentioned when we unveiled our AtoZ Challenge themes, my life goal is to develop a food forest at home which provides 80-90% of our vegetables, herbs and fruit 12 months a year without making gardening a fulltime job /time-consuming/stressful /expensive activity.

I hope to reach that target by the summer of 2018.

Growing Jerusalem artichokes

Site selection: Site selection is critical when it comes to growing Jerusalem artichokes. Any tubers you leave in the ground when you harvest will bring forth another crop of artichokes, which is great if you want them perennially but irritating if your resources are limited and you want to use the site for something else.

So if you have a big garden, make sure you plant them in an area where you won't mind if they keep coming back. If your garden is small to tiny, plant them in big containers.

Also, Jerusalem artichokes grow very tall, which means that they can cast shade over some of your crops. So co-plant them with shade-loving vegetables.

Soil preparation:  Jerusalem artichokes like composted, well-drained soil. I'm going to plant mine on a former rubbish dump. When I was growing up, the village did not have refuse removal. We dug a big hole  in a corner near the kitchen and threw food wastes in there. Plastic and paper products we burnt every week or so.

The planting process: Like potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes are grown with tubers. You just put them around 10-15cm (4-6in) deep and 30 cm (12in) apart and water the site.

Caring for the plants: You don't have to water Jerusalem artichokes unless you are experiencing severe drought. I also read that they are not prone to disease either. How cool is that?

When the stems are around 30cm (12in) tall though, draw some soil around the plants to a depth of around 30cm 15cm (6in) to help stabilise them as they grow. When they've grown to a foot or so, mulch the area around the plants with grass clippings and rotting leaves to help them retain soil moisture.

Around midsummer, when your Jerusalem artichokes are around 1.5m (5ft), cut back the stems including flowerheads. This ensures that they are not rocked by the wind and you won't have to stake them either.

Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes: Begin harvesting your artichokes in late Autumn in cold areas and mid-winter in milder areas. To harvest, you dig them out with a fork much like you'd do with potatoes, making sure that you take out all the tubers if you're not planning to grow the plant there again. 

Like potatoes, you can wash and dry the artichoke tubers and then store them in a cool area. They can also keep in the fridge for months.

Serving suggestions: I've only ever had artichokes in restaurants and friends' houses, so while I'm sure what I like, I've never had the chance to experiment with different recipes. I've had them boiled, with a touch of salt, herbs and butter and also as a roasted dish, cooked much like roast potatoes. 
I'm looking forward to  experimenting with them once I have a crop growing. Meanwhile, please feel free to share your favourite Jerusalem artichoke recipes.

A short tribute to Jacarandas

I also want to pay tribute to Jacaranda trees  while I have a chance. Every year from October through December, jacaranda trees bloom in South Africa and Johannesburg, the city where I lived for over 20 years bursts with colour.

To give you perspective, Johannesburg is the largest man-made forest in the world, with at least 6 million trees counted by the City of Johannesburg municipality and thousands of these trees are jacarandas, resulting in a layer of purple lining street after street.

The photo below is of a street in my Johannesburg suburb, not too far from where I still have a house. I love going for long walks during this period. Somehow this profusion of colour always sings to me.

Photo by Jean Collen, mother of a close friend in a post about the suburb

This picture is also for Hilary Melton-Butcher, who is also taking part in the AtoZ Challenge. Here is another piece of my South Africa/Johannesburg for you.


  1. Liked this post as well as the previous one. Not sure if my last post got published..

    1. Thank you Tayanta. Both your comments were published. As to your suggestion to publish this series as a book, it's a good one and on Monday I approached two local publisher to find out if they might be interested and then submitted official proposals. I hope they bite, but if not, I'm going to publish the book digitally through my own company, Damaria Senne Media.I'd rather go with a mainstream publisher for this particular book, because they have a better distribution network locally, and the gardening issues are specific to the summer rainfall region afterall, not globally, though of course there are enough similarities to be usable elsewhere.

  2. You can think of doing these collections in book form later :-).

  3. Beautiful trees! I LOVE artichokes, but I wonder if these are similar to the ones I'm accustomed to consuming. Yummy.

    1. If yours are Jerusalem, the type that brings out yellow flowers and are in the sunflower family, then yes, it's the same type. There is the globe artichoke too, but I think other than the name they're not even in the same family (leafy whorls?)

  4. Jacaranda is my favorite tree!

  5. Hi Damaria .. I love Jerusalem artichokes as well as globe ones - they are so delicious. Thank you so much for the Jacaranda trees - healthy reminders of their beautiful hazy purple they spread around .. I'd no idea there were so many trees in Jhb ... did you know the Jacaranda is considered a weed from Brazil - I'd hate to get rid of them though .. I loved Jacaranda time .. cheers Hilary