Why Preppers Should Consider Growing Jerusalem Artichoke

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By the author of The Faithful Prepper and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications.

I’m really trying to boost my food production at my place this year, and it’s gotten me thinking about what plants I want to add to my place to do so. For years now, I’ve wanted to experiment with Jerusalem artichoke. I find it in the mountains when I go hiking (it’s pretty easy to identify), I see it in the garden catalogs, but it’s yet to find its way over to my place.

This year, I’m hoping to change that.

Here are some of the reasons you may want to add Jerusalem artichoke to your place as well.

Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke is a perennial.

This is one of the things that Rick Austin and Gaia’s Garden really harp on consistently – the importance of planting perennials if you want to have any semblance of permaculture. You can plant this stuff one time, and provided you don’t over-harvest, you’ll have a steady crop of it for years to come.

(Looking for more information on how to stay well-fed post-disaster? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out.)

J-choke multiplies like a weed.

Though it’s a native American plant, you would think this stuff came from overseas – the stuff spreads like wildfire. It’s fun to see patches of it spread out in the mountains over the years. The same can happen in your garden. Plant J-choke in one location, and it won’t be long till it gradually spreads, much like asparagus. To my mind, that’s a big win here.

Not only do I get food every year after one afternoon’s work, but it’s a food that multiplies itself exponentially as time goes on (much akin to planting a fruit tree – a few minutes of planting and years’ worth of harvest).

The tubers are akin to potatoes.

Jerusalem artichoke

This is where I start to jump out of the realm of personal experience. I’ve never eaten Jerusalem artichokes, nor have I ever eaten turtle. I want to try both. I first discovered that these things were edible after reading Euell Gibbon’s wonderful book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. The man’s family almost starved to death during the Dust Bowl. It was his foraging that enabled his family to eat, and Jerusalem artichokes were apparently one of the foods he would gather.

On pages 26-27 of his book, Gibbons outlines a number of recipes for J-chokes, noting they can be eaten in salads, pickled, fried, boiled/mashed, made into casseroles, and more.

They store well in the ground.

I suppose this goes without saying, seeing that they’re a perennial and all, but Gibbons notes that you can use your ground as a root cellar if you don’t harvest them. They’ll stick around and still be alright to eat. Curiously, if you dig them up and try to store them in your home, they don’t do as well. Much like little kids, they like the dirt.

They can be harvested throughout the winter.

Think about this for a moment. How many other plants are there out there that can provide you with a fresh food source during the winter? The winter is not typically a harvest time, and I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Jerusalem artichokes. According to Gibbons, they can be dug up after frost throughout the winter anytime that the ground isn’t frozen.

If we turn to the not-so-hypothetical instance of relatives showing up at your place post-collapse, and now you have extra mouths to feed, this can serve as a means of putting extra food on the plate. To me, these really come across as the perfect food survival cache as well. Provided you know where your J-choke stand is on your property (and you could have several), you could have a consistent source of food winter long should the proverbial evil biker gang move through your area ransacking homes.

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Is Jerusalem artichoke worth adding to your property?

I think without a doubt, yes. For far too long, this has been on my “I really want to do this” list, but other things keep popping up that keep me from getting around to it. This year, I want that to change. There are simply too many benefits to this awesome creation to not.

What are your thoughts, though? Are there other benefits to Jerusalem artichoke that I didn’t list here? Do you have any tips for growing this plant? Have you had successes or failures with it? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has three published books, The Faithful Prepper The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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Aden Tate

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  • They store BEST in the ground and due to thin skin dry out quickly in the open or fridge. I have grown them for 35 years, The do get weedy but yields can be tremendous. Can make you flatulent. They are the sweetest just before the start to sprout in the spring when much of the starch converts to sugars. White mold can be a problem if the are grown too long in one location and can devastate a crop in short order if not contained. Other than white mold they are nearly pest free and never really need any kind of pesticide or such treatment.

  • give groundnut a try (apios americana). takes more that one year to get a crop but excellent nutrition profile and taste.

  • I grew these a few years back. They were delicious! HOWEVER, be aware that they can cause “gastric distress” in some people. And, by that I mean, OMG, I’m gonna die, worst most painful cramping I’ve ever had. Sadly, nothing could make me try them again.

    • Yup! Same issue. So painful. I have a massive plot I need to dig up as I cannot handle the pain.

      • Lacto Fermentation removes the painful gas part. I too had that experience, no more just a good prune type effect. Delicious to boot!

  • I am with you on all points, except one…NO TURTLES. Turtles are innocent, intelligent little creatures whose smiles and antics will do more to cheer your spirits than a mouth full of muddy, gamey flesh. Besides, many once-common turtles are now endangered. So, leave the turtles alone!

  • There’s a reason these are called “Fartichokes”. We planted quite a few last year, but no matter how we prepared them, they caused gastric distress. This was true even when younger people ate them……painful rolling gut bombs. No problem, I thought. I’ll ferment them and that will make them digestible! Nope. Same response from all our little gut friends. The native people roasted them in a pit over coals for 3 days. I’ll try that next, before giving up entirely.

  • I love Jerusalem artichokes. Stir fry is my favorite but baked, dried boiled pickled et give them variety. My older boys liked them fried with onions just like I did potatoes. All of my family liked them. I’m starting a new plot with a dozen plants. Once established ill start more. My old ones had died out here in desert country while I always away a few years. They don’t need much care but over a decade of drought did them in.
    I’m thrilled to have a new start this spring. Also adding asparagus from seed. They won’t be ready for cutting for a long time but they can get established next to my older bed.
    The knobby roots of this sunflower were a good part of my survival food for 10 month living off of the land years ago. Not starchy but crisp and firm. A unique flavor. They made acorn patties, miners lettuce and such less boring by adding a crunchy crisp texture, a different flavor, eaten raw or cooked but I like cooked far better. It added variety.
    When I was younger I didn’t know they had different colors. Much as potatoes do. Mostly shades of white, cream, and red skinned.
    I like that they keep returning each spring and are very east to care for. Here they need a good soaking once in a long while. No special feeding or other care.

  • We grew them years ago. Worked as advertised. They tend to thin out after 5-8 years. You’ll need to dig up the bed and replant or they’ll die out. “Perennial” is a relative term, apparently.

  • I am intrigued and excited to learn of the J-choke as a food source. One source I have read says that J- Choke caused excessive flatulence and severe digestive tract pain….. can this be curbed with use of Bean-o type products?

  • I’ve grown them for quite a few years. I have both the white and red skinned varieties. The white ones are more round and seem to produce quite a bit more. The red skinned variety is more cylindrical and long and probably has a different nutrient profile because the color is different. You can’t tell the difference between them by the appearance of the plant above ground. If you dig them up and store them they tend to turn spongy and soft, not a good thing, so use them as soon as you harvest them. My wife slices them and cooks them with Brussels sprouts, they seem to complement each other and the result is very tasty. Rabbits and other critters love them and will dig them up and eat them during the off season, so protect them with a fence.

    In late fall after it frosts and the canes die off I take loppers and cut off the canes just above ground and grind up the dead canes with a compost grinder. I then cover up the patch with a thick layer of straw or hay (whatever is available) over the winter, then remove it after the ground thaws out in the spring. Then I fertilize with equal parts soft rock phosphate and high calcium lime, and cover that with a layer of compost.

    They are very worthwhile growing, and can be eaten both cooked and raw.

  • I planted some last year along my fence line. The deer mowed them down as soon as they started up.

  • I like them just sauteed in a bit of butter, maybe add some salt and pepper at the table. They grow well in Georgia red dirt, and can self-propagate underground to the point that they can become difficult to contain, should that be necessary in your particular situation. In many cases this is an excellent feature, but in some situations it can be an unwanted bug.

    • I found them at a local grocery store, planted them and now have 2 very large planters full! I keep them in pots so they don’t spread and dump out the pots onto a tarp to pick out the ones for transplanting to more pots. They were slow growing the 1st year but took off the 2nd year.

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