Extension Vegetable Crops July, 1 LI6
Mimeo Report 66-1
.. ( JUL 11 1972
GROWING THE JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE IN FLORIDA
Prepared by I.F.A.S. Univ. of Florida
James M. Stephens
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist
Florida Agricultural Extension Service
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) is a tuberous, perennial
vegetable better adapted to the northern parts of the country than to Florida.
Various American Indians grew it for centuries as a staple food. They referred
to it as girasole, while the French prefer to call it topinambour. Some in
the U. S. have named it the American artichoke. It should not be confused
with the probably better known globe artichoke of which the edible bud is a
Although the Jerusalem artichoke is not as well adapted to Florida as
other parts of the country, it is grown to some small extent in home gardens
around the state. Planting stock is difficult to maintain through our warm
winters. Since they require 130 days or more to mature, growth extends into
our hot summers, presenting problems which are difficult to overcome.
While the green succulent tops, which may reach as high as 10 feet, are
sometimes used as forage, the edible tubers are most often the main interest
in Florida. These tubers resemble knobby, new Irish potatoes in appearance
and size range. In fact, they are essentially the same anatomically as the
potato, except that the skin is much thinner. Several of these tubers are
borne in the ground about the base of the stems. The plant tops are tall,
quite bushy, and produce yellow flowers similar to their relatives the
sunflowers. Chickens have been known to fatten on the seeds of these flowers.
Unlike the potato, it is very low in starch and relatively high in
fructose sugar. On a fresh weight basis, it has been found to have about
82% moisture, 18% dry matter, 9% fructose, 4% glucose, and 2% crude protein.
Varieties There seem to be no well-defined and described varieties in
use, although one hears the names Mammoth French White, French White Improved,
and Portland used occasionally. Therefore, it is not particularly disastrous
to buy an unknown stock.
Propagation The Jerusalem artichoke is planted from tubers or pieces
of tubers rather than from seed. Small, whole tubers may be used. Larger
ones should be cut up into two-ounce pieces with at least two eyes each.
Planting Time Since the tops are susceptible to injury from frost,
planting should be delayed until danger from killing frost is past. However,
as planting is delayed until late in spring, there will be a greater number
of sprouts from each tuber planted and a subsequent reduction in size of
Planting Distances Plant the seed pieces two feet apart in rows spaced
three and one-half feet apart. A good planting depth is four inches.
Fertilizing While it is not known precisely just how much fertilizer is
best for maximum performance and yields, some general suggestions can be made.
At planting time, two to three pounds of 4-8-8 or 6-8-8 analysis fertilizer
per 100 square feet should be applied. Band it beside the planting furrow so
that it will remain 2 to 3 inches to the side of and slightly below the level
of the tubers. One or two extra applications may be needed later on as the
plants grow, especially following very heavy rains. An additional one pound
of the same fertilizer per 100 square feet appears sufficient for each of
Insects and Diseases There appear to be few if any insects or diseases
attacking this vegetable.
Sources of Planting Stock Florida gardeners quite often list artichoke
tubers for sale in the State Department of Agriculture in "Florida Market
Bulletin." In addition, a start may be obtained from one of these.seed
Farmer Seed and Nursery Company Hasting's Seed-Company
Faribault, Minnesota Atlanta, Georgia
Burgess Seed and Plant Company
Harvesting the Tubers When the tubers reach maturity and the tops begin
to die down, the tubers should be dug and stored. In Florida, maturity may be
reached before cool weather in the fall. Up north for maximum yield of tubers,
they are not dug until the tops have died or are killed by frost in the fall.
There would be problems involved with digging them for commercial purposes.
The tops must first be removed, then some mechanical device used to plow out
the tubers. Many such mechanical devices tried so far seem unsuccessful.
Hand digging on a large scale becomes laborious and probably uneconomical.
On a small scale, hand digging with forks is probably the best answer. It
should be pointed out that some problems with the emergence of volunteer
plants the second year may be encountered,
Storage Being very thin-skinned, the tubers dry out and shrivel quickly
when dug if not .placed into cold storage immediately. They should be held at
320 F and with high humidity. Up ndrth, those left undug in the soil seem to
remain in good condition through the winter. How well they will last in this
manner under our Florida winter conditions remains to be seen.
Generally, these tubers may be used in most any manner that potatoes are
commonly used, but have a sweeter more nutty taste than potatoes. They may be
sliced thin and eaten raw as in mixed salad, or cooked and served like potato
salad. According to some, it makes a dainty puree and mingles with fish and
meat stews appetizingly. ;As the main ingredient in a casserole dish, it is
delightful topped off with melted cheese. It is reported that savory pickles
are made by adding spiced boiling vinegar. Some say that soaking in salt and
water for 30 minutes after cleaning improves the edible quality.
Due to its low starch content and high fructose content, there is much
interest in the Jerusalem artichoke as a health food for diabetic patients
(Note this statement is not meant as a recommendation for the use of
Jerusalem artichokes as a health food).
The tubers of Jerusalem artichoke have been used by many botanists in
physiological studies, as the material responds well to various auxins.
They have primarily used it to study certain basic aspects of plant
metabolism, much like the way the guinea pig is used in animal studies.
Furthermore, it has been grown as a source of alcohol in France, and
as hog feed in other countries.
As a basis for the information presented, the following publications
have been reviewed: "Horticulture," May 1943; "Flower Grower," May 1965;
"American Journal of Botany," December, 1956 and June 1957; "Journal of
Agricultural Research," October, 1929; "Proceedings of the American Society
of Horticultural Science," 1936; U.S.D.A. Leaflet No. 116, March, 1959; and
Gray's Manual of Botany.
References given herein are supplied with the understanding that no
discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Florida Agricultural
Extension Service is implied.