Artichokes - Chinese
Chinese artichokes do best in a sunny position on most reasonably fertile, free-draining soils, although they do best of all on lighter, sandy soils. Plant the tubers 2-3in deep and 12in apart in spring as the soil begins to warm up. If growing more than one row, allow 18in between rows.
Keep the soil well watered in dry spells. The plants will make top growth of around 18in as the summer progresses. Do not harvest the strings of 2in long tubers until the foliage has died down in the autumn and then only harvest them as required, as they do not store for long once lifted from the soil. They are perfectly hardy and can be lifted through the winter. If the ground is required for another crop, lift the tubers and store them in boxes of sand in a cool place.
The tubers can be eaten raw in salads or stir fried or steamed – they are quite versatile, have a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour. After steaming, they are delicious tossed in butter and finely chopped parsley.
Artichokes - Jerusalem
Plant the tubers as early in spring as possible, as later plantings reduce yields and tuber size. Plant the tubers about 4in deep and about 12in apart. If growing more than one row, allow 3ft between rows. They do well on most moderately fertile, free draining soils and enjoy a sunny position, ideally sheltered from strong winds. They are, however, completely hardy, and are fairly unfussy as to their growing conditions.
Water the plants well in dry spells. Keep the crop free from weeds with occasional hoeing. As the plants begin to grow taller, draw up a little soil round the stems to prevent wind-rock. The tubers generally start to form around August. The plants will reach a height of 6ft or more.
Allow all the foliage to die away completely in the autumn before cutting it down to within 6in of soil level. If the foliage is removed earlier the tubers will stop growing and so yields become diminished. The tubers can be stored in the ground until required for the kitchen, as they will not be harmed by freezing conditions. Alternatively, lift them towards the end of November and store them in boxes of dry sand in a cool environment. Jerusalem artichokes can be heavy croppers, often yielding 3-4lb of tasty tubers per root. A word of warning – ensure you lift all the tubers if you are intending to plant a different crop the following year, as Jerusalem artichokes can produce “volunteer” (self-set) plants.
The tubers can be eaten raw, cooked like potatoes or even pickled! When they were first brought over from America, the tubers were generally boiled, peeled, sliced and then stewed with spices wine and butter. They were also baked in pies with dates, raisins and root ginger. Try boiling them in milk as an accompaniment to roast beef or pork.
Traditional knobbly Jerusalem artichokes are not particularly east to scrub or peel, but Marshalls Fuseau has much smoother skin and is much easier to prepare. For general use, boil them like potatoes, but for no more than 10 minutes. Jerusalem artichokes have a unique, rather smoky, earthy flavour. They are low in starch and very nutritious.