Jerusalem artichokes

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Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a sunflower of the daisy family (Asteraceae) that grows wild in vast quantities in North and Central America. The first part of the botanical name derives from the Greek words "helios" for sun and "anthos" for flower. The second part is Latin: "tuber" means tuber. The German name Topinambur, on the other hand, is based on a misunderstanding - a French explorer brought some of the Tupinambá tribes to Paris in the 17th century. The tuber-sunflower was assigned to this people for some reason. The vegetables then kept its name until today. Correct is both "the" and "the" Jerusalem artichoke.

After a wedding in which Jerusalem artichoke was considered a delicacy, the vegetables were more and more displaced by the potato in the 18th century, as their tubers were better stored and they were easier to incorporate into a crop rotation. In recent years, the Jerusalem artichoke tuber has been rediscovered for its health-promoting ingredients. In Germany, the tuber is mainly in Baden, but also popular in Lower Saxony. Above all, the people of Baden know the "Topi" or "Rossler", a schnapps made of Jerusalem artichoke tubers. Other names include Jerusalem Artichoke, Earth Sunflower, Eternity Potato, Tuber Sunflower, Earth Artichoke or Sugar Potato.

Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichoke tubers are especially popular in Baden and Lower Saxony

Appearance and growth

Jerusalem artichoke is a perennial that grows between two and three meters high. From the tubers form green, round and rough hairy stems, which branch in the upper part. On them are stalked, egg-shaped, also rough hairy leaves with a length between 10 and 25 centimeters. The bright yellow flower baskets, which are very reminiscent of sunflower blossoms, have a diameter of five to ten centimeters, sit in cymes on the long stems and appear from August on and then into September. The perennial forms foothills that end in turnip-shaped to roundish tubers. These store inulin and serve as a means of over-wintering. The appearance of the potato-sized tubers is very variable depending on the variety: they may be reminiscent in shape of pears, spindles, apples or ginger rolls and be violet or brown colored. The inside of the tubers is white.

Exuberant Jerusalem artichoke tuber

From the subterranean foothills with tubers drive out in the spring new shoots

Location and ground

Jerusalem artichoke is an easy-to-cultivate vegetable. It tolerates temperatures well below freezing in winter. The location should be sunny, the soil is less calcareous, humic and slightly sandy. But beware: The perennial proliferates heavily. If you assign a perennial herb with a root barrier, you have virtually no work with it. In addition, you can plant the vegetables on the edge of the vegetable garden or along a garden fence, where the up to three-meter-high greenhouse offers attractive privacy from July to November.

Crop rotation and mixed culture

Since the plant proliferates heavily, it should be planted away from other vegetables or with a root barrier. After a few years, when the harvest is lower, the Jerusalem artichoke should either move to another place in the garden, or you can pull your own offspring from the tubers.


The best planting times are spring (mid-March to late April) and autumn (October and November). Lay the tubers like potatoes 60 x 50 centimeters into the ground, about five to ten centimeters deep. If you enrich the soil with some compost before planting, you will get a good start for your Jerusalem artichoke.


Occasionally, treat the tubers with compost and pour only on sandy soil and in periods of drought. In the spring, excess shoots, if they are knee-high, can be pulled out.

Harvest Jerusalem artichokes

The tubers can be harvested from October. Each plant produces between 8 and 10 daughter tubers

Harvest and recovery

The tubers are harvested as potatoes and as needed, so the whole winter, as long as the ground is not frozen. Depending on the variety, the Jerusalem artichoke tubers are ready for harvest from October. A sure indication of the beginning of the harvest season is that the herb turns brown. Per planted tuber you can get about ten times the amount from the ground. The only disadvantage that the Jerusalem artichoke has over the potato and why the latter has prevailed, is the lack of shelf life. The thin shell does not protect the tuber from drying out, so it should always be stored as cool and moist as possible. For this reason, you should re-plant part of the tubers immediately after harvesting - or process quickly.
You can use the nutty or artichoke-like tuber with or without peel, raw or cooked: sauté them in butter with or without spices, cook a fine soup out of it, process them into rösti or puree, or enjoy them as finely planed as Jerusalem artichoke carpaccio and salad with a light vinaigrette. Quickly sprinkle the cut surfaces with lemon juice so they do not turn brown.

Jerusalem artichoke carpaccio

Whether in a salad, as a soup or drizzled with oil as a carpaccio: The tubers are tasty and healthy

Jerusalem artichoke as a medicinal plant

For several years, Jerusalem artichoke has been increasingly regarded as a healthy vegetable. Because: Unlike the potato, the Jerusalem artichoke tuber contains no starch, but inulin. This multiple sugar makes the root vegetables so valuable because it passes undigested through the stomach and small intestine. The inulin is first broken down in the colon. There it serves bacterial strains as food and promotes a healthy intestinal flora with regular consumption.
Thanks to its satiating effect and low calorie content, Jerusalem artichoke is also used as a dietary supplement. Since inulin does not affect the blood sugar level, thus curbing the appetite, Jerusalem artichokes are also recommended as diabetic vegetables.


The Jerusalem artichoke tuber is winter-resistant, can withstand temperatures well below freezing and is therefore ideal for harvesting when needed. So that the soil does not freeze and you also come to the tubers late in the year, it is worth covering the soil with straw or hay.

variety Tips

The Jerusalem artichoke variety 'Gute Gelbe' has rounded, even and smooth tubers and is considered the best type of food. 'Bianca' is a weak-growing variety with cylindrical to pear-shaped tubers. It is up to two and a half feet high. 'Gigant' is an early variety with cylindrical to pear-shaped tubers. 'Fuesau' forms roundish daughter tubers. 'Red Zone Balls' is a late variety with large, round-oval tubers. 'Forest spindle' is medium late and has spindle-shaped, slightly reddish tubers.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers are available from purple to brown

Jerusalem artichoke tubers are available from purple to brown


In principle, Jerusalem artichoke can also be propagated by sowing, but setting tubers in autumn or spring is far easier and more practicable. It is important that the tubers freshly cleared for the propagation of the perennials are put back into the soil right away, as they dry out quickly.

Diseases and pests

Occasionally, the real or the downy mildew on the plants on - in general, Jerusalem artichoke is very robust. However, the perennial sunflower is very popular with voles. Although moles do not eat the rhizomes, their grave activity can cause damage to the roots.


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