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The great big thread of sunchoke info - growing, storing, eating/recipes, science facts

 
Posts: 28
Location: West-central Pennsylvania
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I've noticed very little grass or other weeds in any of my well established 'choke patches too. Strawberries do very well along the edges and creep way into the patch, but I tear them up when I dig. There were two lambsquarters that popped up in the spring, but they only grew to about 16" - 20" while others around grew 4' - 6'. The first two years I had horseradish mixed in the Stampede patch and it did very well. The third year and after, it stunted badly and refused to spread. I had a nice bundle of Day lilies started where the Stampedes are, they keep popping up really well and I keep digging them up and moving them. Some stuff doesn't do well, while others don't seem to be affected. I'd try them around that Johnson grass to see how they do. You may not see much effect the first year or two, but by the third year they might just kick butt!
 
pollinator
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Blaine Clark wrote:I've noticed very little grass or other weeds in any of my well established 'choke patches too. Strawberries do very well along the edges and creep way into the patch, but I tear them up when I dig. There were two lambsquarters that popped up in the spring, but they only grew to about 16" - 20" while others around grew 4' - 6'. The first two years I had horseradish mixed in the Stampede patch and it did very well. The third year and after, it stunted badly and refused to spread. I had a nice bundle of Day lilies started where the Stampedes are, they keep popping up really well and I keep digging them up and moving them. Some stuff doesn't do well, while others don't seem to be affected. I'd try them around that Johnson grass to see how they do. You may not see much effect the first year or two, but by the third year they might just kick butt!



Hey, any experience with sunchokes and poison ivy? If they suppress poison ivy growth, I know exactly where I'd put them!

 
steward & bricolagier
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Diane Kistner wrote:

Hey, any experience with sunchokes and poison ivy? If they suppress poison ivy growth, I know exactly where I'd put them!


Oh good idea! I had an elm tree cut, it was solid poison ivy all the way up, and 95% strangled to death by it. I know where there is some I haven't dug out yet.
 
Blaine Clark
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Location: West-central Pennsylvania
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Lordy-Lordy!! You've got me thinking too! We've got some Japanese Knotweed around town and it's spreading. I'm going to present this idea to the area garden club and see if it'll fly! If they can arrange to get me access and permission to seed some tubers into a patch or two of JK we'll see what happens.
 
pollinator
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Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I noticed I had no weeds under the sunchokes, if they are allelopathic, are they mean enough to take out Johnson Grass? That would ROCK. I have big patch in a spot chokes would LOVE, and I can't put anything else in there due to rowdy grass.
:D




Wow! That would be something! and yes, there is *some* allelopathy of *some* plants to helianthus tuberosus.
This study shows allelopathy to the germination process of some plants. My quack grass and the Johnson grass, unfortunately are perennials growing from a rhizome. Once they germinate the game is pretty much over.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254214667_Allelopathic_Effects_of_Helianthus_Tuberosus_L_on_Germination_and_Seedling_Growth_of_Several_Crops_and_Weeds
I'll tell you, though, that this gives me some ideas: Using the *top* part of the sunchokes, we should try some chop and drop all around the garden as as perimeter of defense: I can usually keep my beds relatively free of quack grass, although it is a never ending fight. If I could chop the tops and integrate them in the ground , I'd like to see what the results would be. Even if it would only weaken the long rascals, it would be worth it! Perhaps in strawberry beds: Once the strawberries are in position it might help them to compete. Chop and drop would also enrich the soil otherwise, so win-win!  :D
 
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I found a few interesting things that I didn't already know about sunchokes here: https://www.appropedia.org/Jerusalem_artichoke
 
pollinator
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My partner is not exactly bonkers about permaculture.  

She tolerates, she's a great sport about it, she plays Farmville.  

But today she totally schooled me.

We were harvesting sunchokes, and I thought I'd gotten most of them up.  My yield, from a corner of the garden the previous time I went by was 5.25 lbs, about 5 portions.  I estimated there was a little corner left, maybe 2.5 lbs.  

Well, she started finding more of the roots deeper down than I had looked.  She dug through the whole bed with her fingers, and kept finding more.  And more. And more.

When we got home and weighed our haul, it came out to 7.25 lbs.  Almost 50% more than what I'd found.  (It's about 50 bulbs I'd guess, a big grocery-bag-full).

"Well that was all you, you grew them," she said.  

"But without you finding them, we wouldn't get to eat them," I said.  (And of course reminded her that it was exactly no effort whatsoever to grow sunchokes)

---
A couple lessons learned on harvesting sunchokes from a newbie here (me) that I hadn't read anywhere before growing and eating—

1 they hide away from the stem.  You think, Here's this big-ass stem, surely the biggest bulb will be right under the stem.  But no, at least here in Boston where the streets are all curved and one-way and none of the street signs make any sense, the sunchokes grow in all kinds of weird patterns.  Up, down, left right.

2 they can be almost a foot deep down, even though the stem goes down only about an inch or two below the surface.

3 they are tastier sautéed fully until they're soft.  Too high heat and they start to burn instead of caramelizing, but medium heat (a 3/8 on a heating element electric stove—sorry, taste) for a longer time will eventually soften them up.

4 Apparently playing Farmville is excellent training for being able to spot sunchokes in the wild.  (Or maybe a super-keen sense of smell.)

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 309
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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It is true that sunchokes will go deeeep! especially in sand!: Like a hot knife in butter! After a first trial where they joyfully invaded my garden [and it took a few years to remove them all] I'd like to give it another shot because the tuber is so generous, and in cold climes, it is great to be able to harvest at any time when the ground is not frozen. I might try to put one in a homer pail with holes, just to see what they'd do: They would have to stay in the pail, but they might be even more contorted Hmmm. Or in one of those half barrels. But I would only be able to plant one or two per container... I think I will try them again outside of the garden and see if I could make a fence: I could use a fence and I don't have to have to get lots of tubers. Outside of the garden, the trick is to keep the deer away: They eat the spears with the same relish I eat asparagus: by the pound. Once the stem is a foot or more, they won't bother it, it seems. Perhaps planting them *later*, when they have a big buffet of other things to eat? Plant them in a high mound so it won't go so deep?
I have the whole winter to think it through...
 
pollinator
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I've been growing some in a small raised bed. Admittedly, it was not a great setup and mostly wood shavings from someone raised a bunch of chicks. With a few initial waterings and then complete abandonment they somehow managed to multiply. I then pulled them up in fall and forgot about them in the fridge. Planted them back late spring. Again, total abandonment. Last fall I harvested a lot more.
Then this year there was a family health scare, I was super busy with the sheep, the health scare continued, sheep drama,... And now it is getting to be winter weather and I admit.. The tubers are there in the container in the fridge having not been planted this year.

I'm planning to get some hogs in the spring and start turning some brushy woods into silvopasture. I will be seeding behind the sheep and pigs and am hoping to pop sunchokes through the area as well. More food for the pigs.
 
pollinator
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I finally grew sunchokes this year, never having even tasted them. They're big, impressive plants, which was very satisfying to see given that almost everything I grow is stunted in my very poor soil.

I was showing them off to my dad when he was over one day when he told me they "taste like shit." Uh oh. My dad and I like a lot of the same stuff, so that worried me a little.

I dug them up a couple weeks ago and tentatively bit into one. Ahhh!!! They taste like sunflower shoots! I looove sunflower shoots! Crisis averted. Ive got them in buckets of wet sand in a hole in the ground, so hopefully they keep like that.

One thing I hadn't realized is that the stalks root agressively. I grew them on an unfinished hugel bed and was piling dirt around them throughout the fall. Some of the branches got buried and started growing tubers. I see how they could get out of hand in a hurry.

IMG_20191024_152542908.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20191024_152542908.jpg]
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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kadence blevins wrote:I've been growing some in a small raised bed. Admittedly, it was not a great setup and mostly wood shavings from someone raised a bunch of chicks. With a few initial waterings and then complete abandonment they somehow managed to multiply. I then pulled them up in fall and forgot about them in the fridge. Planted them back late spring. Again, total abandonment. Last fall I harvested a lot more.
Then this year there was a family health scare, I was super busy with the sheep, the health scare continued, sheep drama,... And now it is getting to be winter weather and I admit.. The tubers are there in the container in the fridge having not been planted this year.

I'm planning to get some hogs in the spring and start turning some brushy woods into silvopasture. I will be seeding behind the sheep and pigs and am hoping to pop sunchokes through the area as well. More food for the pigs.



The hogs'rooting habits should help you really clear the area. Perhaps the fact that sunchokes have deep roots will save the sunchokes from getting *all* of them uprooted and devoured. This should give a chance to the sunchokes to regenerate? Will you be making several paddocks, just in case?
When you say "It was not a great setup", could you be more specific? What went wrong? Was the bed too shallow? too deep? with the chicken poop was it too rich in nitrogen and you got more green growth but few tubers? What kind of soil do you have there? "Inquiring people want to know"  
 
pollinator
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All this talk of sunchokes going DEEP in sand has got me thinking.

I've got a sandy hillside that is subsiding towards a road. It's at least 4' deep of sand. Almost as bad, it's crowded with invasive blackberry. I wonder if I got sunchokes started on it, if they would perennialize and solve both problems? Do they ever spread down a slope? I'm planting oak through it as a long-term erosion solution, but that will obviously take years to establish. Deer come up through there and would keep the sunchokes browsed.

Sunchokes for erosion control + sacrificial deer barrier...
 
Blaine Clark
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Fredy Perlman wrote:
Sunchokes for erosion control + sacrificial deer barrier...



On sand slopes you need every level of root penetration you can get. Trees are great for reaching down and managing deep anchoring so you might be doing good with oaks. Blackberries have clustered roots as do Sunchokes. Sunchoke roots are tightest a good foot from the crown and the stolens that the tubers grow on can spread up to three feet or more, depending on how loose the soil is, from the crown. Stolens have some fibrous root structure, but not a lot, they'll help spread the chokes quickly in the next couple of years which would be good. Another thing to consider is sunlight and shade. If you can get your oaks going good, keep in mind that oaks grown close together tend to compete with each other for light and they will grow tall. If you space them out they won't compete for light and they'll tend to grow bushy. Either way, a decade or so from now the area will be shady. Sunchokes need lots of sun, so they'll tend to thin out as the the oaks shadow them. The Blackberries on the other hand, love partial shade, I'd keep and encourage the berries for sure. Now, thinking ahead again, if the type of oaks you're going to use grow tall or wide and bushy, are you fixing one problem while creating another? Will large or tall oaks require you to do a lot of cutting/pruning to prevent traffic hazards in the next 20 to 40 years? You might be further ahead to look into shrubs. As they mature, they shouldn't give you any headaches from there being a road under/next to them. I'd steer away from grasses for quite a while. They're great for surface and immediate subsurface erosion control, but that's also where you don't want competition for young shrubs or other plants, just yet anyway.
I'd also check with your neighborhood experts. https://www.wnps.org/ should be able to help you out tremendously. As for the Sunchokes, planting them wouldn't hurt your situation now or in the immediate future that I can see. But keep in mind that they are allelopathic when they cluster. That means they could stunt other plant growth if they manage to grow really thick over the years.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
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Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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Fredy Perlman wrote:All this talk of sunchokes going DEEP in sand has got me thinking.

I've got a sandy hillside that is subsiding towards a road. It's at least 4' deep of sand. Almost as bad, it's crowded with invasive blackberry. I wonder if I got sunchokes started on it, if they would perennialize and solve both problems? Do they ever spread down a slope? I'm planting oak through it as a long-term erosion solution, but that will obviously take years to establish. Deer come up through there and would keep the sunchokes browsed.
Sunchokes for erosion control + sacrificial deer barrier...



Mine can spread 6 ft in any direction: especially if the soil is sandy  but has some good organic matter with it.. Did you mean you would want the sunchokes browsed or did you mean the blackberries because these are invasive and worthless to you?? Are the blackberries good to eat? I thought that in the State of Washington you can really grow big blackberries. [In the Central sands, they are quite small and in dry years, you only get unpalatable seedy fruit.]
Would you happen to know how low you water table is? Mine is at 10 ft., so even in sandy soil, I can grow quite a few bushes/ trees. What kind of oak [Red or white or???] Our red oak is very scrubby and the roots intertwine, so if one gets sick [oak wilt] they all get sick. Maybe bur oak? They produce sooner than other varieties and because of the protection afforded by the cap, the mast produced is less wormy.  If you are looking to prevent erosion, black locust might be the ticket: They have thorns that will rebuke deer somewhat [as far as crossing a thorny area] , and the more you mistreat the shrub, the more aggressive it grows. You need to be very sure that you will want black locust there forever, because it can be invasive. The deer [white tail here] will browse the black locust some, which actually *encourages* the growth.
Although the roots grow deep, sunchokes are not that great for erosion control: We are still talking  only 1-2 ft deep roots, which is deep for a vegetable, and not very "matty". A tree, any tree will have longer roots. Some prairie grasses do too.If blackberries grow there without much care, you might want to get some blackberries that are more to your liking: Your land seems to invite them. Blackberries can have deep roots too.
Because deer keep eating the young shoots in the spring, you probably will not get the sunchoke to perennialize. You may not get a hedge of them established. Once the shoots have been clipped a few times, there is not enough energy in the sunchoke root to regrow. You also have muleys, in Washington state, and I don't know if they have the same browsing habits as our white tail. If you can prevent the deer from decimating them in the spring, sunchokes might work pretty well, I would plant them on the ridge of a swale: The water trap would make sure you grow nice size sunchokes. Same thing with good blackberries.
I hope this helps.
 
Blaine Clark
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Cécile and Pearl, grasses are gone in my patches and only Strawberries wander in from the edges. Here's how I deal with my tops; I got a cheap-o electric chipper years ago and I use it to chip the tops as I pull them if the tops are really dry, otherwise I stack the tops to get them dry. If you try to chip them when a bit green or wet, the fibers wrap around the cutter head and you've got to shut down, strip down the cover and unwrap the fibers. I scatter the chips over the patches, then when I go back with a sod fork to get the tubers that didn't pull with the tops, I turn the chips in and mix them good and deep. One patch, my Stampedes, alongside the house was a shale driveway many moons ago. The shale is still there of course, but there's so much good black soil now, that shale doesn't give me any problem when digging.
I need to weigh some of the larger Stampedes. I get quite a few the size of baking potatoes, they've got to be at least a pound if not more! When I make pickles I have to quarter some of them to get them to fit through the feeder of the food processor, and that's after cutting the knobs off! It was maybe the third year I grew them in the shale some friends gave me a few bags of rabbit fertilizer. That's the only stuff I've ever put on any of my patches.
Until I got the electric chipper I tried scattering the stalks over the patches and that made digging the next year a bit of a bear since they didn't fully break down in one year's time. I tried piling them and burying them in leaves and dirt. That worked a bit better, but then I had mulch that had enough Sunchoke root bits that I scattered them all over! Everywhere I tossed the composted mulch I had volunteer 'chokes!
 
kadence blevins
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

kadence blevins wrote:I've been growing some in a small raised bed. Admittedly, it was not a great setup and mostly wood shavings from someone raised a bunch of chicks. With a few initial waterings and then complete abandonment they somehow managed to multiply. I then pulled them up in fall and forgot about them in the fridge. Planted them back late spring. Again, total abandonment. Last fall I harvested a lot more.
Then this year there was a family health scare, I was super busy with the sheep, the health scare continued, sheep drama,... And now it is getting to be winter weather and I admit.. The tubers are there in the container in the fridge having not been planted this year.

I'm planning to get some hogs in the spring and start turning some brushy woods into silvopasture. I will be seeding behind the sheep and pigs and am hoping to pop sunchokes through the area as well. More food for the pigs.



The hogs'rooting habits should help you really clear the area. Perhaps the fact that sunchokes have deep roots will save the sunchokes from getting *all* of them uprooted and devoured. This should give a chance to the sunchokes to regenerate? Will you be making several paddocks, just in case?
When you say "It was not a great setup", could you be more specific? What went wrong? Was the bed too shallow? too deep? with the chicken poop was it too rich in nitrogen and you got more green growth but few tubers? What kind of soil do you have there? "Inquiring people want to know"  



Yup the pigs rooting will be strategically utilized. There is going to be many paddocks, some are permanent fenced for the sheep and most will be using electric netting and moved often. The area I will be going over next year is approximately 11acres. Of that, about 5 is very brushy and wooded. Once this area is going well there is about 6.5acres more I can start on in the future that is also wooded and thick brush. I'm posting all about it in my projects thread here. So the animals will be moved through about 3 times each area next year.

It wasn't a great setup in being a small pile of wood shavings with some chick poop. I had some cage wire scrap and piled it in there, planning to add green material and manure for compost. But in planting at the time I ran out of space and figured they'll do better planted than to sit in the fridge several months longer. There was a handful of tubers stuck into it and managed to grow into more than a dozen larger tubers that first year. If I'd have put anything else there I doubt it would have grown. It was about 24inch deep and 30inch across wood shavings. The second year I threw some rabbit manure in and turned it some.

The soil here is clay loam. In regular soil I imagine the sunchokes will really take off growth.
 
Posts: 73
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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They had roasted sunchokes at the office cafeteria one day this week which was probably my first time trying them.  The gas that evening was epic
 
Blaine Clark
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Alex Arn wrote:They had roasted sunchokes at the office cafeteria one day this week which was probably my first time trying them.  The gas that evening was epic



FOL!! That's Fart Out Loud! Four ways to get rid of the gas producing fiber: Freeze for at least a week, cook for at least 6 hours (not very practical unless you've got a stew brewing in a crockpot), ferment them like sauerkraut, refrigerator pickles and Kimchi and the last way is to cook them with an acid such as vinegar or citric acid.
The fiber is called Inulin and those processes convert it into fructose. I live in zone 5. Our winter temps drop to -20°F. When harvested in the spring, they've sweetened up so much they're like eating candy out of the dirt.
 
Alex Arn
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Blaine Clark wrote:
FOL!! That's Fart Out Loud! Four ways to get rid of the gas producing fiber: Freeze for at least a week, cook for at least 6 hours (not very practical unless you've got a stew brewing in a crockpot), ferment them like sauerkraut, refrigerator pickles and Kimchi and the last way is to cook them with an acid such as vinegar or citric acid.
The fiber is called Inulin and those processes convert it into fructose. I live in zone 5. Our winter temps drop to -20°F. When harvested in the spring, they've sweetened up so much they're like eating candy out of the dirt.



Thanks, I had been rethinking my plan to plant some next spring but its good to know there are ways to avoid it.  I enjoyed eating them but not the after effects
 
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