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

 
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I added two more varieties of sunchokes and they cross pollinated and produced seeds, thanks to the soldier beetles. I checked a few immature seedhead and each had a few to dozen seeds inside. If I leave them for the wildlife, is my yard going to be weedy next year?  How easy will sunchoke self seed?
 
pollinator
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Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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May Lotito wrote:I added two more varieties of sunchokes and they cross pollinated and produced seeds, thanks to the soldier beetles. I checked a few immature seedhead and each had a few to dozen seeds inside. If I leave them for the wildlife, is my yard going to be weedy next year?  How easy will sunchoke self seed?




In zone 4, it won't: It need a long season for seeds to mature. Kudos for your success in getting seeds! However, you are in a zone 6, so beware. This is what Brambleberry permaculture had to say on the topic:
https://www.brambleberrypermaculture.com/2022/02/08/smooth-red-sunchoke-jerusalem-artichoke/#:~:text=Will%20self%2Dseed%20readily%E2%80%93beware,the%20tubers%20in%20the%20fall.
Were they only talking about the smooth red sunchoke? I don't know.
They hail from Southern Indiana and they have zone 5 and 6. Perhaps you will want to hedge your bets and  plant them in a clean location, perhaps in potting soil? This way, if they all come, you can pick and choose and place them exactly where you want them. You may not want to scatter them to the 4 winds.
 
May Lotito
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Thanks for the info. I got mine from Pearl, one of them has purple skin and maybe that's what you mentioned. She just confirmed the seeds will spread and sprout and she has to pull up the seedlings. So I guess I will save a few seeds to play with but cut off the rest of flower stalks to keep them under control.
 
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Yeah, mine definitely have viable seeds. I'm pulling them as weeds.
I have 6 varieties at this point, crowded way too tight in a space, and they are cross pollinating like crazy things. As far as I am aware, it takes multiple types mixing to get fertile seeds.
Rowdy beasties!

Bad year this year, they all have super thin stalks, maybe as big as my thumb. Last year there were some as big around as my forearm that I had to use a saw to cut the stalks, I couldn't get my clippers on them.
 
May Lotito
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Bad year this year, they all have super thin stalks, maybe as big as my thumb. Last year there were some as big around as my forearm that I had to use a saw to cut the stalks, I couldn't get my clippers on them.



My stalks are ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 inches in diameter, even from really large tubers. I dry and use the thicker ones for trellising. If not stuck in the ground, they are good for the whole season. What did you do with the the stalks big as your arm? Did the plants also produce large amount of tubers too?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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I've also had stalks as big as my forearm as well as thin stalks. The size and number of tubers seemed to be related. It's hard to tell if some years are better than others, but I think not: Every year, I have large and thin stalks. At this point I suspect either crowding, an inferior tuber, unless they were grown in the same spot 2 years in a row and the soil nutrition was exhausted.
Could it be that this tuber, which seems to be able to give a big crop in really adverse conditions has an Achille's heel? I'm thinking of an element in the soil that they must have, and if they don't get it, the tubers are inferior? Using the soil one year might deplete a crucial element and make it harder for the tuber to develop a large root?
Could it be also that by trying to keep the flower, the plant expands energy in flower production and the tubers are smaller?
In zone 4b, I know I will never get mature seeds anyway, so I clip the tips where blossoms appear. The size of the tuber seems more consistent with the cultivar than other factors.
 
pollinator
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Will sunchokes grow into mulch the way potatoes do?

I've planted them twice now and they keep dying, either too dry or too many gophers or both. I thought I'd try putting them in a lasagna type bed. The paper bags on the bottom should keep the gophers out long enough for the sunchokes to get established and the extra organic matter might hold enough moisture for them.

The bed won't be fully broken down by spring, so I thought I'd dig into the bed and put mounds of soil here and there through the bed and plant the tubers there.  Think they'll grow out into the surrounding material?
 
Posts: 61
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They'll spread to their limit or until they hit something solid like a rock or timber wall.
I have one variety that only spreads about 10" - 12" and another that spreads about 24". They spread into hard clay the least, loose material like sand, mulch or well loosened soil the best.
 
Pearl Sutton
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May Lotito asked above what I did with my stalks. Well, some of them I apparently killed a hugel type thing with. I didn't realize they are somewhat alleopathic, I knew the growing plants are. I put the stalks into a trench with other things, and whatever I planted there grew a bit then vanished. either the bunnies or the sunroots got them. Hard to say which.

So if they ARE that alleopathic, perhaps the problem is the solution! Has anyone chipped the stalks and put them on paths and driveways to kill grass and weeds? :D

And the thin stalks are probably due to multiple reasons, horrendous weather pressure on them, probably overcrowded (I didn't have energy to harvest much last year) I did add nutrients to the bed, so I don't think that's it. This has been an absolutely horrendous year in my garden. It's Oct 1 today. I have around 50 cherry tomato plants, I have picked about a total of 2 gallons of tomatoes all summer. We should have been drowning in them since June, they looked like they were going to. We got our first ripe one right around Sept 1. The about 2 gallons was mostly this week, they are finally bouncing... as the night temps are down to 41. Won't get much off them this year.

Pics of the sunroot bed, same bed, pic from 2021 is dated 9/19/21. The pic from 2022 is dated 9/30/22, so pretty much the same date.... Horrible difference.

Sunroot bed 2021


Sunroot bed 2022


 
Blaine Clark
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Pearl Sutton wrote:So if they ARE that alleopathic, perhaps the problem is the solution! Has anyone chipped the stalks and put them on paths and driveways to kill grass and weeds? :D



As a splatter of fact, there has been some research done in Europe using the extracted 'choke chemicals as herbicide. Their problem is the lasting effects in the soil. It seems to last for a couple of years unless it's well flushed by a lot of rain or irrigation. It seems to have no to minimal effect on stouter growth such as trees and shrubs as long as they are well established. In other words, you may be able to use or mix the chips in mulch around such. I've always chipped the stalks and scattered them over the same patches I've pulled the stalks from. I've built the soil up pretty nicely in patches doing this.
Some plants aren't bothered at all. Along one patch I've got strawberries that don't hesitate creeping into the edges. As far as I know, no one's done any work to find out what plants are immune.
 
gardener
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A great infographic on sunchokes from our darling Andrés!

 
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Jan,

My sunchokes kept vanishing without a trace. Eventually I found a sunchoke plant that was intact except that it had no root at all. The stem was standing loosely in a hole where the root should have been.

I later read that voles love to eat sunchoke tubers.

They missed one tuber, which I transplanted inside my garden fence. Over the next couple of years they spread and produced quite a bit of tubers. I dug up most of them this fall and transplanted them in several places along the woods, outside the fence. We'll see what happens.

Long story short, if you are having trouble getting sunchokes started, you may need to provide some kind of protection against small mammals.

Now I have to be careful to keep the sunchokes under control, as the core are growing very close to the raspberries, which also grow along the fence.
 
Posts: 195
Location: Florida - Zone 10A
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You would've thought sunchokes would thrive in South Florida but it's a bit too dry for them currently and growth seems stunted, and they're getting a bit of rusty colored spotting.
 
May Lotito
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I made a screen out of smallish dry sunchoke stalks. I curled it up to form a teepee for my chicks and they loved it.
P1180734.JPG
4 ft long flexible sunchoke screen
4 ft long flexible sunchoke screen
P1180737.JPG
Chicken teepee under the tree
Chicken teepee under the tree
P1180744.JPG
Shelter from sun and wind
Shelter from sun and wind
 
pioneer
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So, I've spent most of the day hunting for sources of various "seed" roots. I know I'd seen a ton of different varieties a couple years ago when I first began my research for producing enough food to feed a tribe of 10-12 people, plus some of the animals we hope to raise. I've just finished reading nearly every post in this thread. I have a list that includes unnamed varieties from most of the available sources. Etsy has several shops (6) offering red, white, yellow, and even one purple nameless variety for some outrageous prices. And I know I've visited the Oikos site, but I returned to find that everything was Sold Out, only to find this on the Contact Us page "Thank you for contacting me. I do respond to all emails. Questions on seeds and what I sell are important to me.  For seed availability please see Newly Harvested category on the front of the website.  The nursery is permanently closed and is no longer selling or producing plants. For that reason I may not respond to older nursery orders or plant questions related to them. Thank you again for your interest. Let me help you with your next tree crop project. Kenneth Asmus
I had carefully picked out 6 varieties I wanted to order when they were back in stock! Oh well.
So, just for posterity, the ones I was interested in are named, Big Bertha, Gute Gelbe, Urodny, Shiawassee, White Fuseau, Red Rover and Topstar (claims of carrot flavor).

I'm quite surprised by the one post saying some of the allelopathic chemicals contained are aspirin and coumarin! And have been successfully and tastily boiled and used as a wrap!? Or in a tea! This means I must find this information myself and document what I find in an already full 3 inch 3 ring binder for the medicinals either already on the property or that I want to grow once I get there and get settled. (This binder was started to meet the requirements for the BB and has grown into a monster project expanding to similar info for the animals we want to keep and another for plant guilds!!)

I'm loving the idea that sunchokes might be able to have an impact on Japanese Knotweed, because there is apparently alot of it on the 40 acres I'm headed for, and while it does have some medicinal properties, I'd rather not have to fight with it to keep a garden growing! Or the sawtooth blackberry brambles everywhere!!
Thank you to everyone who has noted the wildlife that like this plant, as I know there are rabbits and deer that roam on and through the property. I can plan accordingly, and even have a plant guild planned for the deer! I like the idea that I can naturally feed the venison that I can hunt w/o license if I am on my own property! Several does and a couple younger bucks have been seen close to the main house!

I equally appreciate the preparation suggestions in order to avoid gassiness. I look forward to trying several methods encouraged, from raw to fermented and pickled!

Now to ask those of you growing these wonderous roots who would be interested/willing to recommend a seller, or be the one(s) to assist me by selling me a few of what you have when I am finally ready to put them in the ground!? It will be at the very least several more months, or possibly another almost year before I can reach that level of "settled in", so no rush. Just sounding things out for now.

I am so grateful to this community for all the great information, super cool ideas I'd never have thought of on my own, and a bit of mentorship in the pages and pages of threads!

Now to medicate, because my back is on fire from sitting at this desk most of the day! And soon after, to bed with a hot pad!
 
Cindy Haskin
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OikosTreeCrops Update;
Heard back from Kenneth at Oikos about pointing me in a direction to find other providers/growers.

https://cultivariable.com

Did you know there are dahlia "tubers" that are edible?  Cultivariable knows. Ever heard of skerrit as an edible? Cultivariable has them along with tons of information on what they offer. Except they actively discourage ordering from them, you really need to check out this character!



 
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Cindy Haskin wrote:Now to ask those of you growing these wonderous roots who would be interested/willing to recommend a seller, or be the one(s) to assist me by selling me a few of what you have when I am finally ready to put them in the ground!?



I have most of the Oikos varieties planted (but as you note, they're not available any more), I also got seed from ARS-GRIN, and I just planted a box of Lofthouse sunroots last week.
 
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