|Allotment Crops - Jerusalem Artichokes|
A crop that I've been meaning to add to my allotment for some time is Jerusalem Artichokes.
So I've been out today, dodging the rain showers, to do just that.
They grow tall, like sunflowers, only taller - up to eight feet or more. The edible part of the plant is the tubers, that develop underground like potatoes.
I love eating these - best cooked roasted in the oven, unpeeled, with a little olive oil and seasoning - just like roast potatoes. They have a subtle unique taste and texture.
One of my allotment principles is growing things that I like to eat - so these fit in nicely for me. However - they are not to everybody's taste - so maybe try some beforehand if you're not sure.
They are not seen that often in the greengrocers - and are an ingredient valued by chefs - so a relatively high value crop.
They grow vigorously once established and will spread - so some caution is needed. Make sure to plant them in the right place. I've created a bed on the edge of my plot where they will be easier to control, with the added advantage that they will create a bit of a wind break.
If you plant them, then change your mind, they will be difficult to eradicate. I personally would not plant them in the middle of the plot as they could spread all over, though a raised bed might be an option.
Clear and level a growing bed in the required position, add some compost if available. Plant the tubers in holes about 12 inches apart and about 3 - 4 inches deep then back-fill. They are tough plants and tolerant of poor ground, but will naturally give a better yield in good soil.
Don't forget to add plant labels - if you're like me you may forget where you planted them! The best time to plant is probably early Spring, but I've done mine in November and I'm sure they will be fine.
They don't need much care. Some weeding, though they should crowd out most weeds as they grow on. Water in dry weather.
They may need some protection from the wind, or staking up as they grow taller, depending on position.
The plants will start to die back in mid to late Autumn. Cut the stems down to about two feet and compost. Dig a few up as needed - they will keep in the ground through Winter - and are best cooked and eaten fresh. They don't keep particularly well once dug up. Leave a few in the ground in Spring - they will quickly re-grow and produce another harvest next Autumn. Even if you think that you've harvested them all they will still re-appear !
Then ...... they will grow on for years to come - enjoy !