The Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus, Linn.), now commonly cultivated in England for its edible tubers, another of the numerous Sunflowers, is a native of the North American plains, being indigenous in the lake regions of Canada, as far west as Saskatchewan, and from thence southward to Arkansas and the middle parts of Georgia.
Though it rarely blossoms in England, it flowers profusely in its native country (blooming also freely in South Africa), the flowers, however, being small and inconspicuous, produced just above the last leaves. Its name, Jerusalem Artichoke, does not, as it seems, imply that it grows in Palestine, but is a corruption of the Italian Girasola articiocco, the Sunflower Artichoke, Girasola meaning ‘turning to the sun,’ an allusion to the habit it is supposed to have in common with many of the Sunflower tribe. The North Italian word articiocco – modern carciofo – comes through the Spanish, from the Arabic Al-Kharshuf. False etymology has corrupted the word in many languages: it has been derived (though wrongly) in English from ‘choke’ and ‘heart,’ or the Latin hortus, a garden, and in French, the form artichaut has been connected with chaud, hot, and chou, a cabbage
—In any odd bit of ground shaded or open, that is unsuitable for other vegetables, a crop of the tubers of Jerusalem Artichoke will always be obtained, though like other things, it pays for a good position and generous culture and the largest tubers will be produced in a light, rich soil.
The ground should be well dug over and if at all heavy, or poor, should be lightened by incorporating some sand with it enriched with well-rotted manure.
For planting, which may be done in February, but not later than March, small tubers should be chosen and indeed reserved for this purpose when the crop is taken up, but almost any part of a tuber will grow and form a plant. The sets should be planted in rows, 3 feet apart and at a distance of 18 inches from each other in the rows, they should be set at least 6 inches deep. As a rule, a great number of plants is produced from one tuber.
The ground should be kept clean by hoeing and as the plants grow in height, a little earth should be drawn up around the stem.
Cut the plants down when the leaves are decayed, but not before, otherwise the tubers will cease to grow. The tubers may be left in the ground till wanted for use. If taken up towards the end of November, they may be stored in sand or earth, but they must be covered, so that the light and air may be effectually excluded, otherwise they will be of a dark colour when cooked.
The white-skinned variety, ‘New White Mammoth,’ is to be recommended. The tubers have a clean, white skin, instead of the purplish-red tint of the old variety. They are also rounder in shape and not so irregular in form as the tubers of the red sort. This variety is equally hardy, being in no way liable to injury from frost.
Jerusalem Artichokes afford a useful screen for a wooden fence, when planted along the foot of it, but the more open the spot, the more likely they are to prosper. When once planted, the difficulty is to get the ground clear of them again, for the smallest tuber will grow. It is desirable to change the ground allotted to their culture about once in three years, for when they are permitted to remain too long on the same spot, the tubers deteriorate in size and quality.