The Many Benefits of the Amazing Sunchoke

I will be giving four presentations in Missoula on November 9th, 10th and 11th at the Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference.  See the full details here.

By PAUL WHEATON

It is hard not to be awestruck by this plant, which is at once beautiful and generous in its supply of edible tubers.

In fact, I think Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes) are one of the best homesteader crops, especially for those wishing to be self-sustaining. They winter well in the soil (important here in Montana) and produce a lot of calories, so if you get hungry in the middle of winter, there’s plenty out there even if you haven’t done anything with them for five years.

On top of that, they make an excellent pig food – all year. Sepp Holzer acutally pushes perennial rye and sunchokes (raw or cooked) as the core crop for chicken and pig feeds.

If chickens follow pigs in a paddock shift rotation, pigs will often pull up sunchokes (and other tubers) and leave scraps for the chickens. The incredible, and incredibly versatile, sunchoke. Also called Jerusalem artichokes.

And, in case that isn’t enough, Sunchokes also create awesome privacy screens, grow in many different soil conditions, and are low maintenance and perennial.

Cooking is key as they are high in inulin (indigestible to humans) and have low caloric value unless/until they are slow-cooked.

I recorded a podcast with Norris Thomlinson, an urban farmer in Portland, Oregon. Norris speaks about “sunchoke farts” and the cooking process required to make these tubers digestible. He also explains that it is possible to do a sunchoke polyculture by sort of a three sisters combo: sunchokes, ground nuts, and chinese artichoke.

Storage is a no-brainer – you just leave the sunchokes outside until you are ready to use them!

I shot a video that shows several different growers sharing their experiences with this crop.  Missoula’s own Helen Athowe starts it off – enjoy!

 

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Paul Wheaton is is the tyrannical ruler of two on-line communities. One is about permaculture and one is about software engineering. There is even one for Missoula. Paul has written several permaculture articles starting with one on lawn care that he presented at the MUD Project 17 years ago, including articles on raising chickenscast iron and diatomaceous earth. Paul also regularly uploads permaculture videos and permaculture podcasts. In his spare time, Paul has plans for world domination and is currently shopping for a hollowed out volcano in the Missoula area, with good submarine access.

See all of Paul’s contributions to Make it Missoula here.