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It’s no secret, Jerusalem artichokes are a very prolific plant. If you are lucky enough to have them growing in your garden you may be wondering how to best store or preserve your surplus of tubers for use during the coming winter. Jerusalem Artichoke tubers can have an extremely short shelf life, but following the methods in this article can help extend their shelf life for weeks and even months.
Jerusalem Artichokes (aka sunchokes) do well stored in your refrigerator, in a bucket full of soil placed in a cool room, or may even be left in the ground and harvested as needed. The most common way to preserve Jerusalem Artichokes is by pickling or fermenting, but dehydrating and freezing are great options too.
Keep reading to find out more about these methods and how to set yourself up for Jerusalem Artichoke storage success.
What are Jerusalem Artichokes?
Jerusalem Artichokes, otherwise known as sunchokes, are not an artichoke at all and surprisingly are not native to Jerusalem. Contrary to their name, they are actually a member of the sunflower family. Their tall 6-8 foot stalks are topped with small yellow daisy-like sunflowers and are native to central North America. The portion of the plant that is edible is its tuber-like roots which many use as a potato alternative as they are less starchy and a better option for diabetics.
When to Harvest Jerusalem Artichokes for Storage and Preservation.
If storing Jerusalem Artichokes is your goal, it is best to wait until late fall when the stems have died and the leaves have fallen off. The longer they stay in the ground the better. Holding off until after the first frost and allowing them to stay in the ground as long as possible will give them a sweeter flavor and allow the starches to be converted to fructose which aids in preventing their infamous side effect of causing intestinal discomfort and gas in some people. It’s also important to not wash the tubers if you are planning on storing them, but if you plan to preserve them by methods such as fermenting, drying, or freezing feel free to do so.
Jerusalem Artichoke Storage Methods:
The trick to keeping Jerusalem Artichokes fresh is to keep them cool, dry, and protected from oxygen. The following methods of storage create the best environment for longer storage times.
1. Leave them in the ground
Believe it or not, Jerusalem Artichokes can be stored right where they are in the ground and harvested as needed. In fact, it is actually the best option as the soil creates the perfect storage environment. The only downside is that if you live in a climate where the ground freezes in the winter it can be difficult or nearly impossible to dig them up. One option to overcome this obstacle is to cut the stalks of the plant down in the fall and heavily cover the ground above the tubers with straw to help keep the ground from freezing.
2. In a container with sand or soil
Storing the Jerusalem Artichokes tubers in a bucket full of soil in a cool space (that doesn’t freeze) is another great option. Storing them in this way mimics the environment from method #1 while still allowing easy access to the tubers throughout the winter while the ground is frozen solid outside. All you need to do is layer soil and Jerusalem Artichokes in a bucket, or another container, and store it in a cool place such as a garage or root cellar.
This may be the easiest method for many of you, especially if you have a smaller amount that you plan on using in the next few weeks. The best way to do this is to store them in the vegetable crisper drawer wrapped in dry paper towels and sealed in a plastic ziplock bag.
Preservation Methods for Jerusalem Artichokes:
At its basic level, fermenting is just submerging produce in a 2% saltwater brine, covering loosely, and leaving it out at room temperature to allow the fermentation process to happen. Once fermented Jerusalem Artichokes can last for months in a cool space such as a refrigerator, root cellar, or cool room. Fermenting also comes with additional benefits such as aiding in digestion, because of the good bacteria that developed during the fermentation process, and because fermenting helps cancel out the gassy side effects of this tuber. Fermented Jerusalem Artichokes are great as a side to many of those traditional winter dishes such as roast or chicken. Feel free to get creative with what you add to your ferment. To see my favorite recipe for Fermented Jerusalem Artichokes check out this article:
Dehydrating Jerusalem Artichokes is super easy if you have a dehydrator. Start by thoroughly washing and thinly slicing the Jerusalem Artichokes. Spread them on the trays of a dehydrator, without overlapping, add salt (optional), and allow them to dry at 125 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 hours. Every dehydrator is different so you will need to test them for “doneness”. They are done when crispy and snap when bent. Store them in airtight containers.
If you don’t currently have a dehydrator and would like to get started dehydrating your excess produce I highly suggest the following dehydrators. I have personally used them and had great results.
Freezing Jerusalem Artichokes, like many fresh produce varieties, require blanching before freezing. Clean them well and either leave your tubers whole or slice them into chunks. (You’ll fit more in a bag if they are sliced). Blanch your Jerusalem Artichokes by submerging them in boiling water for 2 minutes for whole artichokes or 30 seconds for chunks. Immediately transfer the hot Jerusalem artichokes into ice water to stop the cooking process. Then arrange them, without touching, on a baking tray and place them in your freezer for at least an hour.
Once frozen, transfer the Jerusalem artichokes to a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Another great way to do this is to use a vacuum sealer. We do a lot of vacuum sealing around here so we use the LEM Max Vac 500 but something like this FoodSaver should get the job done for smaller projects. Store them In your freezer for up to a year. (Vacuum Sealing will extend their storage life.) Frozen Jerusalem artichokes are great used in soups and stews as a potato alternative.