Once the plants are dry and brittle, it's time to dig the tubers. Most of the edible portions will be within 12-18 inches of the main stem and within 8 inches of the soil surface. I dig a circular perimeter around the plant and then work toward the center excavating the tubers. In sandy soils I do most of the digging with my hands. It's easier to find small tubers this way. In heavier soils a shovel or potato fork works well.
Watch my video on digging sunchokes here
Here is a photo of some tubers grown in compost:
A few named varieties exist that have been selected for skin color, yield, or tuber shape. Some have reddish skin and some have more torpedo-shaped tubers.
The harvested sunchokes should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container, where they'll keep for several weeks. If they become dehydrated they'll feel rubbery, but they'll firm up again when soaked in water.
After they are washed and lightly scrubbed, sunchoke tubers can be eaten either raw or cooked. The raw tubers have a sweet, crisp quality like jicama or water chestnuts, and are excellent alone or thinly sliced in salads. They can be added to stir-fries, soups and stews. They can also be cooked like potatoes.
Helianthus tuberosus is an annual, only living for one season, but the buried tubers that re-sprout in the spring give it a perennial growth habit. It is recommended for USDA Zones 3-9.
The species is native to the eastern half of North America, and many Native American tribes consumed the tubers which they called sun root. They are also known as topinambour. In some regions, the plants and tubers are mysteriously known by the misleading and nonsensical name of Jerusalem artichokes, even though there is absolutely no connection to either Jerusalem or artichokes!