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February 2018
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Episode 159 Jerusalem Artichoke

Helianthus tuberosus – asteraceae family – aster, daisy, sunflower (which makes a lot of sense since the flowers vaguely resemble).  Also called sunchoke, sunroot, etc.

The name is one huge misnomer.  No connection to Jerusalem and not an artichoke but distantly related to artichokes (in the daisy family).  Italian settlers
in the USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower (note: both the sunflower and the sunchoke are part of the same genus: Helianthus). Over time, the name girasole may have been changed to Jerusalem.

The artichoke part of the Jerusalem artichoke’s name comes from the taste of its edible tuber. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, sent
the first samples of the plant to France, noting its taste was similar to an artichoke.

Native to North America.  All the way west to North Dakota.  However the true native range may never be known since the Native Americans had domesticated it and spread it quite well.  Its thought to originate in the mississipi/ohio valley region due to the soil type.

Gets very tall up to 8 feet or so.  The tubers are very light beige on the outside and very pale on the inside and when I did the research it said they look like ginger which makes a ton of sense to me!

The tubers spread quite prolifically.  They are eaten both raw, sliced thin (salads) or steamed or boiled and mashed like a potato.  They contain inulin instead of starch.  This is not a readily accessible form of sugar for humans.  Thus with some people it may cause a bit of gas!  Quite nutritional with potential for ethanol production.  Can produce double the amount of sugar as the same quantity of corn or sugar beets.

It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in October, and the seeds ripen in November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.

The plant prefers light (sandy) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil.  The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.  It cannot grow in the shade.It requires dry or moist soil.  The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Seed – sow in spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn. Harvest the tubers in late autumn or the winter and either replant the tubers immediately or store them in a cool but frost-free place and plant them out in early spring. Jerusalem artichoke is propagated by tubers, which should be planted as early as possible in the spring when the soil can be satisfactorily worked.



14 comments to Episode 159 Jerusalem Artichoke

  • We have been growing and eating these things for the last 3 years.  The gas was definite the first and second years, but I have noticed something about them since I started eating very few other carbs in my diet.  The gas has been decreased, but still present. 🙂  Craig over at “the outdoor podcast” informed my wife that cooking them with ginger and cinnamon makes them even better than normal.  She stir fries them in the mornings with green pepper and onions and we have them with eggs.  It’s gooood.

  • I have to do continuing education for work.  Just this morning I was working on one.  When Dietary Changes are not enough:  A pharmacist’s Guide to Recommending Fiber Supplements.  (Sounds like fun reading right!!!!)”Emerging research suggests that adequate dietary fiber intake may enhance immune system function. A recent animal study found that mice that were fed soluble fiber became less sick and recovered faster after an induced illness than mice fed insoluble fiber. The researchers postulated that this was because of an increased production of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-4.2 ……  Studies have indicated that supplementation with the fermentable prebiotic fiber inulin increases bifidobacteria levels and may also have favorable effects on the types and amount of circulating lymphocytes. Although human studies are limited, favorable effects on immune function have been demonstrated for other fermentable soluble fibers as well.1 …  “Yet another reason to eat sunchokes…  The more you ______ the better you feel so eat those sunchokes every meal!!!http://www.powerpak.com/course/preamble/108010

  • Jason

    I trust Craig on all things edible!


  • Jason

    LOL and interesting. 

    I had a hunch it was the fermentation that caused the gas.  Cool stuff!


  • Mil

    Don’t forget that you can roast these puppies in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper!

  • Jason

    Mil – your descriptions of food always make me hungry!

  • Carol

    Plant in separate raised garden as they  multiply like crazy and will fill a garden completely so be sure to dig them spring and fall. Good for diabetics to eat instead of potatoes or other starchy foods.

  • Brian

    We also noticed that the longer you cook them the less the gas!  As well as the more routinely you eat them the less it becomes, at least for us.

  • Robb

    Where can I purchase / acquire some tubers for planting these?  I can’t seem to find them anywhere online or local…

  • Jason

     Robb – Gurneys has them.


  • Robb

    Thanks. It would appear I can’t order them until spring. I’ll had to mark my calendar!

  • Hey Jason, did you ever think about gathering tubers in the wild to get these started?  It seems like I see these in the ditches all over the place up here in MN. I need to investigate more closely to make sure I’m looking at what I think I am. 

  •  Robb if you e-mail me I will send you some.  They initially came from Gurneys.  I am getting ready to move so will be digging and transplanting them as soon as the tops die out.  I planted some last year in the fall and they grew this spring.  Just let me know, could save you a couple bucks.