Jerusalem Artichoke: Root Them Out

by Green Deane

in Alcohol, Edible Raw, Flour/Starch, Medicinal, Pickles/vinegar, Plants, Protein Plant source, Roots/Tubers/Corms, Vegetable

Cultivated they're "Sunchokes" wild they're Jerusalem Artichokes

There used to be a huge patch of Jerusalem Artichokes here in Central Florida beside the Interstate. Now they’re under a new exit ramp, and that was the only place I saw them in Central Florida although they grow in northern Florida and almost all of North America except New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

In fact, my mother as a kid in northern Vermont used to tell about coming home after school in the fall and stopping in the kitchen only long enough to grab a salt shaker. Then she and her two brothers would run out and dig up Jerusalem Artichokes and eat away. She did it because her mother did it and her grandmother did.

Large yellow blossoms, sand paper leaves

Of course, Jerusalem artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem or with artichokes, being in the sunflower family. They are quite easy to raise and one fascinating element about them is their carbohydrate is “inulin.” Diabetics can eat it without affecting their blood sugar.  When the plant was first discovered by Europeans they called it Girasole, the Italian word for turning to the sun, which some in the family do. Over time Girasole got mangled into Jerusalem. Recently they have been called sunchokes, a more fitting and sorter name.

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 that its taste was similar to an artichoke. The word artichoke comes form the Arab phrase Ardi-Shoki which means “ground thorny.” The roots are very lumpy. The scientific name is quite easy to sort out: Helianthus tuberosus. (hee-lee-AN-thus  tew-ber-OH-sus.) Helianthus means sunflower and tuberosus means having tubers.

Jerusalem artichokes are about 80% water, 15% protein, 1% fat, 60% inulin, 4% fiber and 5% ash, 0.099% phosphorus, 0.023%, 3.4 mg iron with traces of aluminum, chlorine, iodine, magnesium, potassium, sulphur, zinc, vitamins B and C.

Jerusalem artichoke root is also used to produce a spirit called “Topinambur” “Topi” or “Rossler.”  Topinambour is the French word for Jerusalem Artichokes and comes from a tribe of Brazilian Indians who were taken to France about the same time as the root.

Green Deane’s “Itemizing” plant profile

IDENTIFICATION: Large, gangly, multi-branched plant to 10 feet tall, rough, sandpapery leaves and stems. Many yellow flowers.  Leaves ovate, broadest below the middle, 5-10 inches long. Flower 3-4  cinches across with 10-20 bright yellow petals

TIME OF YEAR: Showy blossoms in late summer and early fall. Pick tubes two weeks after flowers fade.

ENVIRONMENT: Almost any soil but the softer, fertile and friable the better. Grow your own! By some from the grocery story and plant in spring, even in pots.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Raw or cooked or pickled. Tedious to clean, and overcooks easily.  Excellent grated raw into salads, boiled lightly similar to potatoes, will make make French fries and creamy soup. Can be roasted but eat immediately after cooking as they grow mushy in a few minutes.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Ellen December 2, 2016 at 12:33

For what it is worth, I do grow Jerusalem Artichokes and harvest the roots. The tall plants bloom beautifully in the fall. The only use for the leaves is that my dog eats them as a purgative, her own choosing. I take the spent stalks and leaves and place them into my compost. Voila!

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Andrew P October 16, 2016 at 17:07

I’ve got some that lay near the surface for a while and turned green. Is there any problem with eating green gerisole tubers like with white potatoes?

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Green Deane October 17, 2016 at 18:18

No, greenish JA are okay.

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Mark October 7, 2015 at 18:56

A Southern Vermonter myself and sunchokes are easy to find here near any river or stream especially. I have not tried them yet but plan to this year for groundnuts are my favorite tuber so far. Thanks for your shows Green Deane!

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Naeemah September 11, 2015 at 21:06

Thanks Green Dean for all the responses I learned a lot.

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Dann March 26, 2015 at 11:00

Oh, and something else. How to get Protein from your artichokes.

I have friends who raise chickens, ducks, geese. For the past few years, they drop by in the late summer just as the yellow Artichoke flowers develop to “harvest” the 8-10 ft tall stalks leaves and young flowers. They get over a pick-up load from my two ~4×12 ft JA patches, which feeds their chickens for days.

So I trade pretty yellow flowers and green leaves for green (Araucana) and duck eggs with pretty yellow centers… works for me. And the birds seem overjoyed.

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Dann March 26, 2015 at 10:38

I don’t have a broad experience, but a few times I have soaked the Sliced tubers in a solution of Baking soda (a heaping Tablespoon/quart of water), about half an hour before cooking, usually frying them like chips. As with beans and turnips, that seems to reduce the Flatulence. More research/trials are needed.

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coopernikus February 5, 2015 at 14:06

There is no BIG market for them because although they are pleasant tasting and abundant, most people learn real fast not to eat too many or too often because they cause severe intestinal gas. The inulin can’t be digested so it ferments. Do not feed it to little kids unless you want to be up all night with colicking young’ns. I have not heard of any method of preparation that will make the inulin more digestible to humans. The crunchy mildly sweet tubers are best used in moderation diced or slivered into salads. Pig out on a big serving of them like they were mashed potatoes and you will regret. Someplace on Mr. Deane’s site it mentions that native people didn’t eat big portions of just one veggie, but little quantities of a variety-whatever was around to be foraged that day. This avoids problems with a lot of stuff that could be mildly toxic in quantity but is perfectly nutritious in moderation. Sunchokes are very easy to grow; plant them once and you have them for life.

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Matt April 22, 2015 at 11:41

Apparently cooking slowly for 12 hours or harvesting after a few frosts, or simply waiting until immediately after the ground thaws in the Spring negates the inulin.
Its high heat or cold that somehow converts the inulin into sugar or fructose .
For what it’s worth.

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karen November 3, 2014 at 22:39

ok,,my brother-in-law is convinced there is BIG profit to be made growing and harvesting j.a.. I am skeptical, ,he wants to find large plots of these to harvest in michigan and is willing to pay,
he says there is an association of “farmers” to do this. Does anyone know of anything like this or has heard of anything remotely like this??

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Rae November 3, 2014 at 17:57

Just a little correction….they grow all over New Mexico …I am eating one right now that was grown here 🙂

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ronyon July 16, 2014 at 10:54

Sounds like a lot of pot greens!
So no known toxicity issue?
As far as taste, boil/wwater changes, brown sugar, frying, salting, pickling, any of these might doctor it up

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Green Deane July 16, 2014 at 11:11

There are reasons why most parts of plants are not eaten among them are bad flavor and poor texture. Look at it from the plant’s point of view. It wants to collect as much sun as possible to reproduce. It also does not want to be eaten until it has done so. So those other parts usually taste bad or are toxic to keep things from eating it while it gets on with the business of reproducing. One is usually better off sticking with the known edible parts.

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ronyon July 13, 2014 at 23:43

You responded to a query about eating the rest of the plant by saying “usually one does not”.
Could you please elaborate? Is dangerous, unpleasant, and/or lacking in nutrients?
Or is it simply not practiced due to a cultural biase, as in the way sweet potato greens are often overlooked?

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Green Deane July 14, 2014 at 06:54

Tough and doesn’t taste good, usually. Abrasive to the skin.

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Rocky Duncan June 24, 2014 at 12:29

Who buys large amounts of sunroot?

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Jen May 25, 2014 at 02:30

Are the seeds edible, like normal sunflower seeds?

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Green Deane May 25, 2014 at 06:53

Usually they are too small.

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rebecca walker May 13, 2014 at 19:18

They Grow here in Puerto Vallarta in the river bed. The flowers are beautiful and the leaves I was wondering if I can eat them. Anyone?

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Larry Nabors April 14, 2014 at 10:45

I did not know anything about the root artichokes just what people told me. My wife is cooking some today I will let you know how they was.

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Linda January 15, 2014 at 15:27

How do I determine if the sunflowers growing wild around my home in Utah have edible tubers or not? Would any wild sunflower be ok?

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Green Deane January 15, 2014 at 15:50

Most sunflowers do not put on an edible root. So that eliminates many species.

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Ronyon June 18, 2013 at 17:08

Can one eat the rest of the plant?

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Green Deane June 18, 2013 at 18:43

Usually one does not.

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Cathy Hill December 2, 2012 at 09:32

I grow mine as a windbreak in the summer/fall and for making sunchoke pickles in the late fall and fresh veggies for dipping in your favorite dip!!

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Cathy Hill December 2, 2012 at 09:34

I live in Mid-western Ontario, so we get a nice bucket of seasons

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kate March 31, 2014 at 11:14

I would love to have a recipe for pickling them.

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Neal September 30, 2016 at 01:18

JUST pickle them like cucumbers. That’s what I did and they turned out great. Bread and butter were better than dill.

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Marci November 29, 2012 at 14:29

Will they grow in western palm beach county (Wellington) ?

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Green Deane November 29, 2012 at 18:38

Yes they will… but not in the heat of summer.

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Leigh February 22, 2017 at 12:34

I grow them in Okeechobee, FL with no trouble. This is my 3rd year growing them and my patch is getting bigger every year.

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graham B October 20, 2012 at 01:28

Hey there, looks like the percentages are off when your describing the nutrient content, goes way over 100% total.

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Green Deane October 20, 2012 at 07:11

One does not count water as a nutriment.

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name September 12, 2012 at 11:23

they don’t store except in the ground. eat them any time you can dig.(frozen ground may stop you)

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CP August 31, 2012 at 19:34

The name “sunchoke” doesn’t refer to a cultivated variety, it has become vogue because it’s more politically correct than “Jerusalem” anything. I’ve only seen “Jerusalem artichoke” in the supermarket, not “sunchoke”. And I’ve heard the wild type referred to as sunchoke.

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Green Deane August 31, 2012 at 21:13

I used both terms because while they are Jerusalem artichoke they are marketed locally as sunchokes.

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grikdog May 5, 2012 at 23:11

I am not such a fan of these because they cause gas when you eat them. Your body cannot digest the inulin they contain. Also as it mentioned they are tedious to clean and if you plant them they are aggresive spreaders.

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Torie August 28, 2012 at 06:40

they are aggressive spreaders however they can be easily contained, I grow mine in an old claw foot bath and they look fantastic, I use what I need then give away the excess.

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ella March 13, 2012 at 22:59

Which store cn I purchase the sun chokes from

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Green Deane March 14, 2012 at 07:14

when in season nearly all large grocery stores carry them, or you can order them from seed catalogues.

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ella February 25, 2012 at 17:48

Do sell the Jerusalem root and how much is it. Which store in NM is carrying this item?

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Green Deane February 26, 2012 at 18:45

Not, I don’t sell them because most grocery stores carry them. Look for “sun chokes.”

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