fbpx

How to Find and Eat Jerusalem Artichokes—Fall’s Wild Food

Jerusalem artichoke, commonly known as sunchoke, is a late fall food with edible tubers that look like ginger and taste like potatoes.

Jerusalem Artichokes: Fall Bounty

Fall may be a time when wild edibles become scarce, but there’s still one big harvest I look forward to every year: Jerusalem artichokes. They aren’t from Jerusalem, aren’t artichokes, look similar to sunflowers, and have edible tubers that look like ginger and taste like a potato. They’re a bit like the plant version of a duckbilled platypus. Intrigued yet? Read on.

Jerusalem-artichoke_The-Grow-Network

Why Is It Called ‘Jerusalem Artichoke’?

Jerusalem artichoke’s current name is a corruption of the original name, girasole, which means “turning toward the sun.” Think “gear” and “solar.” Anyway, it’s easy enough to imagine the path from one name to the other. The “artichoke” part comes from the taste. I don’t see the resemblance, myself, but maybe I’m the weird one.

You May Also Enjoy:

“The Wonderful Winged Yam: Demonized Invasive or Prolific Staple?”

“Guerrilla Gardening for Survival: Tips for Success”

“17+ Benefits of Licorice: A Sweet Solution for Sore Throats, Digestive Issues, Allergies, and More!”

Personally, I prefer to call them sunchokes. You can sometimes buy them in grocery stores under this name. Other names you might come across include sun root, earth apple, and occasionally the nickname “Jerusalem fartichoke.” More on that later.

Jerusalem artichoke is in the Asteraceae family. I mentioned above that it looks very similar to a wild sunflower. There’s a good reason for that. It is one. More specifically, it’s a particular species of wild, perennial sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus).

Look for stalks 3-10 feet (1-3 meters) tall with branching stems and many yellow, disk flowers, 3-4 inches (8-10 centimeters) wide. Disk flowers look like large, single flowers, but are actually made up of many smaller flowers clustered together. Each “petal” around the edge is also an individual flower whose petals have been fused together and grow at one side to give the illusion of a single large petal.

The stems and leaves are rough, like course sandpaper. The leaves are fairly oval, thicker below the midpoint, and 5-10 inches (12-25 centimeters) long.

While you can differentiate Helianthus tuberosus from other sunflowers with just the aboveground parts, the easiest thing to do is to wait until late fall. Then dig up the root and look for tubers. If you find tubers (about the size of an egg, varying a bit with growing conditions), you’ve found a Jerusalem artichoke. By the way, it has to be late fall. They form the tubers to make it through the winter. If you go around digging them up in summer, you’re going to be disappointed.

Jerusalem_Artichoke-Tubers-The_Grow_Network

How to Find and Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes don’t really care what kind of soil they’re in as long as they get an occasional drink of water and some sunlight. I’ve seen them in full sun to fairly heavy shade (though these didn’t look nearly as happy). They just want to live and spread … and spread … and spread.

You May Also Enjoy:

“Zone-Pushing Tips for Growing Ginger and Turmeric in Cold Climates”

“15 Natural Antibiotic Alternatives”

“[VIDEO] How To Make Fire Cider”

Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America. They can be found in almost every state and much of Canada, but become more scarce as you move into drier regions. They’ve also found their way to Europe and have become invasive there. As something of a gourmet food, Jerusalem artichokes have been, and are being, grown in many places around the world. So if you don’t have them now, expect them in the future.

Jerusalem_artichokes-The_Grow_Network

But if you can’t wait for that, you should consider growing them yourself. I’m a much better forager than I am a gardener. But cultivated varieties of Jerusalem artichokes retain their wild self-sufficiency and resilience, while gaining the benefit of a much larger tuber. I threw some into the ground a few years ago and I only go back to harvest them. No watering. No weeding. Just me unearthing bucketful after bucketful like I’m David the Good or Tasha Greer. Just be sure to put them where you want them, because you’ll never weed them all out and they’re going to spread.

Jerusalem_Artichoke-How_to_eat-The_Grow_Network

They make a great plant for a children’s garden. All the kids have to do is the initial planting and the harvesting. My kids love going out to dig up a few for snacks or supper. Our sunchoke “grove” is so large and thick that this year we cut a path into it and hollowed out a spot for them to have a secret hideout. Plus, they can sword fight with the dead stalks, then use them to practice building fires in the fireplace (under supervision).

How to Prepare and Eat Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes don’t store well out of the soil. You can keep them in a sealed container in your refrigerator for several days, if you put a wet rag in with them to prevent moisture loss. For longer storage, you can place them in a cool location, in a bucket filled with dirt. Or just leave them in the ground until you’re ready to eat them.

The tubers are edible raw or cooked. You just have to wash the dirt off first. This can be a little bit tricky, due to their lumpy, bumpy nature. And the outer skin will always look dirty, just because of the coloration.

You May Also Enjoy:

“Sweet Potato Vines: How to Grow This Antioxidant Powerhouse”

“Planting Potatoes … the Easy Way! (VIDEO)”

“3 Ways to Preserve Food for Long-Time Storage”

Slice them thinly and add them to salads or just take a big bite out of one. They’re a bit like a potato, but sweeter and with a bit of a nutty flavor. Just don’t eat too many at one time. Jerusalem artichokes, as with many other members of the Asteraceae family, like to store their energy as inulin. Inulin is basically indigestible by humans, but our gut microbes can really go to town on it, producing excess gas as a byproduct. As alluded to earlier, this is where the name “fartichoke” comes from.

On the flip side, inulin’s indigestibility makes these tubers a low-carbohydrate food, ideal for diabetics. In fact, Jerusalem artichoke lowers blood sugar and improves cholesterol and triglyceride levels.1)Horochowska, Michalina, Elżbieta Kołeczek, Zygmunt Zdrojewicz, Jacek Jagiełło, and Karolina Pawlus. “Topinambour – Nutritional and Medical Properties of the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus Tuberoses L.).” Pediatric Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism 23, no. 1 (2017): 30-36. doi:10.18544/pedm-23.01.0071. It has the ability to modulate the immune system, specifically in the digestive tract, lessening the effects of ulcerative colitis, by stimulating the actions of beneficial gut microbes.2)Horochowska, Michalina, Elżbieta Kołeczek, Zygmunt Zdrojewicz, Jacek Jagiełło, and Karolina Pawlus. “Topinambour – Nutritional and Medical Properties of the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus Tuberoses L.).” Pediatric Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism 23, no. 1 (2017): 30-36. doi:10.18544/pedm-23.01.0071.3)Valcheva, Rosica, Petya Koleva, Inés Martínez, Jens Walter, Michael G. Gänzle, and Levinus A. Dieleman. “Inulin-type Fructans Improve Active Ulcerative Colitis Associated with Microbiota Changes and Increased Short-chain Fatty Acids Levels.”Gut Microbes, 2018, 1-24. doi:10.1080/19490976.2018.1526583. These benefits are generally attributed to the plant’s inulin content.

Jerusalem artichokes can be boiled like potatoes or cooked in a wide variety of recipes, but don’t overcook them or they become mushy. When cooked, their inulin breaks down into fructose, making them much sweeter, but potentially lessening some of those health benefits.

The internet abounds with gourmet recipes. Personally, I go with the simple approach. Cut them into slices and toss them in with a stir-fry, near the end. Or cut them up and add them to stew. They also make a pretty nice soup with bacon and mushrooms. There are plenty of recipes I haven’t had a chance to try yet, like pan frying them or using them in omelets. They’re a very versatile food.

Lastly, being sunflowers, they do have edible seeds. These are small, even in the commercial cultivars, but you can still process and eat them. The entire plant has been used to feed livestock, though I’m not aware of any other parts being edible for humans. The dried stalks do make good kindling and compost material, though.

Jerusalem_Artichoke_flowers-The_Grow_Network

Nutrition

I’ve heard everything from “Jerusalem artichokes are excellent survival food,” to, “Jerusalem artichokes are excellent diet food.” So which is true? Are they fuel to keep you moving through the winter or a no-energy filler? Either. It depends on how you prepare them.

The inulin in raw tubers is technically a carbohydrate, but we can’t digest it. So raw Jerusalem artichokes are better for people trying to fill up while watching their calories and carbs. But the inulin in cooked tubers breaks down into fructose, upping the caloric value, and making them a more viable food for living off the land. Aside from that, Jerusalem artichokes contain mostly water, a fair amount of protein, just a bit of fat, and a decent mix of vitamins and minerals.

What Do You Think?

If I’ve peaked your interest, take a look around for any dead, dried sunflower stalks in your area. You just might have Jerusalem artichokes. Or just head over to your local grocery store and buy a few to test out. Let me know what you think about them. Do you have any good Jerusalem artichoke recipes to share? Let us know below.

_______________________

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on August 23, 2019. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!

Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

_______________________


(Visited 10,340 times, 14 visits today)

References

References
1, 2 Horochowska, Michalina, Elżbieta Kołeczek, Zygmunt Zdrojewicz, Jacek Jagiełło, and Karolina Pawlus. “Topinambour – Nutritional and Medical Properties of the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus Tuberoses L.).” Pediatric Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism 23, no. 1 (2017): 30-36. doi:10.18544/pedm-23.01.0071.
3 Valcheva, Rosica, Petya Koleva, Inés Martínez, Jens Walter, Michael G. Gänzle, and Levinus A. Dieleman. “Inulin-type Fructans Improve Active Ulcerative Colitis Associated with Microbiota Changes and Increased Short-chain Fatty Acids Levels.”Gut Microbes, 2018, 1-24. doi:10.1080/19490976.2018.1526583.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: ,

This post was written by Scott Sexton

COMMENTS(14)

  • Heide says:

    I would like to know why my plants no longer produce the sunflower? My friend says the same thing about her jerusalem artichokes. Thanks!

  • cre8tiv369 says:

    Welcome to “Climate Change” Heide. As a farmer/gardener/botanist, I pay attention to plants and trees. As a tournament bass fisherman, I pay attention to wind and weather in slightly different ways. As a father and protector of a 5 year old, I pay attention to science and politics and am horrified at the stupidity and lack of simple observation skills by climate deniers and the moronic idea (from the GOP), that this is a political issue. The planet is on effin fire, and if you have any sort of memory and the most basic observation skills, you will see it manifested everywhere you look, even more so in our yards. I remember taking my younger cousins trick or treating in the 80s and trick or treating myself in the 70s, and there were no leaves on the trees, they had all fallen. In the 80s there were piles of raked leaves by the sidewalks (and kids had a great time jumping in them). Now I don’t see the leaves even think about falling until well after Thanksgiving. I have a couple pomegranate trees that 10 years ago dropped leaves by Thanksgiving, this last winter they dropped leaves in January, each year they dropped a little later than the previous year. Soon we will have fruit trees that don’t get the chill hours they require to bloom and set fruit. And we have ourselves and each other to blame. 15 years ago, super windy fishing days were not common, and big lakes were much calmer, now days, a calm day is rare and windy days are common. That wind dries out soil and vegetation, warmer days and nights affect them as well, wild fires become deadly monsters, hurricanes grow faster and become far more destructive, and depending on where you are in the world, you can witness the changes all around you in many different ways. Certain varieties of plants can’t figure it out and flower at the wrong times or don’t flower at all. A couple years ago I had tulips and daffodils pop up just before Christmas, that would have been a Christmas miracle 20 years ago, now days it’s just a subtle sign of the plague of starvation and impossible agricultural the future will bring. But our moronic politicians think this is not real or that we have plenty of time for them to line their greedy corrupt pockets with more bribe money. If we stopped it all yesterday and started sequestering carbon and trying to reverse the damage, we still have 10+ years of more warming already baked into our self inflicted problem. The real miracle will be if we can stop it in time and if any of the plant diversity that is currently struggling to propagate makes it into the future. Will the world listen to the subtle message from some Jerusalem artichoke plants that are too confused to flower? I have my doubts, but will cross my fingers and pray they get a momentary spark of common sense.

    1. Heide says:

      We think alike…for sure

  • drsmiel87111 says:

    I’ve had a grove in my yard for 20 years, transplanted from my mom’s home. I harvest them then haven’t had the nerve to eat them. Great article, I learned enough that I’ll eat them raw this fall. I knew they were fiber but didn’t know I’d convert it to carb by cooking. I wonder if it goes back to fiber after cooking if you chill them!

  • Scott Sexton says:

    Hi drsmiel87111. I’m not a chemist, but I’m pretty sure that it can’t turn back just by cooling it.

  • Scott Sexton says:

    Hello Heidi. There could be a lot of reasons. If I were to take a guess, I might say overcrowding. If they’re fighting each other for sunlight, nutrients, and water, they may not have a lot of oomph left to produce blooms.

    Personally, I doubt that climate change is having a big effect on Jerusalem artichokes. They’re just too widespread and tenacious to be bothered by anything short of being covered by a parking lot.

    1. MJ Clinton says:

      That you, Scott, for the helpful information and for your thought on climate change. No one denies the climate is changing, but it has iced and warmed since the beginning of the planet’s existence. We gardeners just have to learn how to adapt.

  • Beth says:

    Regarding the intestinal gas: I have read that cooking or peeling reduces the gas. My experience is that the freshly dug tubers produce little or no gas. The older, the more gas, cooking and peeling didn’t make a difference for me. Maybe everybody’s intestinal flora is different. Experiment!

    1. Heide says:

      Thank you, I do plant a lot in a “quarantined” area. Thank you!

  • marjstratton says:

    I had been told that they need special preparation in order to eat them. This is a good article, now I want to try them.

  • bsanaya says:

    We move to the mid-state from the west coast I’ve have bought sunchokes in the stores, where I lived now is not easy to find certain things (of course). We have a property and as the weeks have passes us by, I’ve seen those Jerusalem Artichoke flower, I believe that is what they were, with a little help of an app. I was thrill to see so many. I will start digging them up because the flowers have falling, or at least one just to see if it is the tuber of the sunchoke.

  • cygnet says:

    My favorite way of using sunchokes is in stir fry. I think they taste a lot like water chestnuts used that way. Another ingredient that I always like to add to my stir-fries as well is sprouted lentils!

    1. Tanya L says:

      Cygnet, you and I are on the same page. I also love using sunchokes in a stir fry in place of water chestnuts. But I have to use them in so many other ways than that because I am up to my eyeballs in sunchokes right now.

  • vickeym says:

    How do you get them if you do not have them growing wild in your community?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.