Jerusalem Artichokes: The Gourmet Sunflower

Learn about growing Jerusalem artichokes, the plant is not really an artichoke, it is a member of the sunflower family and an edible vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw.


| November/December 1977



These freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes make a great substitute for potatoes.

These freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes make a great substitute for potatoes.


Photo By Fotolia/jahcottontail143

Jerusalem artichokes, aka "sunchokes", are an edible vegetable that can substitute for potatoes or be used raw in salads.

How to Prepare Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichoke Recipes

I'm told that about 90 species of sunflower grow in the world . . . two-thirds of them right here on the North American Continent. If I had to pick just one variety of the plant to live with for the rest of my life, however, I don't think I'd have too much trouble deciding on the particular kind of sunflower that is known as the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

Granted, the Jerusalem artichoke isn't much in some respects when you compare it to most of the rest of the sunflower family. It only grows from five to ten feet tall (other sunflowers sometimes stretch up 20 feet or more) and it has nothing at all in the center of its blossoms (where most sunflowers boast a large, brown disc loaded with oil-rich, edible seeds).

Then again, you can't always judge a book by its cover . . . or a sunflower by its seeds. Because, buried beneath the surface of the earth, the modest little Jerusalem artichoke has hidden away something that the other sunflowers don't have: pints, quarts, pecks — sometimes even bushels — of a tasty, nutritious somewhat-potato-like tuber. A tuber, moreover, that you can harvest and enjoy throughout that long, cold portion of the year (winter) when so many other wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables are no longer available.

It's Not From Jerusalem and It's Not an Artichoke

No one really seems to know how the Jerusalem artichoke got its name, since it's a native of this continent and it certainly is in no way related to the globe artichoke. There may be some truth, however, to stories about early U.S. and Canadian settlers corrupting into English ("Jerusalem") the names (girasol and girasole) that even earlier Spanish and Italian seamen and explorers had given to the tall, flowering plants they saw tended by native North Americans. And, perhaps, the "artichoke" part of the name did indeed evolve because the blossoms of these unusual sunflowers were sometimes boiled, buttered, and eaten much like the globe artichoke. Whatever, the Jerusalem artichoke seems stuck with its name now . . . although there is a move underfoot in some gardening circles to redub it the "sunchoke".





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