Wild Jerusalem Artichokes are a Good Edible Plant

Jerusalem artichokes

A mature plant

Potatoes aren’t the only good tuber out there, consider the Jerusalem artichoke also called the sunchoke, sunroot or earth apple.  This is actually a species of sunflower.  It grows wild in much of the United States and Canada.  It’s normally considered native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas.  While this is its natural range due to the influence of man, I have encountered it growing wild in Northern California and I would suspect it can show up in almost every state.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from 4 ft 11 inches–9 ft 10 inches tall with leaves that have a rough, hairy texture and the larger leaves on the lower stem are broad and can be up to 12 inches long, and the higher leaves smaller and narrower.  The flowers are yellow and about 2.0–3.9 ininches in diameter, with10–20 ray florets.  They remind me of sunflowers.

Jerusalem artichoke

Tubers

Jerusalem artichoke

The tubers are elongated and uneven, normally about 3.0–3.9 inches long and from 1.2 –2.0 inches thick.  They remind me of a ginger root.  The color can vary from pale brown to white, red, or purple.

They contain about 10% protein, and a not much starch.  One cup of Jerusalem artichokes contains 109 calories.  Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of fiber, thiamin, phosphorus, potassium and iron.  They are low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.  However, they are rich in the carbohydrate inulin (76%), not to be confused with insulin.  The inulin in tubers that are kept in storage will turn into fructose.  Jerusalem artichokes have a sweet taste because of the fructose.

The tubers can be used as a substitute for potatoes, they have a similar consistency, and in their raw form have a similar texture, but when boiled can become mushy.  They are better if steamed. Jerusalem artichokes have a sweet, nutty flavor.  They can be eaten  raw and sliced thinly, they are nice in salads.

Jerusalem artichokes have also been promoted as a healthy choice for type 2 diabetics, because fructose is better tolerated by people who are type 2 diabetic.  In the past, it was used as a remedy for diabetes.

Jerusalem artichoke

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

If your winters are cold, begin digging Jerusalem artichokes in late fall, at least two weeks after your first hard freeze.  In milder areas, wait until midwinter to dig your tubers.

Jerusalem artichokes grow well in neglected abandoned areas and produce a good crop. This makes them an excellent plant for guerrilla gardening in vacant lots and other wild land areas

Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow and a 25-square-foot planting can produce more than 100 pounds of tubers. One good thing about growing a patch of this, most people won’t know that it is an edible plant.

As with any edible plant be sure you have properly identified the plant before you consume it.  The wrong identification of plants can kill you.

Howard

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10 Responses to Wild Jerusalem Artichokes are a Good Edible Plant

  1. Dave S says:

    Jerusalem artichokes are very near to being a complete nutrition in one plant, according to an elderly bachelor friend. He created a walking trail around his home lined with patches of valuable edibles. When we took a walk, he would pick varieties of nutritional and medicinal plants and we would nibble at leaves, roots, blossoms. It took up about 100 yards around his home. Long branches of the trail went off towards bushes such as elderberry, acorns, hazelnuts, berry patches. In winter snow, he took the walk to see which animals were helping themselves to whatever remained of the bounty. Easy prep. Long term value.

  2. Eugene L. Norris says:

    I would like to know how to propagate Jerusalem Artichokes, is it seeds from the flower heads or is it thru the roots.
    Thank You

  3. Michelle Giroux says:

    Are the leaves edible?

  4. Mary says:

    Won’t somebody tell us if leaves are edible???? Over a year ago, Michelle and Daniel both asked if the leaves on a Jeruselem Artichoke are edible. Does anybody out there know the answer to that questiosn? I would like to know as well.

  5. Daniel Geralsky says:

    The reason I want to know if the leaves are edible is that my Brittany has taken to eating the leaves every day all summer long. There must be some nutrition in them as I don’t think he would just eat them for no reason. His body must need whatever is in them.

    • Tom Bacon says:

      I read on a prepper website that the stalks and leaves of the Jerusalem Artichoke make good fodder for livestock. It didn;t say anything about them being edible for humans. I guess if livestock can eat them they are not poisonous.

    • Blaine says:

      Wild rabbits eat the leaves of mine as high as they can reach. Some friends raise rabbits and feed them the leaves every day through the summer from their large patch. Deer, woodchucks and cattle eat the leaves with no trouble, even the stalks as long as they aren’t too large and tough.
      I have heard but I haven’t seen proof that the leaves can be used like grape leaves in Mediterranean dishes. I live in west-central Pa. with high humidity. Mine always get powdery mildew on them so I’ve never had a chance to try them. Native Americans supposedly made tea from the leaves and flowers, but again, I’ve never seen a reliable source on that.
      I can attest to the fact that the flowers of the eastern varieties do not produce seeds and are edible. Their flavor when raw is similar to the roots but stronger. Boiled or steamed they resemble squash. Some varieties are tender enough to toss raw in salads, some are so tough only a goat could eat them! I make wine out of eastern variety flower broth.
      The western varieties grow tiny seeds like miniature Sunflower seeds. Their flowers are spiny and taste resinous, not good at all.

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