This is a reworked/updated post from January 2014.
Consider adding this plant to a somewhat neglected spot in your yard or garden. Brighten up that neglected area with colorful sunflower like blooms and get a surprise crop of tasty tubers as fall turns to winter.
Suprise! Jerusalem artichoke is not from Jerusalem, and it is not a artichoke. All though both are members of the daisy family.
A plant with many names. There have been various other names applied to this plant, such as the French or Canada potato, topinambour, and lambchoke. Sunchoke, a name by which it is still known today, was invented in the 1960s by Frieda Caplan, a produce wholesaler who was trying to revive the plant’s market appeal.
The eatable artichoke part of the Jerusalem artichoke’s name comes from the taste of its edible tuber.
Jerusalem artichokes are native to the Central America. The plant is technically an evergreen perennial but cultivated as an annual crop. Once established, it grows vigorously with multiple branches, reaching about 5-10 feet height and carries many golden yellow flower heads at the terminal end of branches.
It’s tubers are elongated and uneven, typically 3 or 4 inches long and 1 to 3 inches in diameter and vaguely resemble ginger root in appearance, with a crisp texture when raw. They vary in color from pale brown to white, red, or even purple.
Jerusalem artichokes are easy to cultivate. The tubers are sometimes used as a substitute for potatoes. They have a similar consistency, and in their raw form have a similar texture, but a sweeter, nuttier flavor, raw and sliced thinly, they are fit for a salad. The carbohydrates give the tubers a tendency to become soft and mushy if boiled, but they retain their texture better when steamed.
Jerusalem artichokes have 650 mg potassium per 1 cup (150g) serving. They are also high in iron, and contain 10-12% of the US RDA of fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.
It is one of the finest sources of dietary fibers, especially high in oligo-fructose inulin, which is a soluble non-starch polysaccharide. Inulin should not be confused for insulin, which is a hormone. The root provides 1.6 mg or 4% of fiber. Inulin is a zero calorie saccharine and inert carbohydrate which does not undergo metabolism inside the human body, this tuber an ideal sweetener for diabetics and dietetics.
The tuber contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A, vitamin-E. These vitamins, together with flavonoid compound like carotenes, helps scavenge harmful free radicals and thereby offers some protection from cancers, inflammation and viral cough and cold.
Jerusalem artichokes are an excellent source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, and copper. 100 g of fresh root holds 429 mg or 9% of daily required levels of potassium. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte which brings reduction in the blood pressure and heart rate by countering pressing effects of sodium.
100 g of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of this trace element among the common edible roots and tubers.
It also contains small levels of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Sunchokes prefer loose, well-drained soil, but will tolerate poor soils. (Lighter soil makes harvesting easier.)
Space sunchoke tubers 12 to 18 inches apart, 4 to 6 inches deep.
Space rows 4-6 feet apart (they will be prone to spreading).
Soil temperature at planting should be at least 50F.
Plant in full sun
Do not plant in areas that are consistently wet, as wet soil will rot the tubers. Plants are drought tolerant, but produce best with a regular supply of water.
Preferred growing temps = 65 to 90 F.
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