Also known as sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple, the Jerusalem Artichoke is not an artichoke, nor is it from Jerusalem! This plant is a north American native and was used by the First Nations. Samuel D. Champlain noted them in 1603. They were used raw and cooked (roasted, fried, boiled) from eastern Canada to the southern Prairies.
Unlike other tubers, Jerusalem Artichokes store sugar in the form of inulin (not insulin) instead of as starch. When cooked the inulin is converted into digestible fructose, as opposed to into glucose, and so can be consumed by diabetics.
The plants are actually a type of sunflower that are harvested for their tubers. Their easy growing ability can easily become a problem- any amount of tuber left in the soil after harvesting can grow into a new plant, and thereby easily overtake surrounding crops if left unattended to. In other words, they’re invasive. However, if there’s a space in a garden that needs filling in, they are a beautiful, tall ( 6 – 10 feet ) summer plant.
With files from Simcoe Research Station publication “New Crops, Old Challenges: Tips and tricks for managing new crops!” and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.