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Helianthus tuberosus L.

Helianthus tomentosus Michx.

Helianthus tuberosus L. var. subcanescens A. Gray

Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple, topinambour

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderAsteralesFlowering plants with a central disk flower and surrounding petals, like daisies
FamilyAsteraceaeThe aster family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers; from the Greek ἀστήρ, “star,” for the star-shaped flowers
GenusHelianthusFrom Greek helios, “sun,” and anthos, “flower,” because it was believed that sunflowers turn to follow the sun
Speciestuberosus“With tubers” (tubers are enlarged areas on the roots that store energy for the plant)

About plant names...

Jerusalem artichokes aren’t from Jerusalem, they’re from eastern North America. They aren’t artichokes either—they are members of the sunflower family. The rather odd name is probably a mangled version of the Italian girosole articiocco, or “sunflower artichoke,” a name which makes more sense, since the roots’ taste is often likened to that of artichokes.

Identification: Plants are 5-9½' (1.5-3 m) tall, with hairy stems. On the lower part of the stem, leaves are opposite, but they are alternate higher up. Leaves are up to 12" (30 cm) × 8" (20 cm) wide near the base of the plant, becoming narrower (more lanceolate) near the top. Leaf edges have coarse and uneven serrations, and leaves are very rough. Flowerheads are 3-4" (7.6-10 cm) across, with a dark yellow central disk flower and 10-20 bright yellow rays or petals. The bracts below the flowers have a characteristic shape.

Edibility: Prepared like potatoes, the roots, which are up to 4" (10 cm) long and 2" (6 cm) around, are edible. Thorough cleaning is necessary to remove dirt from the warty roots, the skins are also edible and the roots are served mashed, fried, scalloped, or even pickled. They may also be eaten raw, grated onto salads, tasting like Brazil nuts. They contain inulin, a starch that is sweet but indigestible, a good choice for diabetics (though some people don’t tolerate it well and become gassy).

Online References:

Helianthus tuberosus on Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses

Helianthus tuberosus at Illinois Wildflowers

Helianthus tuberosus on Wikipedia

Helianthus tuberosus on CalPhotos

Helianthus tuberosus on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Helianthus tuberosus on floridata.com

Helianthus tuberosus at Purdue University's Center for New Crops and Plants Products

Helianthus tuberosus on the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Helianthus tuberosus on Wikimedia Commons

Helianthus tuberosus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple, topinambour)

9/24/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 8 × 9" (20 × 23 cm) ID is uncertain

Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple, topinambour)

9/24/2011 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 6" (24 × 16 cm) ID is uncertain

Range: Zones 3-9:

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