Helianthus tuberosus L.
Helianthus tomentosus Michx.
Helianthus tuberosus L. var. subcanescens A. Gray
Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple, topinambour
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).
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.
Range: Zones 3-9: