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Jerusalem Artichoke -- Sunchoke

 

 


Jerusalem artichoke
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Asterales
Family:Asteraceae
Genus:Helianthus
Species:tuberosus
Binomial name
Helianthus tuberosus
L.


The Jerusalem artichoke, also called the sunroot or sunchoke, is a flowering plant native to North America, grown for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable.

The Jerusalem artichoke has absolutely nothing to do with Jerusalem, and little to do with true artichokes. The first part of its name is due to the process of folk etymology. When it was first discovered, it was called Girasole, which is the Italian word for sunflower (it refers to the way in which the flowers turn towards the sun). The Jerusalem artichoke is a type of the sunflower, in the same genus as the garden sunflower Helianthus annuus. Later people thought that Girasole sounded like Jerusalem, so they called it that. In recent years, many people have taken to calling it sunchoke or sunroot to avoid this confusion.

Jerusalem artichoke flowers
Jerusalem artichoke flowers
Jerusalem artichoke tops and flowers
Jerusalem artichoke tops and flowers


The second part of its common name comes from its taste. The tuber, which is the only part used, tastes like an artichoke.

The tubers are gnarly and uneven, vaguely resembling ginger root, with a crisp texture when raw. Unlike most tubers, but in common with other members of the Asteraceae (including the artichoke), the tubers store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch. For that reason, they are an important source of fructose for industry.

These vegetables are sold in the produce departments of supermarkets. The freshest roots are plumpish and vibrant in appearance. If left too long in the open, they become wrinkled and soft and can develop a bitter taste.

History

Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated by the Native Americans (who called them "sun roots") long before the arrival of the Europeans. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain found them being grown at Cape Cod in 1605.

Cultivation

Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow. In fact the problem for many people is to not grow them once they have been planted. For this reason, it is tempting to just leave them in place year after year and dig them as needed. But the quality of the tubers degrades with this treatment. Keeping the soil fertile is important. Every small piece of tuber will grow if left in the ground and they can become a persistent weed.


 


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