Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a plant which has come to Europe from North America. It is believed that the person who had “imported” it was Christopher Columbus. Jerusalem artichoke’s tubers were North American Indians’ food. Appreciated by colonist, they have spread as ornamental, edible and fodder plant, reaching Europe and Asia.
The Jerusalem artichoke is also called topinambour. This name has its origin in the South American tribe called Tupinambá. In fact the plant has nothing in common with this tribe, despite its member were visiting Paris, at the same time while a sample of the tuber from Canada was on display. The Jerusalem artichoke has also no relation to Jerusalem! What is more, it is neither a type of artichoke. So, where does this name come from? The origin of the name is uncertain. One of the possible explanations was that the Pilgrims named the plant, with regard to the “New Jerusalem”. There are also some other different names used, like the French or Canada potato, lambchoke or sunchoke.
As a perennial, the Jerusalem artichoke is capable of blooming and fruiting each year during the period of 15-20 years even. Moreover, it has low soil’s requirements- it grows almost everywhere, except from wetlands. It is resistant to freeze, disease and pest. Its tubers are collected in late autumn and planted in March or October.
One plant- many capabilities
Versatile topinambour was commonly eaten and cultivated in Poland. Then it seemed to become forgotten. After the war it appeared again in cultivation, but only as fodder. The topinambour tubers, as well as its leaves and stalks, are the perfect fodder for wild animals. Rabbits, horses, roe deer and boars are really fond of them. Topinambour’s flowers are similar to sunflower’s ones, but much more smaller. That is why the topinambour might be decorative plant. The flowers are also very important source of food- nectar for bees in September and November. Its fruits in turn, are a dainty for birds. This is not the end of topinambour’s advantages and ways of its usage. Dried stems are suitable for energetic purposes and chaff from dry stalks can be a surface for edible mushrooms production. But first of all, as an edible plant, topinambour may be widely used in cuisine and that is the main reason why this forgotten vegetable is coming back into favor.
The Jerusalem artichoke forms 50-80 tubers underground, which resemble a little bit an wrinkled potato. For culinary purposes only white-yellow tubers are being used. The red, brown and violet ones are better for fodder. The tubers can be prepared in many different ways, similar to potatoes- cooked, fried, baked and simmered. After that they gain sweet taste and nut aroma. Jerusalem artichoke is great for chips, fries and casseroles, as well as soups or salads (as raw ingredient). A slice of raw Jerusalem artichoke tuber tastes better than lemon slice in a hot tea.
Bon appétit!The Jerusalem artichoke tubers are not only low-energy ones, but also reach in nutrients. They contain lots of vitamins (A, C, B1), fiber, iron and potassium. Another essential component of Jerusalem artichoke is inulin- polysaccharide (such as starch) based on fructose. Inulin is not digested by the human’s digestive tract, but it is excellent nourishment for useful bacteria. The only drawback may be the fact that it causes bloating. After frying, boiling or roasting (high temperature), inulin divides into assimilable fructose. In addition, the Jerusalem artichoke is diuretic, protecting, tonic and stimulating. It is recommended to convalescents and after chemotherapy. It is used in the prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, urinary tract infections and eczema.
Since childhood animal and nature lover. Fascinated by healthy lifestyle. "Activity" is her second nature. Cycling, skating, skiing, yoga and hicking are some of her favourite hobbies.A great fan of healthy cuisine and home-made pastries. For several years, a vegetarian. Interested in ecology, responsible consumption and sharing economy. Graduated from environment protection at the University of Łódź.