Native Plant Spotlight – Jerusalem Artichoke

This Pennsylvania Native is not from Jerusalem, nor is it an artichoke.  It is, however, a lovely perennial with edible tubers. Sometimes referred to as a sunchoke its scientific name is Helianthus Tuberosus.  The flowers strongly resemble sunflowers, or another PA native, the Ox-Eye Sunflower.  It’s a great addition to those aiming for an edible landscape that blends beauty and productivity.  

Now, I hate to admit this, but I’ve never actually eaten or grown sunchokes.  They are supposed to be good raw, almost like water chestnut, or cooked and pureed.  I do plan on adding these to the landscape, perhaps starting them this fall, or perhaps next spring.  They’ll probably have to establish through before we try them, so unless I happen upon them at a restaurant or farmers’ market, I’ll just have to keep living not knowing what a sunchoke tastes like.  The tubers are very high in inulin, an important dietary fiber.  It also has vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, and several trace minerals.  Sunchokes were historically an important food source for many Native Americans in the central and eastern parts of the United States.

Helianthus Tuberosus is fairly tolerant of most soil conditions.  The tubers do spread, so you don’t need to initially plant a lot of them.  The tall flowers can act as a privacy screen if you grow many of them together.  

Why we don’t see this edible, native, and attractive flower more, I don’t know.  I plan on doing my part in the near future to change this.  I look forward to finally tasting Jerusalem Artichoke, and even if I don’t like it, it’s still a native wildflower with enormous ecological and landscape benefits!   

Published by scottmeneely

Gardener passionate about organic gardening, fresh food, sustainable landscaping, home brewing, and much more! Our nursery also includes my wife and 2 kids. We work together, learn together, and travel together. My wife is Panamanian and we try to grow lots of good Latin American ingedients. We live in Baldwin, Pennsylvania in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

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