|Origin||:||Southern Canada, the northern United States|
|Height||:||5 to 6.5 feet (1.50 to 2 m)|
|Flowering||:||April to May|
|Properties||:||antiseptic, energetic, galagtagogue, purgative|
The Jerusalem artichoke is a strong plant which was introduced to France in the 17th century by the Canadian governor Samuel de Champlain who noticed the nutritious importance of the tubers for the Huron and Algonquin Native Americans. He rought some tubers to Europe in the hope that this exotic vegetable could become acclimatized and be of use in times of famine. At the same time, the Tupinamba Indians from Brazil were being introduced to the French court. For some strange reason, the tubers were somehow associated with these Indians and in France the tubers became known as “topinambour,” The new vegetable, enthusiastically accepted by the people of the time, was completely rejected a century later.
In his “Traite de Jardinage,” de Combles declared that the new vegetable was the worst of all vegetables. This was detrimental to the popularity of the artichoke which was soon replaced by the potato. To this day, this disliked vegetable is only found on the table in times of distress, like during World War II. However, recently it has quietly made its appearance once again on marketplaces. It is found under the names Jerusalem arthichoke (derived from the Italian word “girasole” which means sunflower) or Canadian artichoke, a name which designates its true origin.
The part of the plant found above ground is a coarse perennial which can sometimes become invasive. It has a poorly branched out, hairy stem which carries big, oval, petioled leaves. The yellow, single flowers resemble in their appearance those of the sunflower, however, they are much smaller. They bear numerous achenes or fruit. The short underground root is frequently branched out with tubers growing from its end. The tubers resemble potatoes with an elongated shape and a yellowish or reddish coloring. Their juicy, firm, and sweet flesh is similar to that of artichokes.
Jerusalem artichokes grow on just about any soil. They are resistant to cold and thrive in the sun or in the shade. The plant is propagated by planting the tubers in the spring. Harvesting is often done in September, however, it is also possible to overwinter the tubers in the soil.
Jerusalem artichoke is rich in carbohydrates (15%), inulin (a substitute sugar for diabetics) and fructose. In contrast, it is very low in proteins. The calorie content varies according to the length of storage. This vegetable increase the secretion of milk in nursing women and stimulates digestion.
The stems and leaves are used as cattle feed. The tubers are also popular as pig fodder. Jerusalem artichokes are a beautiful decoration for gardens and their flowers can be used in floral arrangements.