Though many would describe it as a troublesome weed, its vigor and invasiveness make Jerusalem artichoke tubers a survival food source you should know about.
The Jerusalem artichoke is a native to North America and is very similar to the sunflower. It can grow as tall as 10 feet. It’s found in pastures, hayfields, roadsides, and landscapes throughout the eastern half of the United States and along the Pacific coast.
Jerusalem artichokes produce bright yellow, showy flower heads at the ends of their hairy stems. The flower heads are each about 2 inches in diameter and contain 8 to 20 outer yellow ray flowers that encircle dark yellow to brown disk flowers.
When mature, they give off a sweet scent some describe as like chocolate.
Roots are rhizomes that end in oval reddish brown tubers. The tubers distinguish Jerusalem artichoke from sunflowers, which have none.
After the plants die over the winter, their stems are woody. Perhaps they could be broken down into small pieces and used for kindling.
The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked and the flavor improves if they are left in the ground until after frost. They can be peeled and cooked like potatoes, though my experience is that they can have a strong flavor that makes them undesirable.
I prefer them raw and cut into small pieces in a fresh salad. They really add crunchiness.
Over half of the carbohydrate Jerusalem artichoke contains is in the form of inulin, and this can’t be absorbed by the body. As a result, you may have gas after eating it.
However, the inulin makes Jerusalem artichoke good for diabetics and hypoglycemics, since they’re not starchy. It also means that you can eat quite a lot of it without putting on weight.
A few seed companies sell Jerusalem artichoke tubers for planting, though they may not ship until fall for fall planting. You may also find it in a local grocery store, sometimes referred to as Sunchokes.
Give some thought to where you plant Jerusalem artichokes. If you put some in your survival garden, you’ll have them many years because it’s almost impossible to get rid of the root pieces, which will grow the next year. The plants may appear where you don’t want them.
As strange as it sounds, you could plant some in containers as I have. Or perhaps you’ll want to practice guerilla gardening and plant some in an out of the way place for harvesting at your leisure.
Check out this video demonstrating one man’s experience harvesting Jerusalem artichoke tubers.