Jerusalem artichoke

Facts about jerusalem artichoke

We found 16 facts about jerusalem artichoke

Helianthus tuberosus

The wild sunflower, also known as topinambur or Jerusalem artichoke, is a plant that has been widely known and used for various purposes since ancient times.

Until the 18th century, it was the staple food of less well-off people, but it was also sometimes a rarity at the royal court. When potatoes appeared, it was forgotten for a while but are now making a comeback in our cooking, where they are often treated as an exclusive dish.

Topinambur has a very wide range of uses. It is a food crop, medicinal, industrial, provides fodder for animals, as well as a delicacy for forest animals.

To protect the crop, foresters plant Jerusalem artichokes for wild boars, which are very fond of the tubers. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, in some circles, they are not potatoes, on top of being dug up by humans.

Jerusalem artichoke
The proper name of topinambur is Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

It is a species of plant belonging to the aster family (Asteraceae). The Asteraceae are one of the most numerous families of vascular plants - about 25.000 species belong to it.

The family is cosmopolitan (not found only in Antarctica), and its representatives inhabit a variety of habitats. Despite the great diversity, a relatively small number of representatives of the Asteraceae are of utilitarian importance, in addition to species grown as ornamental plants.

Edible representatives of the Asteraceae include the wild sunflower (topinambur), lettuce, chicory, and artichoke.

Topinambur is native to North America.

Today it is widespread on many continents as an edible, forage, and ornamental plant. It grows wild almost all over Europe, the Azores, Central and South America, New Zealand, Japan, northern China and Iran.

It is cultivated in both hemispheres, outside temperate climates also in the tropics. In Poland, as a kenophyte (alien species), it is widespread throughout the lowlands and lower mountainous areas.

In many areas, it is considered an invasive species.

If its occurrence extends beyond its original range, measures are taken to limit its spread.

In Poland, it is advocated to abandon its cultivation in protected areas, near water and forests, and in naturally valuable places, as it poses a threat to native species.

Jerusalem artichoke was originally cultivated by the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

It came to Europe in the 16th century. It quickly became a very common vegetable in Europe and the Americas. It was also used as fodder for livestock.

The French in particular took a liking to the vegetable, and its popularity peaked at the turn of the 20th century. In 2002, topinambur was named "the best vegetable soup ingredient" at the Nice Festival for the Heritage of the French Cuisine.

French explorer Marc Lescarbot described Jerusalem artichoke as "as big as a turnip or truffle," fit to eat and tasting "like chard, but more pleasant."

In 1629, English herbalist and botanist John Parkinson wrote that widely grown Jerusalem artichoke had become common and cheap in London, so much so that "the most vulgar begin to despise it."

But when Jerusalem artichoke first arrived in England, it became the Queen's delicacy.

In America, topinambur is called Jerusalem artichoke or Canadian truffle.

Americans refer to the wild sunflower as Jerusalem artichoke or Canadian truffle.

This is probably related to the account of Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer who, while traveling in North America, sent the first samples of the plant to France, noting that it tasted similar to the artichoke.

The name Jerusalem artichoke is believed to have originated in 1615 when a member of the Brazilian Topinamba tribe visited the Vatican at the same time that plants brought from Canada were on display there, used as a critical food source to help French settlers in Canada survive the winter.

The name has caught on and is now used in French, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.

The wild sunflower is a perennial herbaceous plant growing up to 1.5-3 meters tall with opposite leaves at the bottom of the stem and alternate leaves at the top.

The leaves are rough and hairy. Flowers of Jerusalem artichoke are yellow, gathered in baskets, with a slightly vanilla-chocolate fragrance. The fruit is an achene, 5-7 mm long.

The underground part of the plant is formed by thin, fibrous roots and stringy, whitish underground sessile stems reaching about 1.2 meters in length. At their ends, underground shoots of ellipsoidal or pear-shaped shape are formed.

One plant produces from several to dozens of tubers of different sizes.

They are 7-10 cm long and 3-6 cm thick. They are often elongated and uneven, somewhat resemble the appearance of ginger root, and have a crunchy texture.

Depending on the variety, the skin of the tubers is white, creamy white, pink, or purple-red. The flesh is always white or creamy white.

Topinambur tubers are juicy and slightly sweet.

They contain up to 17 percent inulin, accounting for 75-80 percent of all carbohydrates. The remaining sugars are starch and simple sugars (fructose, sucrose, maltose, and low molecular weight fructooligosaccharides.

Most inulin is contained in white or yellow-colored tubers, less in red-colored ones, but they contain more protein.

Due to their high inulin content, tubers tolerate low temperatures (down to -30 degrees Celsius) well and can be left in the soil for the winter, unlike the potato.

During tuber storage, inulin hydrolyzes into fructose molecules. Topinambur tubers owe their sweet taste to fructose, which is one and a half times sweeter than sucrose.

Temperature variations have been shown to affect the amount of inulin that topinambur can produce. Its smaller amount is produced in colder regions than in warmer ones.

Topinambur is food for diabetics.

Because inulin is not absorbed in the intestine, it does not cause a glycemic spike, as potatoes can.

In folk medicine, Jerusalem artichoke has been used to treat diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatism.

Powdered topinambur tubers are included in the preparation "Topinulin" is used as a dietary agent, giving a feeling of satiety.

Topinambur tubers contain a lot of silica.

They also have more vitamin B1 and iron than potatoes. They contain vitamin C (up to 45 mg in 100 g), as well as a lot of carotene. Noteworthy among macronutrients are the contents of copper, magnesium, and potassium.

Coumarin, unsaturated fatty acids have been found in various other organs of the plant.

Scientific studies commissioned by the European Commission have shown a therapeutic effect of topinambur on breast cancer.

Reports have been published on the cytotoxic effect on two breast cancer cell lines of lactone sesquiterpenes isolated from the wild sunflower and the anticancer effect of proteins isolated from the tubers.

Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled.

In France and Italy, they are used to prepare soups. They are most often prepared similarly to potatoes. The taste qualities of cooked tubers are improved by adding nutmeg. Also recommended are tubers baked with cheddar cheese. Roasted tubers can be used as a substitute for coffee.

They are also used to produce inulin and fructose.

Topinambur is also used as an animal feed.

For this purpose, the entire plant is used, both the shoots and leaves, as well as the tubers. Topinambur is also planted in hunting plots to feed game.

It is also planted in barrier plots at the edge of forests to prevent forest animals from destroying the crop. This is especially true for wild boars, which are very fond of topinambur tubers and like to eat them.

The tubers are also a raw material for alcohol production.

On the other hand, biomass is used to produce bioethanol - more than 2,500 cubic decimeters of fuel additive can be obtained from 1 hectare of cultivation.

Above-ground shoots, when dried and crushed, can be used as fuel in stoves, or can be used as raw material for briquettes and pellets. Often the wild sunflower is grown for its decorative qualities as an ornamental plant.

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