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Jerusalem Artichoke - Helianthus tuberosus - Earth Apple - Whitecliff Park St. Louis MO US
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Episode 1. Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunchoke, common Sunflower



In a tale that heralds the makings of Earth, there was a woman of the sky.

She peered over the edge of eternity, placing her toes among clouds of creation.

"Do I dare?" she wondered, pregnant with curiosity.

She leapt into skies illuminated by faith.

Sunflowers sprang from her footsteps,

Creating seas of sunshine among barren fields.

Seeds must be planted to grow.

Welcome to Sunflower Guru.


Episode 1. Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunchoke, Earth-Apple or common sunflower

'Helianthus' is derived from two separate Greek words 'helios' meaning 'sun', and 'anthos' meaning flower.

'Tuberosus' meaning, ' to have lumps or to be swollen'. Tubers closely resemble ginger and turmeric roots, while they may be pale white, to purple in color.

Puritans believed that bringing Jerusalem Artichoke into the "New World" was an essence of the "New Jerusalem, while French explorer, Mr. Champlain, noted the flavor had a cunning similarity to artichokes, hence become known as "Jerusalem Artichoke".


H. tuberosus is perennial daisy-like sunflower embodies many gifts.

With the ability to yield biofuels wines, medicinal like essential oils, tinctures, foods, we have a lot to cover in this episode.


Part of the Asteracea family, Sunchoke is hardy Zones 4 - 9, Native to North America however has migrated all over the globe due to their endurance, versatility, and naturalizing ability in diverse geo-climatic ecosystems.

Found abundantly in all states in North America aside from Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. However, the flower is considered to be invasive in North Carolina due to its competitive nature.


Grown in rich, moist soils, and has commonly been found near waterways, streams, and lakes. An interesting influence occurs between tubers and soil microbiota.

Sunchoke display allelopathic activity, a phenomenon where an organism may produce harmful or beneficial biochemicals to further adapt to the surrounding ecosystem. This flower has the potential to stabilize soil by both preventing erosion and stimulate nutrient cycling while improving habitat. Studies have shown increased biotic activity in soil in just three years initial inoculation.


When planted, tubers may be spaced 5 feet apart to expand within a landscape.

Someone may want to do this to either provide fodder for live stalk, to cultivate leaves for essential oils or biofuels, or as an agricultural crop, an edible, a medicine, while at the same time helping to heal soil and the ecosystem.

Monocropping has shown ill effects with this plant so be sure to plant it with other nitrogen fixing plant; legumes, peas, beans, vineage climbing plants can climb up the stalks and live symbiotically.


Like other Helianthus species, Jerusalem Artichoke grows heliocentrically, following the rotation of the sun with their flowers at attention. In order to mature into flower, days must be at least 13 hours long. European countries never get to see these beautiful blooms due to photoperiod sensitivity. It needs sun, its a sunflower!


H. tuberosus hash both male and female organs with flowers that closely resemble Black-Eyed Suzans. . Blooms become fragrant only briefly with a gentle vanilla-chocolate aroma. Florists may but it around mid-summer to harness this aromatic attribute.



Eye-catching foliage has leaves with serrated edges that look like arrow heads and have a rough texture, which may create a striking background in landscape design.




Grown oppositely at the bottom of the stem and alternating towards the top of it's height of 10ft.



Tubers endure temperatures as low as -22F, and may thrive in climates as cold as Alaska or Montana.

Colder weather increases the plants antioxidant activity and endurance to cold. Reportedly, the arbuscar mycorrhizal fungi called Glomus etunicatum and Rhizophagus irregularis inoculation helps tubers endure drought conditions.

Tubers are highly concentrated with a fibrous carbohydrate called inulin.

Inulin further converts into sucrose and fructose which is what gives these tubers their sweet taste.

Cold spells reduce citric acid concentration while increasing malic acid and GABA content. This feeds the readying plant to sprout in warmer weather.

Inulin content draws a special eye for sustainable bio crops.

The process of distilling bioethanol and biodiesel from Sunchoke starts with harvesting everything above ground while tubers remain in soil to further produce.

Plant material is first fermented with inulin-adapted yeasts, to then be steam distilled, extracting the biofuels.

Fun fact, all biofuels must be economically and agriculturally sustainable, requiring little help to grow. Helianthus tuberosus, our Sunchoke, Sunflower, Jerusalem Artichoke, meets all requirements of the New Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) in Europe and is actively cultivated, right now, for biofuel. Way to go Europe!




Rapid growth may be fueled from nutrient-rich wastewater. Sunchoke harbors pathogen resistance and tolerance, and may grow in marginal, barren lands.

For science lovers out there, Helianthus tuberosus fixes carbon dioxide through a process called the Calvin Cycle, where the C3 metabolic pathway turns carbon into useable sugar through photosynthesis. This cycle was named after Melvin Calvin in 1957.

The entirety of the plant may be steam distilled to make a small amount of essential oil.

I found it a bit of a challenge to find medicinal literature directly correlated with Sunchoke; However, two of its main chemical constituents are well researched.

The sesquiterpene β-bisabolene harbors 70% of the essential oil, while a-pinene, a monoterpene, comes to a close second.

β-bisabolene is a sesquiterpene found in many botanicals, magnolia, lemongrass, aniseed, ginger, and aromatic plants like lavender and coniferous trees. Stink bugs, flies, and fungi all excrete this chemical constituent, the reason being is still under analyzation. An array of literature depicts the presence β-bisabolene to have cytotoxic activity against tumor and cancer cells in humans and animals while also being an antimicrobial for open wounds.

The monoterpene a-pinene is oil and ethanol soluble; found in aromatic plants like rosemary, coniferous trees, and cannabis.

Aromatherapy uses may stimulate memory and is neuroprotective. This monoterpene interacts with the ozone and has been commercially approved to be in bioavailable organic air fresheners.

a-Pinene has been observed to be an anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, anticonvulsant, cytotoxic to cancer cells, and has been studied to treat an antibiotic resistant bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni.

I'd be interested to find more data on the medicinal applications essential oil of H. tuberosus sunflower specifically. I challenge anyone with the power to do so to dive a little further into this potentially healing oil.


Leaf extract may help in treating skin wounds, dermatitis, skin diseases, bone fractures, and swelling while harnessing antimicrobial and antifungal qualities. One study showed clear evidence that an ethanolic extract from Helianthus t. effectively reduced chronic inflammation for Atopic dermatitis




Let's just say, we've only scraped the surface. We'll native uses, history, lacto-fermentation and versatility in the kitchen, and a special butterfly called the Silverly Cherckerspot, with the scientific name Clyosyne nyctesis that feeds on foliage and nectar. How cool would it be to be a butterfly?



Honored by Natives as a survival food, medicine, cosmetic, dye, and cooking oil. They taught migrating settlers of the lands abundant food, Sunchoke being gone of them. The plant quickly found its way to Europe to then spread among the people, prized by chefs in fine dining restaurants. Lewis and Cark were said to have been prepared Sunchoke meals by native women along their travels in North Dakota.

Inca priestesses would adorn their clothes and headdresses with sunflowers, while the people would bring them to temples of worship, holy places.

Chinese nobility prized this plant, believing it gifted an everlasting life.

Van Gogh admired sunflowers in his paintings depicting birth, life, and death. I wonder what it would be like to have a conversation with this guy.



Jerusalem Artichoke has a crisp texture closely resembling water chestnuts when prepared raw, and may be cooked any way a potato can, It may be baked, roasted, fried, pureed, stewed, thrown in stir fries, and may even be prepared as a pancake. Seeds are also edible and ripen in late fall.


Prepare a simple Jerusalem Artichoke soup by sautéing onions, carrots, leeks, and celery in coconut oil until golden brown. Add bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, and add sliced tubers with heavy cream. Simmer until soft, then blend and serve!

Tubers may be roasted like dandelions to brew a natural coffee alternative.

Roots may be ground into flour.


Picture: Sauteed Jerusalem Artichoke home fries with fetta, green onion



A one cup serving provides 110 calories, 3g protein, 26g carbs, 0g fat, vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, carotenoids such as a, b, and y carotene, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Nutrients vary with growing conditions.

The mineral composition may be an asset for stronger bone sustainability.

Lacto-fermentation and cooking helps to further break down the carbohydrate inulin, making flavors sweeter. Inulin is a fiberous short-chain carbohydrate that isn't assimulated into simple sugars in the intestine when metabolized, and doesn't spike the glycemic index thereby stabalizing blood sugar, while alliviating constipation, and improveing digestion and gut health. Around 80% of the tuber is inulin while around 20 percent is sucrose.


Heed caution, for Jerusalem Artichoke is also refered to as fartichoke, consumed raw or in excess may cause digestive discomfort and gas. Those intolerant to fructan, on a low-FODMAP diet, or allergic to inulin should avoid consumption.

Inulin is a prebiotic prebiotic promots beneficial bacteria in the gut such as bifidobacterium, within a week of consumption.

Potassium content also helps to regulate blood pressure and balancing negative attributes of sodium. Those on a DASH diet (a low sodium diet), may consider consuming Sunchoke.

Unsaturated fatty acids, polyacetylenic derivatives, and coumarins lend a hand in healing pharmacological qualities while clinical observe qualities to be an aphrodisiac, diuretic, tonic, spermatogenic, and a cholagogue by promoting the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the duodenum which connects the stomach to the middle section of the intestines, affecting digestive systems' limphatic tissue, reduces consptipation, reduce body weight, may treat obeisity, lowers uric acid levels and therefore intestinal pH making calcium more bioavailable, detoxing the organism from heavy metals, alcahol, protecting gastric mucosa, stimulates the immune system, lowering cholesterol, tryglycerides, plasma glucose levels, while 11 sesquiterpene lactones along with two flavonoids displayed cytotoxic activity against cancer cells, and may help to treat metabolism in lipid disorders, treats cardiovasular diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, and diabetes.



Tubers are able to migrate swiftly due to ease of transport. Leaving dirt still intact with the roots is essential to further preserve them along their travels.

One study discovered that a 2% concentration of Caraway and Clove essential oil applied to the roots, protected them from from mold. Chemical analyzation revieled elevated defense phytochemicals in the roots.


Tubers are usually stored in the ground until needed.

They may be transplanted in spring before they sprout 4 inches below soil surface.

Remember, they may be spaced as far out as 5 feet apart due to their expansive temperament.


Sunchoke reportidly may tolerate high pH, sand, light shade, laterite (soil rich in iron and aluminum, which is typically formed in hot tropical ecosystems), heavy clay but yield is reduced, and is midly salt tolerant however it does not enjoy laping waters.

Only water until roots establish and in extreme drought conditions, otherwise, let mother nature take care of the work; early exposure to drought conditions may reduce their yield. Feel free to apply mulch in drier conditions.

Pair with nitrogen fixing plants and climbers, being tat the stalks are strong enought to provide a natural trellis and even a windbreak. Consider beans, peas, and legumes, grains, cabbage, cucumbers, and corn.


Seeds are said to be a bit of a challenge to germinate, however stems may be cut and propagated.


Weeding is hardly necessary due to rapid growth, and may be managed by yearly harvests or, to be mowed over until the plant dies. Tubers deminish in size rapidly after stalks are removed.


Pests, diseases, and watering are of little concern if grown in proper conditions. Roots enudre waterlogging but not chronically.


Find naturalized displays at Whitecliff Park in St Louis, MO, and in Gungks Grove Township, IL.



Pollinators like honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, finches, songbirsds, rabbits, bores, deer, and live stalk enjoy nutritious nectar, foliage, stems, and tubers are all useable parts. They are also known to be safe around humans, dogs, or cats.



The Silverly Checkerspot Butterfly, with the scientific name of Clyosyne nyctesis especially loves Sunchoke as a host plant. Broods appea from June to July on the underbellies of leaves among Northern States, while 3-4 broods may be witnessed in the deep south observed from May to September.



Black-framed wings have hindwings that are brushed with silverly edges and white-centered submarginal dark spots, some white spots may be crecent-shaped. Black spots are speckled along the bottom wing on a background of orange, intermingling in pattern on the upper two wings. Intenas are striped white and black.



The family Nymphalidae are known to have branched spines, which include monarchs angelwings, monarchs, admirals, fritillaries, satyrs, emporors, ladies and crecents.

Silverly Checkerspot butterfly, caterpillars are known for their branched spines, black bodies with dusted white spots. Larvae are black with white dots and an orange stripe along it's side, sometimes being two narrower stripes whom may skeletonize leaves down to the veins in large clusters on a single leaf.

Pupa, or chrysalis, develope a white/cream casing with orange and yellow protrusions and black markings congruently patterned rows.

Nymphalidae are known as "four footed butterflies", walking on their second and third pair of legs that have 'hairs' on the bottom that are sensitive to taste and touch which help them determine a sugary and nutritious suitable host plant to lay eggs, a vital aspect of species survival. Larval host plants include Helianthus, Eurybia macrophylla, Verbesina alternofolia, Rudbeckia, and our Helianthus tuberosus. Adult butterflies feed on nectar from Dogbane, Common Milkweed, Sunchoke, and red clovers.

Adult females have darker wing complections and have a unique way of signaling disinterest by keeping their wings closed or by rapidly fluttering them.

Males have smaller, median spots on their wigs with noticable black knobs on their antennae and dance in circles behind the female while in flight.. Wingspan varies but is generally observed ranging around 2 inches. The Silverly Checkerspot observes agressive, territorial behavior. Males patrol around host plants in search of females. White to pale green eggs are found on the underbelly of leaves laid in clusters. These butterflies have unpredictable migration which makes them a facinating focal of interest.

Observing Clyosyne nyctesis and its behavior may unveil insight into an ecosystems biodiversity.



Jerusalem Artichoke will prove fruitful every year, whether to be harvested for tubers or foliage.


Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunchoke, common Sunflower holds a special place among the people. With the Native stories of creation, biofuels, oil, medicine, ecosystem healing, and habitat providing, excuisite daisy-like sunflower gives abundantly while reaching for the heavens.

Sunflowers are a symbol of honor to seek out light and truth.


You've been listening to Sunflower Guru Episode 1. Helianthus tuberosus.

If you enjoyed this episode consider supporting the show on Patreon @SunflowerGuru.

All resources are provided in the show notes.


Remember, seeds must be planted to grow. Or in this case, tubers.


Till next time.




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