Monday, October 22, 2012

Heliantus tuberosus (sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, topinambour, Jerusalem artichoke, indian potato) - young plant flowering in October in Switzerland

The plant is native to North America and was first cultivated by Native Americans for its tuber which was used as a root vegetable long before the arrival of Europeans. Italian settlers in USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower. Over time the name girasole may have changed to Jerusalem. To avoid confusion, the plant is called now sunchoke or sunroot. The artichoke part of the name comes from the name of its edible root. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, sent the first samples of the plant to France, noting its taste was similar to an artichoke.

The tuber of the sunchoke, instead of containing starch like potato, has the allied substance Inulin (not to confuse with insulin), which might be a digestive problem in food as it might produce flatulance in some people. On the other hand, it is better for diabetics than the common potato because the carbohydrates and sugars can be assimilated by the digestive tract without insulin.

In Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany, over 90 % of the sunchoke root is used to produce a spirit called Topinambur, Topi or Rossier.

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