< Vegetables

Jerusalem Artichoke


Helianthus tuberosus

This tuber, native to North America, first conveyed into Europe by the French in 1605, by accidents of reportage became associated with Brazil in the minds of naturalists. Indeed, the French, named it the topinambour, after one of Brazil’s indigenous peoples. The English name is a corruption of the Italian word Geriasole (sunflower), which became Jerusalem. The artichoke perhaps derived from the opinion that the roots tasted somewhat like the globe artichoke, although modern sensibility identifies the water chestnut as the closest analogue.

A small (six to eight feet tall) species of sun-flower, this hardy perennial proved an aggressive grower, capable of spreading its domain in nearly every soil except marsh. Indeed, because of its frost resistance, the plant will take over fields, crowding out any other cultivar, and establishing itself so well in the soil that only loosing a herd of hogs on the field can extirpate the crop.

Grown from seed or from sets like potatoes, they may be planted either in the spring or fall. Though the tubers are the principle food portion of the plant, the stalks are edible and have been used as silage for hogs; they have also been broken down and used as a hemp substitute in the manufacture of cordage.

Before the general planting of potatoes, the Jerusalem artichoke was a significant root vegetable in American diets. Consumed raw, boiled, mashed, and pureed, it proved a useful winter and early spring vegetable particularly. In the 19th century there was a decided schism in judgment about the taste of the root, with French chefs such as Ude and Soyer championing it, while English epicures tended to disfavor it. Ude created the most famous soup associated with the plant, “Palestine Soup,” which enjoyed American favor in the last half of the 19th century.

Jerusalem artichokes may more properly be said to have been allowed to exist in our gardens than cultivated, for no useful plant has been less ceremoniously dealt with; any out-of-the-way corner, where nothing else would grow, has been the place allotted to it. [1]

Artichokes thrive in every kind cf soil except that which is wet and marshy. They succeed best in sandy loam. They are generally planted in the latter part of February, or as soon as the ground is fit to work. Some plant in hills in the same manner as potatoes. The belter plan, however, is to plant in trenches, which are dug from two to three feet apart, and from one to two feet deep. Manure is applied at about three inches from the surface The tubers, cut up the same as potatoes, are then planted. The crop requires no further attention, except keeping the ground clear of weeds with a plow or hoe till the young plant has arrived at an age to care for itself. Some think the tubers are better it the tops of the stalks are broken off when the plant has obtained its full growth. If the stalks arc used for fodder, they should be cut just before frost. The crop is harvested any time after October when the ground will permit. [2]

1. J. Towers, “Jerusalem Artichoke in Agriculture,” The Farmer’s magazine (1849), p. 103.
2. Annual report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture, Volume 20; Volume 1865 By Ohio State Board of Agriculture p. 251

White French Jerusalem artichoke    History

a noteworthy culinary variety.

Yellow Jerusalem Artichoke    History

The tubers of this variety are of a yellowish colour, and generally smaller and more irregularly shaped than the common sort; they are also said to be superior in quality, and of a more agreeable taste when cooked.

Purple    History

less widely cultivated than the other forms.

Artichoke (Jerusalem) Salad (Salads and Sauces 1884)    History

Wash and scrape the skin off a dozen artichokes; boil them fifteen to twenty minutes in salt water. When a little cooled slice them into a salad-bowl containing plain salad-dressing enough to cover them, add a slice of onion, let them stand twenty minutes; remove the onion, put in a salad bowl a head of lettuce, and with a spoon add the artichoke to the lettuce; sprinkle over the salad a teaspoonful chopped salad-herbs, pour the remainder of the dressing, if any, on the salad, and serve. The roots may be boiled slowly in milk, which improves their appearance very much.

Equal parts of Jerusalem artichokes and boiled potato, with fresh salad-herbs and a head or two of chicory, is a very good salad.

They may be eaten raw. Slice them very thin, cover them with vinegar, let them stand fifteen minutes; then mix them with cress or dandelions, and serve with a plain dressing. Mclntosh claims that artichoke-tubers are well suited to persons in delicate health, and can be eaten by them when debarred from the use of other vegetables. Thomas J. Murrey, Salads and Sauces (New York: Stokes, 1884), pp. 50-51.

Jerusalem Artichokes, Italian Style (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Wash and peel the Artichokes, then slice them and put in a flat saucepan with some clarified butter. Fry them lightly, then moisten with white broth, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then let them simmer slowly until cooked, when the broth must be reduced to a glaze. Add the juice of lemon and serve with Italian sauce over them. p. 8.

To Fricassee Jerusalem Artichokes (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Wash and scrape or pare them; boil them in milk and water till they are soft, which will be from a quarter to half an hour. Take them out and stew them a few minutes in the following sauce:—Roll a bit of butter, the size of a walnut, in flour, mix it with half a pint of cream or milk; season it with pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg. They may be served plain boiled, with a litde melted butter poured over them. Scorzonera is fricasseed in the same manner. P. 7.

Mashed Jerusalem Artichokes (Housekeepers’ and Mothers’ Manual 1895)    History

To one half-gallon of water allow a tablespoonful of salt and sixteen artichokes. Peel and mash the artichokes with a silver knife, trim into shape and lay in cold water until needed. Then put them in a saucepan with cold water and the salt and two teaspoonfuls of vinegar. Boil gently for twenty minutes, remove from the water, drain and press the water from them, and mash and beat with a silver fork; put them back in the saucepan, with butter, pepper and salt. Stir over the fire until hot and serve. Mrs. Thomas L. Rosser, Housekeepers’ and Mothers’ Manual (Richmond: Everett Wadey, 1895), p. 254.

Artichokes Stewed (The Gardener’s Monthly & Horticulturist 1877)    History

Prepare by washing and paring in theusual way, and shape the roots like a peg top or pear, with the broad end cut flat off, and as each is made ready put it into cold milk in a porcelain-lined saucepan. There should be just enough milk to cover them, and a dozen roots will make a nice dish. Stew them in the milk slowly, adding a little water if needful as the milk evaporates, but taking care to cook them in a small quantity of liquid. When nearly tender draw them from the fire, and add a teaspoonful of minced shallots, a little nutmeg and an ounce of butter; and let them simmer again for about five minutes. Then take them out, put them in a hot dish, and cover with a cloth. To a little cold milk add a dessert spoonful of flour, and beat it smooth. Strain the liquor in which the roots were cooked and add to it the milk and flour, and an ounce of butter. Boil it up. carefully straining the while, and pour over the Artichokes. Put round the dish a border of mashed potatoes, or a few nicely cooked Brussles sprouts of a bright green color. “To Cook Jerusalem Artichokes,” The Gardener’s Monthly & Horticulturist 19 (1877). p. 175.

Palestine Soup (Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion 1887)    History

For one quart of soup use enough Jerusalem artichokes to make a generous pint when pared and sliced, one generous pint of milk, one teaspoonful of salt, one-fourth of a teaspoonful of pepper, two table-spoonfuls of butter, and two of flour.Scrape the artichokes, and put them in cold water. When they all have been scraped, slice them, and place them in another basin of cold water. Let them stand for half an hour; then put them in a stew-pan with two quarts of boiling water, and cook for an hour and a quarter. At the end of that time rub the artichokes through a fine sieve; then add to them one pint of the water in which they were boiled. Set upon the stove, and heat to the boiling-point. Rub the butter and flour together, and stir into the boiling mixture. Add the salt and pepper, and cook for ten minutes. Put the milk on the stove in a double-boiler; and when the soup has cooked for ten minutes, add the hot milk to it, and boil up once. Serve with toasted bread. Unless the artichokes be kept in water until they are cooked they will grow dark, and spoil the appearance of the soup. Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion (Boston: Clover Publishing, 1887), p. 153.

White Soup of Jerusalem Artichokes (The Unrivalled Cook Book 1885)    History

The stock of veal, to which add three pounds of boiled artichokes, to be pulped through a sieve; season with salt, a soupcon of cayenne pepper, and before it is poured into the tureen stir in some good, thick cream. It must on no account be allowed to boil after the cream is poured in, but care should be taken that it is not chilled by it. p. 7.

To Pickle Artichokes (Carolina Housewife 1837)    History

Scrape the artichokes, and throw them into water until all are scraped; take them out, and pack them in a jar or other vessel, in fine salt, and let them stand twenty-four or thirty-six hours; then taken them out, expose them to the sun for one or two days, wash them in vinegar, and put them into fresh vinegar to remain. Sarah Rutledge, p. 183.

Pickled Jerusalem Artichoke’s (Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book 1887)    History

Wash and scrape the artichokes, throw them into cold water, and soak two hours, then cover them with boiling water, and boil until tender. Drain and put them in a stone jar. To every quart of artichokes allow one pint of cider vinegar, one bay leaf, one slice of onion, four whole cloves, and a blade of mace. Put the vinegar in a porcelain-lined kettle with all the other ingredients, stand it over a moderate fire, and bring slowly to boiling point, then pour it over the artichokes, and stand away to cool. They will be ready to use in twenty-four hours, and will keep two weeks. Mrs. S. T. Rorer, Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book (Philadelphia: Arnold & Co., 18878), p. 264.