Jerusalem Artichoke Association of Canada

Jerusalem Artichoke: An Ancient Crop

Often called by more modern names “sunroot”, “sunchoke” or “earth apple”, the Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America and has been cultivated and consumed by indigenous inhabitants for generations before the European colonization. The name “Jerusalem artichoke” is misleading since the plant has no relation to Jerusalem and it is not a type of artichoke. The origin of the name is still uncertain although it is thought that the European settlers named the plant “Girasole”, the Italian word for sunflower. Over time “Girasole” might have been twisted to Jerusalem. In the beginning of the 17th century, Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, is said to have encountered the tuber which he described tasting like an artichoke. After discovering the Jerusalem artichoke, the French brought it back to Europe where it was naturalized. It has become an important staple food in some regions of Europe and is commonly known as “tompinambur”. While it quickly spread across Europe, it was not cultivated widely in North America where it was mostly used as a forage plant.