American Goldfinch feeding on a sunchoke plant. Photo by Randy Tindall

Crunchy and Healthy Sunchokes

Nadia in a field with yellow flowers blooming

By Nadia Navarrete-Tindall

Nadia does Outreach and Education at Lincoln University and owns Native Plants and More, a consultation business. She lives in Columbia, MO and is originally from El Salvador.


Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as sunchoke, is a perennial sunflower with edible rhizomes and tubers. They can be consumed raw in salads, pickled, or used to flavor meat stews. The flower petals are also edible and can be added to salads. According to Yatskievych in the Flora of Missouri, a hybrid of H. tuberosus and H. annuus (common sunflower) has been bred in the United States which improved tuber production. Chances are that what is available in supermarkets is this hybrid.

The tubers contain protein, vitamins A and C, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other minerals. They also contain inulin, a carbohydrate recommended for low starch diets. Sunchokes were cultivated by Native Americans and are grown commercially, mainly only available in specialty stores and farmers markets. 

Sunchokes can be planted in sunny to moderately shaded sites from tubers, rhizomes, or seed. They grow better in moist and fertile soils, forming colonies, which makes this species a good candidate as a specialty crop for farmers or backyard gardeners. We have a healthy sunchoke colony in our backyard in Columbia, so in order to stop it from spreading; we harvest them for our own consumption. Wild sources produce tubers from ¼ in. to ¾ inches in diameter. Selections produce much larger tubers.

Plants can reach from 6 to 10 feet depending on soil moisture and fertility. They can be pruned in mid-May to reduce their height but still produce blooms in the fall.

Tubers can be consumed raw or cooked. Raw sunchokes are crisp and can be pickled in wine, lemon, or vinegar. The texture resembles water chestnuts and jicama, a tropical tuberous root native to Central America and Mexico. Cooked sunchokes soften considerably. They have a unique nutty flavor that is not comparable to potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Sunchoke blooms in midsummer to early fall and seed is produced in late fall, favoring migratory seed eating birds. The attractive flowers are a bright yellow that attract pollinators. The best time to harvest tubers and rhizomes is fall or winter, before the soil freezes; however, it can also be harvested in the spring, before the plant starts growing again.

There are many recipes to prepare sunchokes. Billy Joe Tatum in her book Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide includes 11 recipes using sunchokes, used as a vegetable or to flavor meats. For me the best way to eat them is pickled. My husband Randy and I tried different vinaigrettes mixes. We are sharing two of our pickling brines.

Photos (top to bottom) by Nadia Navarrete-Tindall: Sunchoke plant, sunchoke tubers harvested in November, and jar of pickled sunchokes. 


plant taken out of pot, with green leaves sticking out from mound of potting soil around tuber roots

Sunchoke Pickling brines

For both recipes, wash sunchokes thoroughly. They don’t need to be peeled. Mix ingredients and add pieces of sunchokes to the mix. Let them sit for 2 days and serve. After that, store in refrigerator. If the vinegar tastes too strong, extra water can be added.

Randy’s recipe for pickled raw sunchokes

(Adapted from a Japanese temple or “shojin” cuisine recipe for pickled potatoes)


Sunchokes – any quantity you like.
1 part soy sauce
1 part rice or white wine vinegar
1 part “mirin” (“Mirin” is a sweet Japanese cooking wine available in most oriental food stores. If unavailable, substitute maple syrup.)
Sesame oil to taste (optional, but tasty)


1. Wash sunchokes well, drain, cut into bite-sized pieces, and rub with salt

2. Leave for 10 minutes, then rinse

3. Fill container with sunchokes and add enough of the pickling mixture to just cover.

4. Close container and let marinate overnight. Sunchoke can be eaten the next day.

This is a simple, mild pickle that allows the flavor of the ‘chokes to come through without overpowering it.

Nadia’s recipe for pickled raw sunchokes 


½ cup raspberry vinegar or cooking wine
½ cup water
¼ Tbsp. dried or fresh dittany leaves (Cunila origanoides)
¼ cup soy sauce


1. Wash sunchokes well, drain, cut into 1/4 or 1/2-inch long pieces, and rub with salt

2. Leave for 10 minutes, then rinse

3. Fill container with sunchokes and add enough of the pickling mixture to just cover.

4. Close container and let marinate for 2 days. Store in refridgerator. 

Nadia and MPF’s Grow Native! program recommend purchasing native edible plants from Grow Native! professional members and planting and gathering native edibles from your own personal property. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider if you have concerns about consuming any native edibles. Native edible recipes provided by MPF or MPF’s Grow Native! program are for informational purposes only.
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