Yesterday during lunch I went for a walk through Concord. I took my usual route, only in reverse. There’s a taxi cab parking lot along the way, and at the edge of it is a little stand of Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). If it’s not obvious enough from looking at the photo, these are in the same genus as the common sunflower.
When I first started in Pathfinders, I was very interested in the Edible Wild Plants honor. One of the requirements in that honor is to find, prepare, and eat an edible tuber. I bought a copy of Peterson’s Edible WIld Plants, and started looking for plants with tubers that grow in my area (which was Virginia at the time). Jerusalem artichokes were listed (and Peterson indicated that they are excellent), so I went off searching for them. But didn’t find any.
I eventually did find some edible tubers to meet the requirement, but the problem is, that’s how I had approached all the requirements. I would identify a plant, and then go out and look for it.
That approach is backwards. I later began working on the Flowers honor which requires the identification of 75 wild flowers. Instead of finding what I had identified, I began to identify what I had found. It is fundamentally different. As I identified flowers around my house, I would remember having seen them in Peterson’s EWP book. Then I’d look it up there, and sure enough – it was indeed an edible. I eventually identified all the flowering plants that grow on my property, and I would guess that at least half of them are edible at some point during their development.
I also began identifying all the flowering plants that grow along my walking route in downtown Concord. One of them was the Jerusalem Artichoke that I had hunted for so diligently for eight years. That was last year. When I came across them again this year, I decided to dig up a tuber or two to try them out.
I stuffed them in my pocket, and reconsulted Peterson when I got home. They can be eaten raw, and since that’s the easiest preparation method I know, I went with that.
I washed them off as best I could and popped one in my mouth. They do taste remarkably like potatoes. I think I might gather some of the seed later this year and see if I can get any to grow here at the house.