The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) belong to the same genus. Helianthus genus plants are members of the Asteraceae family. Jerusalem artichoke is also known as girasole. The flowers are actually made up of a number of small flowers clustered together to appear as a single flower. The outer flowers of the circular disc have well-developed petals, and the central flowers are functional.
The sunflower is native of the United States, North America, and South America. The stems are 3-15 feet long. The leaves can be used as fodder*, and the petals produce a yellow dye. Sunflowers produce light-golden oil which can be used as a salad oil, and is equal to olive oil and almond oil for table use. The oil can be used to make soap and paints. The sunflower is a popular ornamental plant.
Jerusalem artichoke produces an edible brown, red, or yellow tuber which is usually cooked before eaten. It is native to Eastern North America, but has spread to and become more popular in Europe. The plant grows 7-10 feet tall, and it can be propagated by planting pieces of the tubers. The roots are used to make pickles and relish. Additionally, Jerusalem artichoke is a source of fructo-oligosaccharides, an important food source for probiotics.
NOTE: *Fodder is coarse food for livestock, consisting of whole plants from roots to leaves, especially from corn or sorghum.
Pack, GL, Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco, California.