Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jerusalem Artichoke

Two summers ago I decided to learn to identify some common wild edible plants. I bought a bunch of books on foraging, and by far the most useful was Samuel Thayer's The Forager's Harvest. He just put out a second book, Nature's Garden, and I got hold of it last week.

Thayer is reserved writer. He teaches foraging classes, and he writes like someone accustomed to teaching newbies: simple sentences and a calm style. So when I got to this paragraph in the chapter on Jerusalem Artichoke I laughed out loud.

If jerusalem-artichokes are eaten when they are full of inulin, they will cause horrendous gas and sometimes diarrhea in many individuals-- unless they are very well cooked. You might not have read "horrendous" loud enough; few people will ever experience worse flatulence. The Dakota in Minnesota relegated jerusalem-artichoke to the status of starvation food "from dread of its flatulent qualities," and many modern foragers avoid it for the same reason. Indeed, in certain circles this tuber has earned the uncouth but accurate name of fartichoke (Nature's Garden p. 419).