The first time I saw this plant tuber in our local community veggie swap, at a glance I thought it was some relative of ginger. But it does not even belong to the same group with ginger. Interestingly, these tubers known as sun root and many other names such as sun choke, Jerusalem artichoke, or girasole belong to the same family with sunflower, globe artichoke and lettuce (Asteraceae). Sun root is not from Jerusalem but it is a native to Northern America. The reason why even you left some tubers underground through winter with heavy frost the plant will come back the next growing season, very hardy tubers. It is not a tuber you always find available in the grocery store compared to potato. But it can be used as substitute for potato and it is much much more easier to grow. Does not required care at all in our garden. When the tubers sprouted, I did not even noticed it until it has grown several leaves and I thought it was some other seeds that I was trying to sprout.
At this stage, the sun root plant has grown resembling more to its cousin sunflower. The plant grow very well in partial shade and hard clay soil. Very convenient plant, when you have little space and you can grow them at the most unproductive spot in your garden and still produce tubers. I have experimented growing sweet potato and potato on this same spot but it never produces decent tubers or tuber at all due to the hard soil and limited hours of direct-light. During summer this spot received just several hours of direct light around noon.
The sun root plant grows almost 2 metre tall. Sun root tubers contain no starch unlike potato. Sun root tubers carbohydrate consist mainly of inulin which the body does not absorbed so its a good healthy diet food. Inulin compound is also reported to increase the effectiveness of our body immune system and increase calcium absorption.
Sun root flower resembles sunflower and smaller in size but looks really cute. Sun root plants once established is drought-hardy compared to potato plant in our garden. In my mind, I kind of form a plan regarding these 3 plants potato; potato, sweet potato and sun root how to fully utilise the space and rotating the harvest to keep fresh supplies going between these 3 tubers. The best time for us to grow potato is end winter and harvest by early-mid summer. We can plant potato again early autumn and harvest mid-winter ~mid-spring. We start to plant sweet potatoes and sun root in September (early spring). Sun root can be grown in the most poor condition in our garden which somewhat increase the garden productivity during summer. Sun root and sweet potatoes can be harvested by mid-autumn when potatoes supply are no more. But for sweet potato tubers we don't have to dig them out until we want to use them. The sweet potato tubers does not mind staying underground in our climate here.
Sun root flower also has seeds but smaller than sunflower seeds. Can be grown from seeds but the tuber results will be variable like potato grown from seeds after some research reading. Growing from tubers will produce the same as its original parent, basically the parent clones. After some reading about this plant, I become interested to try growing this plant from seeds. Alas, did not managed to collect seeds because I throw the debris into the compost unaware of them having seeds or I was not thinking much that time when Abby was still in the tummy growing big very fast (3rd trimester). It was a cold day when we harvested the tubers. Any gardeners on the Northern Hemisphere harvesting sun root tubers soon? Did you find any seeds on the remaining plant spent blooms?
Well as you can see this section of our garden is in shadow some part during the day. The sun root plants dying and almost the time to harvest some tubers. My husband thought all the time it was a sunflower growing, not knowing that it was actually a sun root plant before I seek his help to harvest the tubers because it is in a spot hard to crouch for a heavy pregnant woman surrounded by other plants.
I was not expecting that much harvest because from previous experience growing potato and sweet potato on the same spot yield almost nothing. Surprised me it did, it was really a nice harvest for just one plant growing in poor condition. The basket harvest was really heavy fill with sun root tubers. The sun root tubers also helped break the hard clay soil for next plant growing there.
When I was pregnant with Abby, I enjoyed roasted sun roots and in Malaysia yellow curry very much. This post actually has been drafted since June and I just managed to post it today typing with one hand while the other hand holding Abby.