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Are sunchoke flowers edible?

 
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A straightforward question, which a long internet search has failed to answer.

I missed a few flower buds when pruning my sunchokes last week, and now I have some deliciously sweet smelling flowers. Do I chuck them on the midden heap? Or are they useful? If they are edible, I'm sure there's loads of useful things to do with them, ranging from garnishing dishes, breading and frying them, maybe even brewing a sweet tea from them?

Anyone have any experience with this?
 
pollinator
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Do you eat the buds? Someone on here mentioned that they do, but I can't find it again. I don't think I've heard about the flowers. Mine are blooming now too, so that's an interesting question.
 
Ben Tyler
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Ken W Wilson wrote:Do you eat the buds? Someone on here mentioned that they do, but I can't find it again. I don't think I've heard about the flowers. Mine are blooming now too, so that's an interesting question.



It's my first year growing sunchokes, and I simply tossed the buds without thinking about it. They sound like a good candidate for battering and frying though!

I'd like to figure out if this is a viable food source we can eat in mass quantities without reservations, or if it's like tomato leaves in that some people do it but it's mildly poisonous in large doses...
 
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I found one article that says humans can eat the foliage of sunflowers:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/483234-how-to-eat-sunflower/
It does have some references.
The GreenDean reacted negatively to this idea,but I still nurse it, because what a bounty it would be!

Sunchokes are close relatives,so if one is good, the other might be.

I know of no scientific enterprise testing the edibility of non-gmo plants,mores the pity.
Accourding to the sites dedicated to house rabbits ,they are rather sensitive to  stuff that we eat without a problem.
They can tolerate way more fiber,but that seems to be about it.
I have proposed them as culinary canaries for testing foods. If they can eat it and survive short term,it's probably not acutely toxic.
If they eat it long term,we can see it's effects on their physical well being, and when slaughtered,their organs.
Neurological effects or other less than grossly obvious downsides wouldn't be readily evident.
For example one Permies member mentioned this in context of humans eating comfrey.
Comfrey taken internally is said to possibly cause liver(?)
damage.
Having fed a large quantity of comfrey to his rabbits, they noted no visible effects on their livers.

Back to sunchokes flowers,rabbits seem love the stems,flowers and leaves if this plant more than any green other than pear trimmings and comfrey.

Check the green dean's site for the edibility of  sunflower blooms, and if good, I say have at them.

 
William Bronson
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I just joined linked in in order to contact the author of the article cited for the livestrong artcle.
If she will share her primary reasearch, we will have more data.
 
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William Bronson wrote:
I have proposed them as culinary canaries for testing foods. If they can eat it and survive short term,it's probably not acutely toxic.



Do not do this! As far as I am aware rabbits can eat some things that are seriously toxic to humans without comming to any harm, Deathcaps and deadly nightshade being the worst, but they also enjoy groundsel which is also toxic.

Rabbit's resistance to toxic compounds in plants

Rabbits are resistant to some of the toxic compounds in poisonous plants. For example, rabbits are resistant to pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are the toxic principle of several plants including common ragwort (Senecio jacobea) (http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/abs/10.4141/cjas84-224) and some rabbits are resistant to the toxic effects of deadly nightshade because have high levels of plasma atropinesterase that breaks down atropine.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16736160. Atropine is the toxic principle of deadly nightshade.


Plant toxicity


Back to artichoke flowers, I cannot see why not, sunflower petals are edible.
 
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I did my usual... Instead of talking about eating sunroots on the Internet, I went out to my garden, and picked a sunroot flower and put it in my mouth.

They are inedible!!!

The flower petals have spikes on them, which makes them about like eating thistles. They are fibrous, so take a lot of chewing.

With the petals being too fibrous to eat, the rest of the flower is even more fibrous. Still with the same spikes as the rest of the plant.

And that resinous taste!!! It is super concentrated in the flowers. A disgusting taste that I don't want anywhere near my mouth.

I've tried eating a lot of things that are supposedly edible, and I might eat them if I was hungry. However sunroot flowers are something that I would not attempt to eat no matter how hungry I was. Bleck. Ugh. Yuck. Spitting.

 
William Bronson
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

William Bronson wrote:
I have proposed them as culinary canaries for testing foods. If they can eat it and survive short term,it's probably not acutely toxic.



Do not do this! As far as I am aware rabbits can eat some things that are seriously toxic to humans without comming to any harm, Deathcaps and deadly nightshade being the worst, but they also enjoy groundsel which is also toxic.

Rabbit's resistance to toxic compounds in plants

Rabbits are resistant to some of the toxic compounds in poisonous plants. For example, rabbits are resistant to pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are the toxic principle of several plants including common ragwort (Senecio jacobea) (http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/abs/10.4141/cjas84-224) and some rabbits are resistant to the toxic effects of deadly nightshade because have high levels of plasma atropinesterase that breaks down atropine.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16736160. Atropine is the toxic principle of deadly nightshade.


Plant toxicity


Back to artichoke flowers, I cannot see why not, sunflower petals are edible.

 


Thank you for this!
I certainly wasn't going to eat plants known to be poisonous,just test questionable cases in a survival/research situation.
Most feedback on this idea has focused on the moral issues rather than the practice one's.
Too bad they are more resilient than I'd thought😏
 
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Some how I have never checked what the seeds are like. are they anything like sunflower seeds? Could they be used as chicken feed?
 
Ben Tyler
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I did my usual... Instead of talking about eating sunroots on the Internet, I went out to my garden, and picked a sunroot flower and put it in my mouth.

They are inedible!!!

The flower petals have spikes on them, which makes them about like eating thistles. They are fibrous, so take a lot of chewing.

With the petals being too fibrous to eat, the rest of the flower is even more fibrous. Still with the same spikes as the rest of the plant.

And that resinous taste!!! It is super concentrated in the flowers. A disgusting taste that I don't want anywhere near my mouth.

I've tried eating a lot of things that are supposedly edible, and I might eat them if I was hungry. However sunroot flowers are something that I would not attempt to eat no matter how hungry I was. Bleck. Ugh. Yuck. Spitting.



Thanks for this important field data! I guess that rules out raw eating, possibly cooked too, although cooking helps neutralize hairy textures.

I just tried searching for "sunchoke flower tea", and got only one result: an account from a tourist in a restaurant in Zwolle, Netherlands:

"It’s raw scallops to begin with, laced with black garlic and a warm broth of smoked celeriac. Cod comes later, with slices of raw hazelnut and a puddle of wildly expressive sunchoke-flower “tea.” Neither dish feels familiar at first. But my tongue and my brain start to dig, and they uncover in each a certain sweetness that is nothing if not alluring."

I wonder if sunchoke flower tea is an accepted thing in the Netherlands?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Sunroot seeds are exactly like minature sunflower seeds. Plants are self-incompatible, therefore a clone won't make seeds unless there are unrelated clones nearby to act as a pollen donor. Songbirds really like the seeds and are voracious consumers of sunroot seeds. Makes is hard to collect seeds for other purposes.



 
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Did you try some salt?

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I did my usual... Instead of talking about eating sunroots on the Internet, I went out to my garden, and picked a sunroot flower and put it in my mouth.

They are inedible!!!

The flower petals have spikes on them, which makes them about like eating thistles. They are fibrous, so take a lot of chewing.

With the petals being too fibrous to eat, the rest of the flower is even more fibrous. Still with the same spikes as the rest of the plant.

And that resinous taste!!! It is super concentrated in the flowers. A disgusting taste that I don't want anywhere near my mouth.

I've tried eating a lot of things that are supposedly edible, and I might eat them if I was hungry. However sunroot flowers are something that I would not attempt to eat no matter how hungry I was. Bleck. Ugh. Yuck. Spitting.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Note to self--have rabbit eat it first, then eat rabbit.
Or wait till Joseph tests it out.

Skandi Rogers wrote:

William Bronson wrote:
I have proposed them as culinary canaries for testing foods. If they can eat it and survive short term,it's probably not acutely toxic.



Do not do this! As far as I am aware rabbits can eat some things that are seriously toxic to humans without comming to any harm, Deathcaps and deadly nightshade being the worst, but they also enjoy groundsel which is also toxic.

Rabbit's resistance to toxic compounds in plants

Rabbits are resistant to some of the toxic compounds in poisonous plants. For example, rabbits are resistant to pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are the toxic principle of several plants including common ragwort (Senecio jacobea) (http://pubs.aic.ca/doi/abs/10.4141/cjas84-224) and some rabbits are resistant to the toxic effects of deadly nightshade because have high levels of plasma atropinesterase that breaks down atropine.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16736160. Atropine is the toxic principle of deadly nightshade.


Plant toxicity


Back to artichoke flowers, I cannot see why not, sunflower petals are edible.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I typically do taste testing without salt or spices. In the case or sunroots, salt, bacon, or garlic wouldn't help the flavor nor texture.  

Hmm. Except for winter squash, which gets pan fried in coconut oil or lard, and salted.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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I was joking around, you know that right?  maybe chocolate sauce or ranch dressing.  
December 16th is my birthday!
 
Do the sunchokes propogate by seed?
 
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Sort of related...My sunchokes don't flower until very late.  They just got flowers last week.  Is that the norm?
 
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We found our first flower today!  I'm just hoping that all three varieties flower at the same time so that I have a good chance of some viable seed.

I recently stumbled on this article about Jerusalem Artichoke: True Seed Production.  Apparently they are very day-length sensitive and if they are not mature enough to flower at the appropriate time in the spring, you might still get lucky and have them flower in the autumn.
 
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I've had sunchokes in the ground for about 8 years now.  They always flower in the last week of september.  I just checked to see how the tubers are doing.  Average size is about as bid as a fist.    I've never messed with the flowers because they are one of the last meals that the bumble bees have before the winter.  
 
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I can't wait for the spring season to hit as I'm looking forward to cooking and eating Jerusalem artichoke shoots.  Stephen Barstow, in his book "Around the World in 80 Plants" (very highly recommended) says it makes a nice vegetable.  I've also read that sunflower buds are good cooked so I want to see if the very young flower buds of Jerusalem artichoke make good veg or not....will report back in spring and fall :)
 
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The eastern Helianthus Tuberosus does not seed at all. The only way they can spread is by tuber or rhizome, just like potatoes. I have three eastern varieties that do not seed at all, and I've sampled the flowers raw, boiled and made into wine. Two varieties have flowers tender enough to toss raw in salads, the third one is tougher than shoe leather. They taste like the roots but a bit stronger. Boiled or steamed they resemble squash. The first time when I was making flower broth for wine my wife came home and asked me why I was cooking squash. I knew the smell was very familiar, but it took her asking about squash for it to hit me. For my wine I use only flower broth, sugar, water and raisins for natural yeast. I like it straight and blended with fruit wines. I've made tuber broth wine too, but it's so stout it isn't a good drinking wine. It does however make an earthy cooking wine.
Another related variety is Helianthus pauciflorus, normally found in the Great Plains and south-central Canada. These ones spread by seed and rhizomes. They can apparently be cross pollinated with the eastern varieties which only spread by tubers. Still another related variety is Helianthus multiflorus, another perennial. This one however may not flower for one or two or more years after being planted. It may also have just a few tiny seeds and also spreads by rhizomes.
I would hazard a guess that it's the different structured flowers of the western varieties that are spiny and resinous.
What I am curious about is whether the leaves are edible. I've heard, but not seen solid resources that the leaves can be used like grape leaves in Mediterranean dishes. I would try that, but most every summer mine get hit with powdery mildew. It doesn't hurt them one bit, but I don't think it would be very palatable. I have friends that grow Sunchokes and rabbits. They strip off leaves and feed their rabbits and at both of our places, the wild rabbits clean off the bottom leaves up as high as they can reach.
There's one more interesting tid-bit. I read a study paper from a university where they grafted a Sunflower top onto a Sunchoke root stalk. The sunflower seeds had much more oil than normal and there were no tubers produced, not even any nodules on any stolons. Got me to wondering, what if the Sunflower top were grafted onto the Sunchoke stalk higher, allowing the base to produce some 'choke flowers. Would the 'choke flowers produce tubers while the Sunflower head made more oil? Or would they cancel each other out?
And one more, I never wholesale trim off the flowers, I just grab a few here and there. As someone said, it leaves some late fall flowers for the bees and it doesn't affect tuber size or number to leave them on.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Photos of viable seeds of eastern Helianthus tuberosum and of Solanum tuberosum (common potato).



sunroot-seeds.jpg
[Thumbnail for sunroot-seeds.jpg]
Heliantus tuberosum seeds.
sunroot-seedling.jpg
[Thumbnail for sunroot-seedling.jpg]
Seedling grown from pollinated seed of Heliantus tuberosum.
tps-seed-train.jpg
[Thumbnail for tps-seed-train.jpg]
Pollinated seeds of Solanum tuberosum.
TPS-2015-03-15_640.jpg
[Thumbnail for TPS-2015-03-15_640.jpg]
Seedlings grown from pollinated seeds of Solanum tuberosum.
 
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I have been making tea from Sunchoke leaves for a week now
adding a lemon slice and some ginger.
So far I have had no side effects and it seems to have improved my arthritic knees.
When my plants flower I will add some petals as well.
Rosie
 
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JA leaves are one of my dog's top three self-foraged greens. Grass and goldenrod he eats frequently, sometimes Jerusalem artichoke leaves, and more rarely echinacea. Ducks and chickens, of course, love Jerusalem artichoke leaves. I have long wondered if I should eat them, too. I hope for more reports.
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