Sunchoke - Helianthus tuberosus

Sunchoke - Helianthus tuberosus

Off The Side of The Trail

One day I was walking in the woods with my dog and came across a pile of trash thrown off to the side of the trail. I immediately shifted my mode into reductionist mode, thinking, “What kind of monster would do such a thing? If only there was a way to get rid of people like this.” But then something turned the mirror back onto myself. “Perhaps the better question is: What is the deeper malady of a hurting life, hurting life? What kind of world have we created and grown up in that compels us to be the abuser in a relationship? What lack of community teaches us to ignore the community around us? What profane world have we developed, that no longer recognizes sacredness in all its forms?”

"Engrave this upon my heart: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story."

There is no finger with which I can point. I am that kind of person that throws trash off the side of the trail. I have lived the life I’m paid to live, buying things and throwing them away, off to the side of the trail. I am the one driving cars, paying for gas, oil, and tires, then throwing them away, off to the side of the trail. I am the one that buys zucchini wrapped in plastic, soap in plastic, plastic in plastic with more plastic, and then throwing them away, off to the side of the trail. I was born into this world, have assimilated to it, and become acculturated to it. In almost all aspects of life, I am the destroyer of worlds, I am a part of the mess, compelled and even obligated to play this part.

"Man is not a question that requires an answer, but a quest that requires our participation."

But why? Why would anybody really do this? It often feels as if there is something of great value that we have forgotten about, as if we were a species with amnesia. Perhaps we choose to forget, perhaps we wanted to go on a journey, to be surprised, to play without knowing the outcome. Perhaps we needed to feel the weight of disconnection, so that we could truly know connection. Perhaps.

"As every child knows, the whole fun of things is to go on adventures, play make-believe, and create illusions."

There is some kind of knowing that whispers, "Everything and everyone are exactly where they are supposed to be: in process." And though that may not be very sensitive or comforting when life brings us to those lowest moments, the journey keeps moving forward, with what seems to be an arc moving away from the separation of judgment, back into the renuion of connection. I no longer have the illusions that picking up trash will save the earth, that it will even make the slightest bit of mathmatical difference. I no longer feel compelled to pick it up, because I’m trying to do something, to be something, to be seen as doing something important. I no longer feel compelled to pick it up, because it will stop the process of destruction. I pick up trash, that which has been carelessly cast aside, because its what the mystery of Love does when I allow it to flow through me.

"To explain the Mystery is to dethrone the Mystery because one tends to reduce It to a concept. When one is fully experiencing this reality, one finds no words to express it."

When the flute has nothing blocking the movement of air, beautiful music can be played. I am the flute, we are the flute, in process, always cleaning up, removing the trash and obstacles that prevent the music from being played. Not because I need a song to be played, not because I have to do it, but its because I am a flute, it is my nature and what else would I do other than becoming caught up in the music of Becoming.

"Under Moloch thinking our purpose is merely to survive, but under the story of the spirals, it is to grow...It is to recognize that in every encounter and in every situation, we are presented with opportunities to ascend or to descend, to stretch and grow, or to constrict and withdrawal."

What does this have to do with the Sunchoke? Spend time with any plant and you will often get the questions that you didn’t know you needed to ask. Sunchoke is often called Jerusalem Artichoke, and it is not from Jerusalem and it is not a type of artichoke, but nevertheless it is a fascinating plant from the Sunflower family. Whether found in some of the worst soils, it grows. When encountering some of the harshest conditions, it still grows. And even when it finds itself in the shade, it seems to grow faster, searching for even more light. It grows with vigor wherever and almost in whatever situation it finds itself.

"Every day we encounter new situations that psychologically stretch and mold us. Every physical problem is a new opportunity to grow; each hardship helps us to develop our inner qualities of courage, love, and compassion; each new challenge is an opportunity to learn. In a sense, each of us uses matter as a tool of transformation. Our biological bodies are temporary vehicles for expression and experience in this dense realm of matter."

Disruption for the Sunchoke, is merely a new opportunity for growth. So if you want more Sunchokes dig them up to eat them, you will give the tubers that are left in the ground new vigor. Which makes the Sunchoke, not only a great teacher, but also a great addition to a Perma Farms.


The roots are the edible part of this plant, and they are prolific, which makes harvesting them a breeze. We harvest ours after the first frost and throughout winter, as they develop a nice sweetness after a good frost has knocked down the tops.

The tubers have very subtle hints of a nuttier and sweeter potato. They do not taste bad, but they do require that the eater not think that they will taste like a potato, because they really are different from potatoes, full of inulin as opposed to starch. This is the very reason they are often considered a healthy alternative for those with diabetes. It is important to note that inulin can also be the source of some serious flatulence. So beware.


There are many uses for Sunchoke, as they have been made into wine and liquor, roasted and used as a coffee substitute, and processed down to make a sweetener. Mostly we use them in similar ways that we would potatoes, with a couple of exceptions; 1. If you cook them too much they turn into mush, and 2. they can be eaten raw, and go great when sliced and put in a salad.