Ex-Classics Home Page

Gerard's Herbal - Part 3

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 261. Of Jerusalem Artichoke.

CHAP. 261. Of Jerusalem Artichoke.

Fig. 1115. Jerusalem Artichoke

            One may well by the English name of this plant perceive that those that vulgarly impose names upon plants have little either judgement or knowledge of them. For this plant hath no similitude in leaf, stalk, root or manner of growing with an Artichoke, but only a little similitude of taste in the dressed root; neither came it from Jerusalem or out of Asia, but out of America, whence Fabius Columna one of the first setters of it forth fitly names it Aster peruvianus tuberosus, and Flos solis farnesianus, because it so much resembles the Flos solis, and for that he first observed it growing in the garden of Cardinal Farnesius, who had procured roots thereof from the West Indies. Pelliterius calls this Heliotropium indicum tuberosum; and Bauhin in his Prodromus sets this forth by the name of Chrysanthemum latifolium brasilianum; but in his Pinax he hath it by the name of Helianthemum indicum tuberosum. Also our countryman Mr. Parkinson hath exactly delivered the history of this by the name of Battatas de Canada, Englishing it Potatoes of Canada: now all these that have written and mentioned it, bring it from America, but from far different places, as from Peru, Brasil, and Canada: but this is not much material, seeing it now grows so well & plentifully in so many places of England. I will now deliver you the History, as I have received it from my oft mentioned friend Mr. Goodyer, who, as you may see by the date, took it presently upon the first arrival into England.

The Description.

Flos solis pyramidalis, parvo flore, tuberosa radice, Heliotropium indicum quorundam.
["Pyramidal Sunflower, with small flowers, tuberous roots, a kind of Indian Sunflower"]

            This wonderful increasing plant hath growing up from one root, one, sometimes two, three or more round green rough hairy streaked stalks, commonly about twelve foot high, sometimes sixteen foot high or higher, as big as a child's arm, full of white spongeous pith within.  The leaves grow all alongst the stalks out of order of a light green color, rough, sharp pointed, about eight inches broad, and ten or eleven inches long, deeply notched or indented about the edges, very like the leaves of the common Flos solis peruvianus, but nothing crumpled, and not so broad. The stalks divide themselves into many long branches even from the roots to their very tops, bearing leaves smaller and smaller toward the tops, making the herb appear like a little tree, narrower and slenderer toward the top, in fashion of a steeple or pyramid. The flowers with us grow only at the tops of the stalks and branches, like those of the said Flos solis, but no bigger than our common single Marigold, consisting of twelve or thirteen streaked sharp pointed bright yellow bordering leaves, growing forth of a scaly small hairy head, with a small yellow thrummy matter within. These flowers by reason of their late flowering, which is commonly two or three weeks after Michaelmas, never bring their seed to perfection, & it maketh show of abundance of small heads near the tops of the stalks and branches forth of the bosoms of the leaves, which never open and flower with us, by reason they are destroyed with the frosts, which otherwise it seems would be a goodly spectacle. The stalk sends forth many small creeping roots whereby it is fed or nourished, full of hairy threads even from the upper part of the earth,  spreading far abroad: amongst which from the main root grow forth many tuberous roots, clustering together, sometimes fastened to the great root itself, sometimes growing on long strings a foot or more from the root, raising or heaving up the earth above them, and sometimes appearing above the earth, producing from the increase of one root, thirty, forty, or fifty in number, or more, making in all usually about a peck, many times near half a bushel, if the soil be good. These tuberous roots are of a reddish colour without, of a soft white substance within, bunched or bumped out many ways, sometimes as big as a man's fist, or not so big, with white noses or peaks where they will sprout or grow the next year. The stalks bowed down, and some part of them covered over with earth, send forth small creeping thready roots, and also tuberous roots like the former, which I have found by experience. These tuberous roots will abide alive in the earth all winter, though the stalks and roots by the which they were nourished utterly rot and perish away, and will begin to spring up again at the beginning of May, seldom sooner.

The Place.

            Where this plant groweth naturally I know not, in Anno 1617 I received two small roots thereof from Master Franquevill of London, no bigger than hen's eggs: the one I planted, and the other I gave to a friend, mine brought me a peck of roots, wherewith I stored Hampshire.

The Virtues.

            A. These roots are dressed divers ways; some boil them in water, and after stew them with sack and butter, adding a little ginger: others bake them in pies, putting marrow, dates, ginger, raisins of the sun, sack, &c. Others some other way, as they are led by their skill in cookery. But in my judgement, which way soever they be dressed and eaten they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine, than men: yet some say they have usually eaten them, and have found no such windy quality in them. 17 Oct. 1621. John Goodyer.

Prev Next

Back to Introduction