Topinambur – What is it?
When the golden yellow flowers glow from September till late autumn, there is no way for topinambur to deny its kinship with the sunflower any more. What is harvested, are the topinambur tubers. The "sunroot", as the originally North American plant was also named, was almost completely displaced by the potato during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Topinambur, also known as Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke/sunroot by connoisseurs in Germany, is considered to be one of the most exceptional of all tubers.
Unlike the potato, the tubers of this Indian crop plant contain no starch nor, unlike the sugar beet, do they contain sugar as an energy storage substance but rather high levels of inulin.
Because of its unique, honey-like carbohydrate combination topinambur offers low calorie values and easy digestibility. The high fructose percentage and its very specific flavours ensure that this "light product" intensifies and refines the taste of sour products.
Topinambur’s average composition of selected soluble substances is as follows
Interesting facts about topinambur
Topinambur is a wild fruit of the daisy family which is grown in Brandenburg/Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Above ground it resembles a sunflower and, like the potato, it grows underground tubers. These tubers are harvested with usual potato harvesting technology in late autumn or spring and then undergo a proprietary process at the LIENIG WILDFRUCHTVERARBEITUNG GmbH in Dabendorf, south of Berlin.
However, unlike the potatoes, the topinambur tubers do not contain starch but inulin. The inulin from the topinambur plant (not to be mistaken for insulin) is a storage carbohydrate found in fructose. Humans do not possess the digestive enzymes necessary to absorb this type of inulin so it passes undigested through the stomach and small intestine tract and ends up in the colon.
The topinambur inulin is then metabolized in the colon by the beneficial bacteria (lactobacteria and bifidobacteria) which reside there. These beneficial (probiotic) gut bacteria can then spread and displace detrimental bacteria (pathogens such as E.coli., clostridia etc.). At the same time, the beneficial bacteria form so-called short-chain fatty acids (lactic and butyric acids) during the metabolisation process of the topinambur inulin, which produce energy for stressed colon cells. This process is supported by a variety of healthy topinambur minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
This capacity is very important in this day and age, because many diseases and stresses of the human (and animal) organism are related to nutrition. Whilst humans previously obtained 60% of our essential energy via the colon in the early stages of our evolution, the current percentage is barely 25%. Our modern high-energy, easily digestible food made of industrially processed, isolated sugars, proteins and fats is quickly absorbed by the small intestine and raises the blood sugar and blood fat level. However, after the almost complete absorption of energy by the small intestine, there is scarcely any energy left for the functioning of the intestinal cells in the rear part of the intestine.
Even worse for the digestive system is the fact that, after the quick absorption by the small intestine, so called endotoxins (toxins from food) of the bacterial protein breakdown flood into the rearmost part of the intestine, and because the energetically undersupplied colon cells cannot prevent their advance, these toxins spread through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and thus into the whole organism.
That is why the consumption of topinambur is so important for the human organism today to keep a healthy microbiological equilibrium in the gut which is the biggest immune organ of the human! Thus, eating topinambur is a good way to take care of your intestine as helps to cleanse the organism of harmful food-borne substances and supports the vital (physiological) functioning of many organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas. Therefore, topinambur inulin has a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol and blood fat levels.
This is also why topinambur is to be recommended especially to diabetics because long-term observations of topinambur consumers have confirmed that it can reduce the number of insulin injections required, and that there are no extreme blood sugar spikes. Topinambur is also to be recommended to people with digestive trouble or who are overweight, as these health problems are also diet-related. Topinambur inulin has proven to be an especially helpful accompaniment to any antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics reduce the entire microflora in the organism. Topinambur inulin is perfectly suitable to ensure a healthy development of the bowel flora and to avoid any unhealthy growth (fungus) or resistances. The relevant literature also suggests that inulin assists with the absorption of calcium, which makes its consumption particularly important as for those, mainly elderly women, suffering from osteoporosis.
In summary, we can state that the wild fruit topinambur is a vital food source for any organism suffering from nutritional and environmental stress. Thanks to the preservation of its original botanical state and due to its place of origin in an extreme environment (the Andes) many vital substances that tend to be missing from today’s modern (fast/design food) diet accumulate within the plant making it an important addition to our daily diets.