Her lecture in a nutshell:
- The environmental benefit has to do with wildlife- If you appreciate a more formal style, you can use native plants in a formal planting;
But my eye-opener came when she introduced some native garden plants and talked about Helianthus.
Just last year I worked very hard for weeks, trying to dig them out of my garden - I hope not successfully - as I learned that they have edible tubers and you should plant them in big pots or built a 1-2 feet deep sort of wall around the plants to avoid spreading. I searched the Internet for more information.
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichoke) is quite showy in bloom during late summer and early fall and is a type of sunflower that is grown for its edible tuberous roots as well as its pretty yellow flowers. This is a large, gangly, multi-branched perennial with rough, sandpapery leaves and stems, and numerous yellow flower heads. It can get 10 ft (3 m) tall and its branches can spread to nearly as much. They sometimes break under their own weight, and often fall over (plant them next to a fence or a patio railing or to cover an unsightly shed or your compost). It is also called the sunroot or sunchoke or earth apple or topinambur, a species of sunflower native to the eastern United States, from Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas and Canada.
The early settlers in North America, as well as the Indians, appreciated it as a readily available source of food, and their gardens became an important factor in the spread of the plant. There is a record of Champlain sending some of the tubers to his native France after tasting them a second time in Canada. It's very likely he sent them home from Massachusetts, too, because a book called Histoire de la Nouvelle France, published in 1609, makes mention of this vegetable before Champlain's exploration in Canada. Most farmers in Ontario presently consider Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, to be a nuisance even though it is sold as a specialty vegetable. The popularity of the plant as a food source for both humans and animals has fluctuated throughout the years.
There are also tons of recipes in the Internet for Jerusalem Artichoke (strange name, as it is not from Jerusalem and not an artichoke).
An Italien Gourmet cook wrote in her blog:
Preparation 1: I brought a handful home from the market, washed and roasted them (skin and all) in the oven with a simple drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. I cooked them all the way through as I would a baked potato. Ridiculously good. Smooth, creamy texture with a rich, nutty flavor. I was not surprised to learn this vegetable is a member of the sunflower family.
Preparation 2: I tried roasting them a second time replacing the olive oil with hazelnut oil for even tastier results.
Preparation 5: I thought I had reached perfection already, but then I tasted this soup
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Makes 6-8 bowls of soup
Preheat the oven to 450 F.