A relative of the sunflower, Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America. The plants go by many names including sunchokes and sunroots. In Maine and New Brunswick, Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are also called Passamaquoddy potatoes. The Passamaquoddy First Nation is in Maine and the SE corner of New Brunswick, including St Croix Island. The tall perennial plants produce edible tubers which can be harvested in the fall, during winter thaws and in early spring.
'Topinambours en beignets' (Jerusalem artichoke fritters) were on the menu of the Order of Good Cheer in Port-Royal, NS, in 1606-07.
In late June of 1604, Pierre Dugua’s expedition arrived on St. Croix Island. Seventy-nine men, including Samuel Champlain, built a fortified settlement complete with a blacksmith shop, chapel, bake ovens and palisade. They planted gardens but didn’t harvest enough vegetables for the long winter ahead. By spring, nearly half the settlers had died and others were suffering from scurvy.
With the support of the Passamaquoddy tribe, who brought food to the settlers in March, the survivors regained their strength. The remaining French settlers dismantled the settlement and moved to Port Royal, NS, by autumn 1605.
Given that Jerusalem artichokes both store well over the winter and can be harvested in early spring, they were likely among the foods that helped the settlers.
Jerusalem artichokes tubers fresh from the ground in the spring.