Now here’s a vegetable that doesn’t have it easy. The Jerusalem artichoke is neither an artichoke nor is it from Jerusalem. It’s no beauty either; the knobby, brown exterior doesn’t exactly whet the appetite. Perhaps worst of all, however, is its reputation for causing a bit of, well, there’s really no delicate way to say this… gas.
So why do Jerusalem Artichokes have a devoted foodie fan base? A unique but delicate flavor, for starters. Secondly, it’s a vegetable that’s really easy to cook in a variety of ways. Last but definitely not least, we appreciate this low-starch tuber for its prebiotic fiber and think that in moderation it can add healthy variety to your diet.
To make this veggie more accessible, let’s start with the confusing name. There are many theories why it’s called a Jerusalem artichoke, perhaps the most believable one being that it’s part of the sunflower family and the Italian name for sunflower is “girasole.” Over time, English speakers’ mispronunciation of “girasole” turned into “Jerusalem” and the name stuck. As for the artichoke part, this veggie isn’t at all related to the artichoke, but the two vegetables do share a similar flavor, hence the name “Jerusalem artichoke.” More and more, however, growers and chefs have ditched this strange name altogether and call the vegetable a sunchoke instead. It’s likely that your grocery store or farmers’ market does the same.
The sunchoke (formerly known as the Jerusalem artichoke) may be brown and knobby, but the taste makes up for its homeliness. Sweet and nutty, the flavor reminds us of a potato, artichoke and water chestnut rolled into one. Once cooked, the knobby tuber transforms into an appealing dish, especially when garnished with bright green herbs.
As we said before, cooking a sunchoke doesn’t require much effort. Boiled, steamed, roasted or eaten raw, you’ll undoubtedly love the flavor. Any one of these variations is worth trying:
Sunchoke Soup: Sauté peeled and sliced sunchokes in butter, simmer in stock until soft and then puree in the blender (add a little heavy cream if you like).
Sunchoke Mash: Steam or broil peeled sunchokes then mash with butter and salt.
Sunchoke Chips: Slice peeled or unpeeled sunchokes very thin and coat with oil and a light sprinkle of salt. Bake in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes or until browned. Or, fry the thin slices in hot oil, then sprinkle with salt.
Sunchoke Salad: Grate or slice peeled sunchokes as a garnish in a salad
Roasted Sunchokes: Our favorite dish, especially when garnished with chives. The edges of the sunchokes get crispy and caramelized, which brings out the sweet, nutty flavor. The flesh becomes smooth and buttery and the chives add just the right amount of color and flavor.
2 pounds sunchokes
3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
1/4 cup roughly chopped chives
Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Much like potatoes, the skin on sunchokes can be scrubbed clean and left on or it can be easily peeled off with a paring knife. For this recipe, we peeled half of the sunchokes and left the skin on half of them.
Cut the sunchokes into evenly sized wedges. Drizzle olive oil or melted butter on top.
Roast for 30 minutes (or more if needed) until soft and nicely browned.
Remove from oven and season with chives and sea salt.
Oh, and about that gassy thing… like many things in life, sunchokes are best enjoyed in moderation. Take our word for it; despite the great flavor, serving sunchokes in small portions is wise.