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Delicious Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)

You could easily overlook Jerusalem artichokes at your green grocer because they look a lot like ginger. In the deep red soil on our Mountain they grow well and are in season now.

This vegetable is not truly an artichoke but a variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned tuber. The white flesh of this vegetable is nutty, sweet and crunchy and is a good source of iron.

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Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are everywhere right now. They’re in season, and they give chefs a solid starch to work with that has a delicate, artichoke flavour. Not that they have anything to do with artichokes: the name came about from girasole, the Italian word for sunflowers (which the plants resemble). Lazy English speakers turned that into “Jerusalem,” and then added “artichoke” at the end to account for the similarity of flavour. “Sunchoke,” too, was just invented by a farmer in the ’60s who wanted to make the tuber sound more appealing.

Jerusalem artichokes are sweet and almost garlicky and mushroomy and gorgeous. Anything you can do with a potato you can do with a Jerusalem artichoke – make soup, mash, put them in with your roast vegetables or make chips. You can scrub and roast them whole like mini jacket potatoes and split them open, drizzled with a little flavored oil. You can even use them in a salad with smoky bacon. A Jerusalem artichoke goes well with sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked.

Trim any big bumps to make them easier to peel. Once peeled, they discolour quickly, so place in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning. Because they are beige, I always pretty them up with herbs, tomatoes and olives in a salad.

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My favorite way of preparing them is to steam and puree, then serve as a bed under grilled scallops or garlic prawns; they go amazingly well with seafood.

They are also good for diabetics as they have very little starch; and the carbohydrates they do possess can’t be broken down by digestive enzymes, and this produces gas. So there is one possible downside to enjoying this delicious vegetable… they have a nickname of Fartichoke, so best avoid it on a first date.

The bulk of sunchokes grown in Germany go toward the production of a liqueur called Topinambur, made from sunchokes and a mix of herbs. I must go and see Michael at the Tamborine Mountain Distillery to see if he knows about this.

I purchase my arti/sun chokes from the Green Shed.

November 18, 2016 / Uncategorized / thechef