Making Room for Sunchokes

Sunchokes

Often called Jerusalem artichokes, Sunchokes are unusually nutritious tubers which have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes.  They grow vigorously to over ten feet tall and burst into abundant sunflower-like blooms in the fall. That would be reason enough to grow them, but after the plant has gone, and the first frost has touched the ground, the tubers multiplying under the ground become sweet, delicious and extraordinarily nutritious. Resembling a ginger-potato merger in appearance and a water chestnut-jicama-potato (maybe with a hint of artichoke heart?) blend in flavor, they make a fresh addition to fall and winter cooking.

A North American native plant, these edible tubers were a common food for several Native American tribes. They are still eaten both raw and cooked, and are increasingly appreciated for their high inulin content, a sweet fiber used medicinally to balance blood sugar and support healthy gut bacteria. With a flavor similar to cooked potatoes, they make a good substitute for those wanting to reduce their starch consumption, increase their fiber intake and eat a low glycemic diet. They are also an excellent source of iron and a good one of thiamine, niacin, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

I planted several last fall and did close to nothing to care for them besides eagerly await harvest time.  Last weekend, I dug up one plant. Did I happen to pick the plant sitting on the mother load or are all of these blooming beauties harboring bucket loads of sunchokes?!  I dug up another to find…. more bounty!  I had to stop since I didn’t have the storage space worked out for quantities at this scale.  Fortunately, until the ground freezes, they store well right where they are.

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A few Sunchoke recipe ideas:

Sunchoke Slices on a Salad:  scrub and thinly slice several sunchokes and add them to your favorite green salad.  They offer a nice crunch with an earthy flavor making a fresh salad a more grounding food in fall and winter.  Dress with a light vinaigrette.

Sunchoke & Cheddar Soup (from The Victory Garden Cookbook):

  • 1 pound sunchokes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 celeriac bulb or 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt & cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Wash, peel (optional) and roughly chop sunchokes and keep in water to which lemon juice has been added until ready to use. Chop celery and onion and cook in 2 tablespoons butter until slightly wilted, approximately 10 minutes. Add sunchokes and 1 1/2 cups of broth, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. Purée in a blender or food processor.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, add flour, and cook for 2 minutes without browning. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of broth and cook 5 minutes. Add cheese and mustard, and stir until blended. Stir in sunchoke mixture and cream, and cook until soup is heated through. Season with salt, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

Sunchoke Mash: Cook or roast cubes of root vegetables and tubers, such as potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, celeriac, etc with a couple of cloves of garlic. Add cubed sunchokes and cook until tender. Mash with a bit of butter or olive oil and some milk or cream, depending on desired consistency.

Vegetable Sauté with Sunchokes: Prepare and sauté any vegetables (such as red onion, garlic and celery stalks) in a skillet, and add scrubbed and sliced sunchokes toward the end of the cooking time.  Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Sunchokes Sauteed

 

Looking for more recipes? Thankfully, there is a blog devoted entirely to the sunchoke and its recipes.

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