Jerusalem artichoke, also called a sunchoke or a sunroot in different parts of the world, is a perennial plant that is related to sunflower. In fact, it produces tall yellow flowers that look a lot like sunflowers. The edible part of a Jerusalem artichoke plant is a rhizome, which is an underground stem growing horizontally, and which bears tubers. It is where the nutrients are stored and in turn makes it possible for it to overwinter and grow back the next year. Jerusalem artichoke is a gourmet vegetable, and it is an easy one to grow. It will come back year after year without much effort.
Jerusalem artichokes are high in carbohydrates, but as a dietary fibre called ‘inulin’ which is responsible for the ‘gaseous’ reactions, or farts to put it simply. If you are concerned with that, here’s an interesting article on the subject.
In the UK Jerusalem artichokes are in season around from October to March. When buying look for firm specimens, without spots or sprouts. Artichokes don’t keep as well as potatoes, so either keep them in a fridge or in a bag somewhere dark. If kept on the counter, they will shrivel in less than a week, so make sure it’s inside a bag.
Jerusalem artichokes can be used in just the same way as potatoes. However, they are sweeter, and they get mushy when fully cooked. This is why they are great for making mashes, purees, soups. Also, unlike a potato, you can eat them raw.
Jerusalem artichokes sometimes can be quite knobbly and it can be challening to peel them. In that case, just soak and scrub them well, then slice and roast them.
If your artichokes are fairly straight, peel them and use them in mashes or soups. They are creamy and sweet, perfect for a soup. As you peel and chop them, add them to a bowl of cold water with lemon juice or vinegar. This will prevent them from oxidising and turning brown. Here is a quick and simple recipe for artichoke soup and here is one for a mash.