Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes are not related to globe artichokes, which are actually part of the thistle family, and considered the ‘true’ artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are in fact, part of the sunflower family and the word ‘Jerusalem’ comes from the Italian word for sunflower, ‘girasole’. They are a lumpy brown tuber that look similar to ginger with white flesh and a nutty, sweet flavour and that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Health Benefits: They are a source of folate and potassium which helps to balance sodium from salty foods. They also provide vitamin C, which helps us absorb iron from our food and are a source of dietary fibre, including a soluble fibre called Inulin, which may benefit healthy bacteria in the large intestine.
Buying and Storing: Look for firm Jerusalem artichokes with minimal knobs (to save the waste in peeling) and store in a cool, dark place with good ventilation for 7-10 days.
Preparing: Peel, trimming off any big bumps first to make it easier. Once peeled, they discolour quickly, so place them in a bowl of water and lemon juice (or vinegar) to prevent browning. They are easier to peel once cooked.
Quick ideas for using Jerusalem artichokes:
• To make a simple soup, boil with potato until soft. Blend with stock and cream.
• Fry in butter and olive oil.
• Boil until slightly tender. Slice. Place in a baking dish. Top with white sauce and breadcrumbs. Bake until golden.
• Bake whole like baby potatoes.
• Cook in butter or boil, then puree and serve instead of mash.
Just one word of warning: if eaten in large quantities, Jerusalem artichokes can have anti-social side effects (flatulence!).
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
450g Jerusalem artichokes
1 tablespoon (20 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, diced
2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste
A handful of mixed seeds eg: pumpkin, sunflower, linseed and sesame
A handful of finely chopped toasted nuts e.g. hazelnuts, pine nuts
- Using a stiff brush or clean scourer, rub the Jerusalem artichokes well to remove any mud so that they are left good and clean, or peel them. Slice them into chunks.
- Place the oil and onions in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook slowly until translucent, lightly golden and fragrant.
- Add the Jerusalem artichokes and stock to the onions and bring the mixture to the boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook until the artichokes are soft.
- Remove the pan from the heat and blitz the mixture until it is smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little more stock to thin to your desired consistency.
- Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
- Top with seed mix and/or nuts.