The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is not an artichoke and nor is it from Jerusalem, but rather it is a tuber which is a member of the sunflower family and a relative to another tuber we grow yacón with which it shares a number of properties.
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as in other countries as sunchokes and sunroots, are a small knobbly tuber which have a nutty, sweet flavour and like yacón is a diet and diabetic friendly food.
Low in kilojoules, high in fibre and a good source of iron, potassium and thiamine these tubers store their starch as inulin which is not utilized by the body and so assists in blood sugar control. Also like yacón the undigested Jerusalem artichoke left behind in the intestinal tract is a ‘friendly’ bacteria and food for the colon.
Often recommended as a potato substitute for diabetics and the weight conscious they can cause flatulence in some people and those eating Jerusalem artichokes for the first time are advised to start with small quantities.
Native to North America, how the Jerusalem artichoke got its name varies from the corruption of the Italian word for sunflower, girasola, to someone thinking it tasted like an artichoke as well as many other thoughts and theories.
Availability: At The Chef’s Garden during winter and into spring.
Goes with: butter; beef; chicken; cream; lamb; onions; potatoes; seafood; silverbeet and chard; spinach; tomatoes; and watercress.
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
Selection: Look for unblemished, firm tubers which have a light brown skin and avoid those which are soft or wrinkled.
Preparation: As these tubers are notoriously knobbly they can be difficult to peel, however, peeling is not really necessary, simply scrub and cook with skins on. If eating them cooked and you really want them peeled, once cooked the skins are easily removed.
Storage: Will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Using: Any method of cooking can be used for Jerusalem artichokes and they are also delicious eaten raw.
Avoid cooking in aluminium or iron pans as the oxidation caused by these metals turns this vegetable an unappealing grey colour. Exposure to air also causes the flesh to darken, but this can be arrested by adding an acid such as lemon juice to the cooking liquid or if eating raw, toss in lemon juice. The high content of iron in Jerusalem artichokes also contributes to their darkening and once again the addition of acid helps prevent this.
Add mashed Jerusalem artichokes to soups and stews as a healthy thickener.
- Jerusalem Artichoke Chips: Wash and very thinly slice 500g Jerusalem artichokes. Place between sheets of paper towels and pat dry. Heat about 5mm vegetable oil in a large saucepan over a high heat, then cook artichoke slices in batches until brown on one side, turn over and cook until uniformly browned. Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with sea salt. These are a great garnish or snack.
- Raw Jerusalem Artichoke Salad: Wash and thinly slice 500g Jerusalem artichokes, place in a serving bowl and squeeze over the juice of ½ lemon, toss to coat. Add 2 chopped green onions and ½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with sea salt and ground black pepper. Toss to combine. Scatter with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6 as a side dish.