Spring is a great time to dig for Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)
The appearance of daffodils tells us it’s time to start turning over the garden. Last Saturday, hubby called from the garden corner – “another explosion of these artichoke things”. Also known as sunroots, earth apples and sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem. The origin of the name is unclear, as it is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans cultivated Helianthus tuberosus as a food source. The tubers grow vigorously (as can be seen in the garden above) and persist for years after being planted, so that the species has expanded its range to southern and western regions, Canada, and throughout our garden! (At 4-6 feet tall it’s beautiful midJuly through October, and in the spring the tubers are plentiful)
Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes) have multiple uses, unique flavor, and good nutritional value.
Early European colonists learned of this plant, and sent tubers back to Europe, where it became a popular crop and naturalized there. It later gradually fell into obscurity in North America. However it has had a successful come back the past 20 years in markets because of its multiple uses, unique flavor, and nutritional value.
Their taste is somewhat like a potato, but a bit more zing – not as edgy as a turnip. They are great boiled with potatoes and mashed if desired; or they can be “stir fried” with potatoes without oil. (Read this blog to see how easy it is to stir fry without oil) They add nice texture and taste to a salad or when cooking roasted veggies. They can even replace water chestnuts in a Chinese dish! And they are a good source of protein, iron, fiber and potassium, along with many vitamins including thiamin and niacin.
Choose sunchokes with pinkish smooth skin, they should be firm rather than soft or wrinkled. Raw sun chokes from the garden should be dusted off and stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from light. They may also be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels to absorb extra humidity and in a plastic bag.
Depending on how long they have been sitting at the market, raw sunchokes can be stored for one to three weeks. Cooked sunchokes should be refrigerated and taste best if consumed within two days.
Sunchokes add a nice zing to roasted veggies.
Have fun trying a variety of combinations for your roasted vegetables. I like to include a blend of colors that add to the creating an attractive appearance and a mix of flavors. To go with the sunchokes I decided to try yams, onion, zucchini (frozen from last years abundance) and garlic. I also set out some garbanzo beans to add to the last 20 minutes of cooking. Legumes are a great addition on a daily basis for their benefit on your endothelium (read about your important endothelium in our blog) as well as their protein content, iron, magnesium and calcium.
Chop your vegetables to the size you prefer.
Put your oven on 375* to preheat and prep your vegetables – gently wash, leaving the skins on since they contain significant vitamins and fiber. Enjoy your favorite music as you chop! If you want them to cook more quickly, cut the pieces smaller such 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. I like them larger, because it lets the individual flavors pop out a bit more. I slivered the garlic rather than mincing, because roasted garlic slivers (even whole cloves) are delicious! The Sunchokes can be seen sliced in coins in the lower right corner. (In the “wine glass” in the background is black tea, cranberry juice and a dash of OJ – cranberries are a good source of iodine)
Seasoned Veggies Ready to Roast
Add your favorite combination of seasonings.
For these veggies I chose thyme, rosemary, oregano and a bit of black pepper. I just shake on the herbs until it looks “right” – not scientific for sure, it’s just a feeling you develop. However, if you prefer measuring, there’s about a teaspoon of each herb on this. The more you cook and taste your foods (now that your tastebuds have awakened from the sugar, salt, fat doldrums of the Standard American Diet), the more you’ll get a sense of what herbs and how much you like.
Place in the oven for 30 minutes and then stir and put the garbanzo beans on top; roast for an additional 20 – 30 minutes until veggies are soft.
While your veggies are roasting create a salad of wonderful greens and fruit or veggies. Read about 10 different salads you can create!
Here’s another delicious use for Sunchokes.
Salad with Jerusalem Artichoke
Look for Jerusalem Artichokes – aka Sunchokes – in your grocery store or markets. Try the above ideas. You can also add some "zing" to your mashed potatoes with them – or use them in your next Chinese Stir Fry!
It’s great fun to explore new foods and different ways of preparing!!