Have you seen these funky looking veggies at organic markets and farmers markets? They are sunchokes and I just love ’em.
Sometimes called Jerusalem artichokes they really don’t have anything to do with artichokes at all.
They are a native plant, the root of a native sunflower – hence the name sunchoke. I guess someone thought they tasted kinda artichoky? No idea.
Some of my clients (I’m a personal chef, you know) can’t eat potatoes and I’ve found I can use sunchokes in some dishes in place of potatoes. One of the favorites here in The Nourishing Well Kitchen is Sunchoke Home Fries. We slice up a little bit of red onion, slice the sunchokes thinly and then fry them up, as if you were making home-fries. Be patient with them and allow them to cook well and brown a bit. You may need to add a splash of water here and there so the don’t burn. So yummy! I’ve added them to frittatas, soups and roasted them with other veg.
Sometimes sunchokes come very clean but often these little guys have a bit of mud stuck to them and need to be cleaned well. You can see how knobby they are and often dirt (very muddy, sticky dirt) is stuck in the crevices. I snap the knobby bits off, soak them for a bit in a bowl of cool water, then wash them well with a mushroom brush. As I slice them up for whatever dish I’m making, I put the cut bits into cool filtered water – for two reasons. One – they oxidize quickly so soaking after they are cut prevents them from turning an awful gray color. And two, when they soak a bit after cutting them you can get the last bits of grit that might be still stuck to them off. Sure you can peel them if you like, but that’s a bit of a pain. Go for it if you want.
Sunchokes are a source of inulin, which is considered a pre-biotic. Inulin is a fiber that is not broken down in the digestive tract but aids in the growth of the good gut bacteria. But know that some people have a difficult time with veggies high in inulin and it can create – well, a bit of flatulence. (Five out of six people in the Nourishing Well Kitchen are good with it – one definitely isn’t – lol!)