Although knobby and rather ugly-looking, the Jerusalem artichoke is a vegetable worth discovering. Also called a sunchoke, the Jerusalem artichoke is rich in iron and vitamin C. What’s more, this seemingly forgotten vegetable has some rather admirable benefits in addition to its vitamin content. Learn why the Jerusalem artichoke is a vegetable worth getting to know and worth taking a spot on your plate.
Move over potato. There’s a new guy on the block. Actually, the Jerusalem artichoke isn’t all that new; it’s been around for years. A popular vegetable in other countries, it has yet to come into its own in the US. But this tuber is already in many food products masquerading as a food starch. So chance are you’ve enjoyed the Jerusalem artichoke and not even known it.
Looks and Taste
An elongated reddish-brown tuber, the Jerusalem artichoke has a thin skin and white flesh. The vegetable can substitute for potatoes, turnips, or parsnips. The root looks a bit like a ginger root, and the taste is like that of a potato mixed with an artichoke heart. A sweet, nutty, crisp vegetable–it’s much like a jicama or water chestnut.
Shopping and Storage
When shopping for Jerusalem artichoke, look in the produce section of your supermarket. Choose tubers that show no green on the skin, are not sprouting or shriveled, and have no mold spots. The skin shrivels if exposed to dry air; therefore, the Jerusalem artichoke is best used quickly. However, you can refrigerate the tubers for up to two weeks, if you wrap them in plastic.
To cook with the Jerusalem artichoke, you first need to scrub the skin with a vegetable brush. Be careful not to remove the skin, as the best nutrients are just beneath it. The Jerusalem artichoke discolors when exposed to air, but you can slow the oxidation process by immersing the vegetable in water–or better yet, an acidic solution. Lemon or vinegar added to water does the job quite well. To keep the flesh white, you might want to cut your tubers just before use.
A versatile tuber, you can sauté Jerusalem artichoke, make gratin with it, mash it, put it in soups, roast it, make chips with it, or eat the vegetable raw. You will also find that the skins of the Jerusalem artichoke darken with cooking. This is due to the vegetable’s rich iron content.
Roast Jerusalem artichoke in a 375-400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until it’s golden brown. If you slice the tuber and coat slices with oil, your cooking time may be more like 20-25 minutes. Stir-fry Jerusalem artichoke for just a couple minutes or it becomes too soft. To boil, it may take 5-15 minutes depending upon the size of pieces. To steam the vegetable, it may take about the same amount of time for the flesh to reach fork-tender. After that, you can mash the Jerusalem artichoke much like you would a potato.
The Jerusalem artichoke has a stronger flavor than a potato and cooks faster than a potato. It’ll be mush in minutes, so keep an eye on the pot. To keep the flesh from turning gray, you can add a squeeze of lemon juice to the cooking water, but add it during the last few minutes. Acid added early gives structure to the vegetable, and you want it soft for mashing. Avoid cooking in an aluminum pot due to oxidation.
Eat it Raw
In addition to cooking, you can use the Jerusalem artichoke chopped, shredded, sliced raw in a crunchy salad, marinated, or as a crucifer with dip. Although you may not find many recipes for the sunchoke, you can successfully substitute it for any recipe calling for raw jicama.
Many gardeners have tried to grow their own root crop of Jerusalem artichoke. You can be one of them, but there are certain things you should know about this vegetable before you do. It’s best grown totally on its own, because it’s aggressive, highly invasive, grows like a weed, and will compete with every other vegetable crop in the garden. Not only is it weed-like, but its tubers intertwine and are difficult to harvest. Plus, the plant can grow to be over 10 feet tall. If you do grow your own, harvest tubers after the frost for a better flavor.
The carbohydrate content of the Jerusalem artichoke is high in insulin which doesn’t convert to sugar in the body and can’t be absorbed. This is great news for diabetics–in fact, excellent news for diabetics! More should be done to make the vegetable a mainstay on the table, especially for those with diabetes. Dieters will also appreciate the Jerusalem artichoke, because it’s fairly low in calories and very filling. But there is one potential downside; the Jerusalem artichoke can cause gas.
If you have never tried eating a Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke, it’s worth giving the tuber a try. Cook with it as you would a potato. Eat it raw as you would a jicama. Experiment and discover a whole new taste sensation, and help keep blood sugar levels down in the process.