Don’t Be Fooled!

November 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm 16 comments

Sunchokes and Peas

The Jerusalem Artichoke – what a tricky vegetable it is.  The name would lead you to expect something greenish with layers of pointy leaves.  It doesn’t look like that.  In fact, it looks almost exactly like ginger!  But it’s not at all similar to ginger either.  And back in the 70’s it got renamed by California marketing gurus eager to get consumers more interested in this weirdo vegetable, newly dubbed “sunchoke”.  So what the heck is it?!

“It” is a starchy root vegetable very similar to your everyday run-of-the-mill potato.  But it’s nice to say you’re having Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes for dinner instead of potatoes for the fifth time this week.  I’m going to refer to them as sunchokes from here on out though.  It’s easier to type.  What can I say? I’m lazy (and apparently a sucker for marketing ploys).

Sugar Snap Peas - Crisp and Sweet

I’d never encountered a sunchoke before until two weeks ago when their tall sunflower-like stalks at the farm got pulled up to reveal these funky roots.  At Headhouse Market, I decided to poll everyone who bought them for their favorite way to prepare them and then try the best suggestion for myself.  The winner was stewing them, largely because the young lady who told me about it mentioned how the sunchokes slip their skins after they are stewed so you don’t have to bother with peeling them.  I didn’t really want to carve around each of the little bumps on each root.  What I realized after I made this dish was that I really can’t imagine that you’d ever need to peel sunchokes, unless you want a very smooth puree.  The skins are thin and tender – again, much like the humble potato only thinner. 

Once I got started on the notion of stewing the sunchokes, I just went with my gut from there to make a final dish out of them.  I had some fresh sugar snap peas still on hand from when I picked them a few weeks back.  It’s amazing how long vegetables picked straight off the plant last in comparison to those being shipped and stored before hitting store shelves.  No way would store bought peas have smiled as happily at me from the crisper drawer after two weeks of just chillin’, waiting for me to come up with a good way to use them.    Some vegetable stock and herbs were all it took to create this hearty and flavorful first taste of sunchokes for me.

Flowers of the sunchoke plant

I gotta say, I’m pretty hooked on these identity-challenged veggies.  Once stewed, their melt-in-you-mouth texture was silky and full of all the flavors I’d thrown in the stock, more so than potatoes cooked in the same fashion would have had.  Venturing a guess here, I think the texture and flavor might have to do with the presence of inulin in the vegetable.  Don’t ask me to explain inulin, just click on the link and learn all about it from dear ol’ Wiki.   It’s similar to starch but more nutritious and a soluble fiber.  Really, I can’t interpret all this scientific mumbojumbo.  Just follow the trail of links through Wiki and find out for yourself. 

But why the heck is it called a Jerusalem Artichoke?!   Well, apparently, when it was first brought to Europe from North America (yep, this veggie is a native!), they called it “girasole”, which is Italian for sunflower (the photo above is of the flowers that grew on the top of their stalk so you can see why this is a viable explanation).  Eventually the name morphed into Jerusalem.  And since the plant is indeed a relative of the artichoke, you’ve got yourself a modern day Jerusalem Artichoke.  

And now you know. 

Sunchokes stew with rosemary sprig and chives

A Straight from the Farm Original

6-7 sunchokes (about 1/2 lb.)
2 c. vegetable stock
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 t. chopped fresh chives
1 rind of parmesan cheese (optional, but highly recommended)
1 c. whole sugar snap peas
1 T. butter
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. water
1 T. dried marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked quinoa (optional)

Scrub sunchocks well to remove any dirt.  Cut away any bad spots.  Place sunchokes in heavy saucepan and add vegetable stock to cover (should be about 2 cuts, depending on size of saucepan).  Add sprig of rosemary, chives and the parmesan rind.  Bring liquid up to a boil before reducing to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until sunchokes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add peas to saucepan and cover.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes until peas are tender. Meanwhile, dissolve cornstarch in water.  Melt butter in stock and add dissolved cornstarch, stirring until liquid thickens.  Add marjoram, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Fish out the stem from the rosemary and what’s left of the paremsan rind.

Serve straight as a stew or ladle over cooked quinoa for a full meal. 
(serves 3-4)

Stewed Sunchokes and Peas


Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes.

Quotable Kingsolver Filling In The Blanks

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. erik_flannestad  |  November 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm


    Love them sunchokes myself. They make a fantastically tasty gratin. Never thought of leaving them in their skin, though. Whew! A lot of work saved for me in the future!

  • 2. Jennie  |  November 19, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Erik – a gratin recipe?!? DO SHARE! 🙂

  • 3. Nif  |  November 19, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    “And since the plant is indeed a relative of the artichoke, you’ve got yourself a modern day Jerusalem Artichoke.”

    Actually, it isn’t related to the artichoke at all. Artichokes are a kind of thistle, sunchokes are a kind of sunflower. However, sunchokes do taste very faintly like artichokes.

  • 4. Jennie  |  November 19, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Nif – I know they’re a type of sunflower but was led to believe (once again by Wikipedia) to believe they are also related to artichokes. From Wiki: “it is not a type of artichoke, though they are in the same family”. I’ll have to clarify with my “live” (versus virtual 🙂 ) plant experts…I’ll get back with another comment and a correction to the post if need be. Thanks!

  • 5. taylor  |  November 19, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Jenn, you are correct in that the two are in the same family (Asteraceae), so are distantly related. Two different genera and species, though. Artichoke = Cynara scolymus. Jerusalem artichoke = Helianthus tuberosus.

    I like mine made into a relish or pickled, or just sliced raw in a salad.

  • 6. Jennie  |  November 20, 2007 at 7:11 am

    Thanks, Taylor! I figured you’d know for sure about the plant designations. Sounds like they’re *very* distant cousins. You made relish?!?! Oh, you’re so comin’ back to my house for another canning session. 🙂 That stuff looks good!

  • 7. erik_flannestad  |  November 20, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Jennie… Nothing fancy. Just par cook the sliced sunchokes, make an herbed bechamel (swiss-style cheese is nice), toss in the ‘chokes, cover with breadcrumbs and bake. I think I probably also put some sauteed or thinly sliced onions in with the ‘chokes.

  • 8. Jennie  |  November 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Erik – I’ll give this a try tonight probably. Thanks for sharing! Sound delish!

  • 9. VegeYum  |  November 22, 2007 at 6:42 am

    They look really good. And I love the picture of the daisies as well.

  • 10. Jennie  |  November 22, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks, VegeYum. I just made soup with them tonight…the love affair continues! I’ll post the recipe soon. 🙂

  • 11. IM  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Never again. Loved the flavor, but the gastric stress was too much for my love and I. I’d rather fly in a balloon than feel like one.

  • 12. fressack  |  December 15, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    This vegetable is quite common in the southern parts of Germany, where it is transformed into a rustic, but tasty spirit as well.
    The unwanted effects (like feeling like a balloon) can be avoided; it just depends on cooking time. You can make a wonderful puree or fries made of the plant. Delicious.
    And – for better digestion – have a “Topinambur”-Spirit. (That’s the German name.

  • 13. Jennie  |  December 16, 2007 at 9:32 am

    IM – so sorry to hear it. It guess it just hits some people worse than others. Thanks for trying the recipe though.

  • 14. Jennie  |  December 16, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Fressack – Thanks for the tips! Exactly what is the best way/time for cooking that reduces the gastric effects? Since they haven’t bothered me at all, I’d like to know how to advise readers on the best way to use them if they are subjected to gassy discomfort.

  • […] about jerusalem artichokes. I was drawn to them because several of the food blogs I’ve been reading through recently have raved about them. (huh, I was sure I’d have more links […]

  • 16. Joy  |  November 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Planted 10 lbs. two springs ago first harvest was nearly 100 lbs. this year 170 lbs. What shall I do with all of these sunchokes?


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