Jerusalem Artichokes

With a misleading name and weird appearance, Jerusalem Artichokes (also known as sunchokes) seemed like an interesting root vegetable to “dig” a little deeper into! We love these little tubers around here…from thickening soup to substituting for potato, the Jerusalem Artichoke is a great alternative starch but is also holds up on it’s own and has a fantastic flavor.

Lore tells us that for years people stayed far away from the Jerusalem Artichoke because of it’s gnarly unappealing resemblance to deformed fingers caused by leprosy. If you can get past the look of these tubers (think: more like ginger root, less leprotic fingers) Jerusalem Artichokes are delicious, versatile, a great source of iron, potassium, thiamin and high in fiber.

Our dear friend and author Joan Nathan tells us in her cookbook, King Solomon’s Table “It was the French explorer Samuel de Champlain who, while surveying Cape Cod in 1605, wrote, “Saw an abundance of Brazilian beans, many edible squashes of various sizes, tobacco and roots, which they [Native Americans] cultivate, the latter having the taste of artichokes.” Two years later in Nova Scotia, he found “certain small roots the size of a small nut.” that tasted like “truffles” which are very good if roasted or boiled.” … “in 1966, Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s Inc. trademarked the name “Sunchoke.” Frieda says she preferred that name because “they are not from Jerusalem and not an artichoke, although they are reminiscent of the artichoke heart flavor, and because they are the root of a sunflower-like plant.”

A few things to note about Jerusalem artichokes, the high levels of iron may cause some discoloration with exposure to air. An easy fix: a quick dip in acidulated water, a ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar, lemon or vinegar per quart of water when cooking. Additionally, cooking in aluminum and iron pans will cause oxidization of the sunchoke so you’ll be better off with stainless or copper.

Jerusalem artichokes are packed with B vitamins, particularly thiamine, with a 100-gram portion (3.5 ounces) of raw Jerusalem artichokes providing 0.2 milligrams of thiamine. This corresponds to about 13% of the recommended daily value for thiamine. Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is involved in a number of bodily functions. It is crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the muscles. It is also needed for carbohydrate metabolism as well as for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Lack of hydrochloric acid may impair protein digestion and cause stomach pain by inhibiting the activation of the enzyme pepsin. Furthermore, low acid levels in the stomach increase the risk of bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, which in turn may cause diarrhea or decreased absorption of health benefiting vitamins and minerals. The natural level of hydrochloric acid decreases as we age, and therefore especially older people might want to eat plenty of Jerusalem artichokes and other foods that promote the production of hydrochloric acid.

Jerusalem Artichokes are fabulous with anything from autumnal flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to just about any type of protein to we find them incredibly versatile (we even love them raw!) Here are some of our favorite recipes.

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