Photo by Susan Wenzel
I sent out an APB for recipes on twitter and found a real winner on Saffron & Honey’s blog. She suggested I try her Jerusalem artichokes with garlic, rosemary, and chives. I just happened to have a ton of beautiful rosemary and decided to cook up a batch.
Photo by Susan Wenzel
I followed her recipe but used regular garlic (instead of Elephant garlic because that’s what I had) and completely forgot about the bay leaves she suggests. Nonetheless, they were delicious – crispy and flavorful and a texture akin to nothing I’ve ever had before (ok, maybe they were a little bit like fresh water chestnuts). Everyone loved them – even the picky eaters – and asked when we can have them again. I insist you check out the recipe if you have a pile of ‘chokes and no idea what to do with them. Or, even better, make a point of buying some and trying them.
But, now that I knew how to cook them (further perusal indicates they play like any other root veggie - stewed, mashed, pureed), I had to find out WHAT they were.
Ok, first thing…they are not the same thing as the regular pine cone looking artichokes (Cynara cardunculus). Second…they have nothing to do with Jerusalem. Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are actually the tuber of a type of sunflower. The aforementioned green, spiky artichokes are closely related to thistles (which explains their prickly appearance). However…both artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes are in the daisy family (Asteraceae) along with dahlias, Echinacea, chrysanthemums, zinnias, and iceberg lettuce. But, I digress…
The name still stumps me. Some say the second half of the name is because these taste like the thistle-related artichoke, but I don’t buy it. I also read that the Jerusalem part is, in theory, based on an age-old mispronunciation. Girasole is the Italian word for sunflower and sounds like “Jerusalem” – sorta. But, I don’t necessarily believe that either. The name "sunchoke" makes more sense...because of the whole sunflower thing...but still...
Never mind why they are called what they are…I’ll just call them delicious!
PS - I've always vowed to be 100% honest about everything I write, so be forewarned...sunchokes are rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, and inulin. Inulin is an...ahem...potent source of dietary fiber. Which means these are healthy for your intestines...if you catch wind of what I am trying to say.