Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sunchokes 101


A sunchoke is also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, earth apple or topinambour. It is a species of sunflower and from the family Asteraceae which also includes lettuce, chicory, safflower and artichokes. It is cultivated mostly for its tuber. The plant is a perennial that grows up to 10 feet tall with yellow flowers. The tubers are similar to ginger root in appearance and are 3-4 inches in length and vary in color from pale brown to white, red and purple and are considered a root vegetable. For a list of all root vegetables go here. There are close to 200 varieties of sunchokes and here is a list of a few from They are typically harvested from October to March. The origin of the name Jerusalem artichoke is unclear as it has no relation to Jerusalem. One theory suggests that the puritans considered the new world their “New Jerusalem” in the wild and the plants name was derived from this. It is also theorized that it is the corruption of the word “girasole”, a name used by early Italian settlers. The word sunchoke was created in the 1960’s by a produce wholesaler named Frieda Caplan who was attempting to revive the plants appeal. 

The sunchoke is native to Eastern Canada and North America. They were cultivated by the Native Americans well before the arrival of European Settlers. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain grew the plants in Cape Cod in 1605 and brought back to France. The sunchoke became a popular crop in Europe. The Jerusalem artichoke is quite popular in France and was named the “best soup vegetable” in 2002 at the Nice Festival for the Heritage of French Cuisine. There have been several attempts as of late to cultivate an interest in the sunchoke with some success. Interestingly enough sunchokes are now being studied as an alternate food and fuel source. For more information check out the article from

Did you know Native Americans planted sunchokes on the trails as a precautionary measure to ensure they had a readily available food source as they traveled? It is also nicknamed the “fartchoke” as it is known to cause serious indigestion if consumed in great quantity. For more fun facts go here.

To Store

Handle your sunchokes with care as they bruise easily. You can store your sunchokes, unwashed and in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator or in a paper bag in a cool, dark space. They should keep for up to two weeks or longer. It is not recommend to can or freeze sunchokes as they discolor.

To Nourish

The sunchoke has roughly the same calories as a potato with little fat and zero cholesterol. It has a very high quality phyto-nutrient profile which includes dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Sunchokes are high in Folates, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamin and Vitamins A, C, E, and K. Minerals include Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese. Sunchokes are an ideal sweeter for diabetics. They contain Inulin, a zero calorie saccharine and inert carbohydrate that does not metabolize in the human body. High fiber reduces constipation problems and protects against colon cancer. The anti-oxidants provide protection from cancer, inflammation, and viral cough and cold. The sunchoke is heart healthy as it is high in electrolytes, especially Potassium, Iron and Copper which reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

To Prepare

The sunchoke texture is crisp and the flavor is sweet and nutty. They may be eaten raw or cooked. Before eating or cooking, scrub the tubers thoroughly with a vegetable brush. Peeling a sunchoke can be a challenge due to the protuberances and is not necessary as the peels are perfectly edible. However, if you must peel them, slice off the smaller bumpy areas and remove skin with a vegetable peeler. If you will be eating them cooked, you will find it easier to boil, steam or microwave them whole and unpeeled first, and then peel if necessary.

Sunchokes oxidize when exposed to air, just like apples or potatoes. To prevent this, toss with lemon juice before cooking. Here are more helpful hints. One of our favorites is a tip about preventing sunchokes from turning gray when pureed or made into soup (their high iron content causes this to happen): add a pinch of cream of tartar or an acidic liquid (like lemon juice) to the sunchoke cooking water.

Sunchokes are delicious raw and as an addition to a salad and are crunchy enough to make into a slaw. They can also be substituted for water chestnuts and jicama. Sunchokes may also be steamed or boiled whole for 15-20 minutes, or sliced and boiled with a squeeze of lemon juice for 5-10 minutes. Puréed sunchokes are great in risottos and soups. Sliced very thin, drizzled with oil and roasted in a hot oven they make great crisps, and cut into chunks are right at home roasting alongside potatoes. The French are specifically known for their creamy sunchoke soups.

To Try

Caramelized Onion and Sunchoke Dip
Fried Sunchoke Chips with Rosemary Salt
Parmesan Sunchoke Fries with Chimchurri Sauce
Mini Quiches with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chives
Sunchoke Latkes
Jerusalem Artichoke Fritters with Cranberries and Almonds
Sunchoke Soup with Virginia Ham Croquettes
Jerusalem Artichoke, Pancetta and White Bean Soup
Creamy Sunchoke Soup with Fried Parsnips and Mushrooms
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Bacon
Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Warm Salad with Jerusalem Artichokes, Bacon and Radicchio
Sunchoke and Apple Salad
Roasted Potato, Sunchoke, and Asparagus Salad with Ramps
Roasted Sunchoke Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
Artichoke, Goat Cheese and Hazelnut Salad
Roasted Beet, Sunchoke and Arugula Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Sunchokes with Walnuts and Orange Zest
Sauteed Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic and Bay Leaves
Caramelized Sunchokes with Meyer Lemon and Parsley
Caramelized Sunchokes with Beet Confit
Curried Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem Artichokes Provençal
Sunchoke and Cashew Stir Fry
Pan Roasted Sunchokes and Artichokes with Lemon Herb Butter
Roasted Sunchokes and Carrots
Roasted Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Jerusalem Artichokes
Roasted Sunchokes with Thyme, Grape Tomatoes and Lemon
Roasted Sunchokes with Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Jerusalem Artichokes and Potato au Gratin
Sunchoke Gratin Dauphinois
Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash
Celery Root and Potato Puree with Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Croutons
Puree of Three Root Vegetables
Sunchoke and Kale Hash with Farro
Etoiles Creamy Sunchoke Risotto
Fettuccine with Sunchokes and Herbs
Pan Roasted Cod with Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem Artichokes and Shrimp Vinaigrette
Sea Scallops with Sunchokes and Truffles
Roasted Chicken and Jerusalem Artichokes
Roast Chicken with Parsnips, Golden Beets, Jerusalem Artichokes and Beer Can Juices
Hanger Steak with Shallots and Jerusalem Artichokes

To Use

This handcrafting high-quality Bürstenhaus Redecker Vegetable Brush is a multi-purpose brush divided into two sides: one with soft bristles for cleaning delicate vegetables and one with stiff bristles for cleaning harder vegetables. Constructed of durable beechwood and natural fibers that are safe to use under boiling water. Handcrafted in Germany. 5¼" long. (Sur La Table, $5.95)