These babies are sunchokes. Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, which is a curious name for them, as they are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem. In fact, they are the tubers from a type of sunflower, and they were first cultivated by native North Americans, long before Europeans arrived on the continent. You are starting to like them already, aren't you? Good! But let's not stop there. Here are more things to like about them:
- They contain a good amount of protein, no fat, and surprisingly little starch.
- They have a mildly sweet flavor from fructose, so they are a better choice for people with type 2 diabetes than grains or other starchy vegetables.
- They are a good source of many important nutrients, including potassium, iron, fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper. Not to mention loads of fiber!
- They are a great plant to place in your garden: easy to grow and super pretty!
So, like I said before, I was first introduced to sunchokes when I began receiving them in my CSA boxes. About 5 pounds of them so far this year. I have already found three great ways to prepare them, and I suspect I am not done yet. But let me share what I have learned so far.
PREPARATION As you can see in the pictures above, sunchoke tubers are knobby, gnarly, bumpy-looking things. For all that, they are surprisingly clean and have a very thin and delicate skin. So just leave it alone! I simply rinse them off and give them a light scrubbing with a vegetable brush.
COOKING METHOD 1 - STEWED
The first time I received sunchokes in my delivery, I happened to be making a pot roast with onions and carrots in a low-heated crock pot . I rough-chopped my scrubbed sunchokes and just dumped them on in with the rest of my dinner for the remaining 2 hours or so of cook time. And they were great! Not much more to say about that.
Another time I took about a pound of small, round sunchokes (already rinsed and scrubbed) and quartered them into bite-sized chunks. I mixed them with about half a pound of baby carrots and drizzled them with maybe a tablespoon of melted coconut oil. I sprinkled them with salt, pepper and a little dry seasoning (in this case it was a Ranch mix, but you could use anything you like,) spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil, and roasted them in a 450 F oven for 20 or 30 minutes. Yum!
COOKING METHOD 3 - PUREED
I steamed almost 2 pounds of whole sunchokes (rinsed and scrubbed) with 5 cloves of garlic until softened.
I loaded the hot, cooked sunchokes and garlic into my food processor with 4 tablespoons of butter and pureed them until they were, well, as smooth as sunchokes are going to get! There is a lot of fiber in those skins, so the finished dish has a rustic quality. And it is very, very delicious!
So, here you see a simple meal of baked tilapia, roasted sunchokes and carrots, and sunchoke puree. All garnished with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
I still have a few of those crazy little tubers left, so who knows what I'll try next? Crispy sunchoke chips? A cheesy sunchoke gratin? Sunchoke hash? You'll just have to wait and see.