Winter is the best time to take advantage of sunchokes. The sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus), perhaps better known as Jerusalem Artichoke, is a species of sunflower native to North America cultivated for its tuber, which is eaten like a root vegetable.
Sunchokes grow well in many climates in and are generally available from late fall to early spring. The sunchoke is a perennial that can produce more than 75 new tubers by the end of the growing season when conditions are ideal. The tubers are similar in appearance to ginger root. They are generally a light brown, but can also be red, white, or purple in color.
Sunchokes are an excellent source of potassium—containing more than bananas. They also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and thiamin and are a very good source of iron. Sunchokes are made of a carbohydrate, inulin, that many people have a hard time digesting. Certain eaters will find that the tuber causes gas and bloating when eaten in larger quantities, so beware!
The sunchoke is making a comeback here in the United States thanks to gourmet restaurants and their adventurous chefs. While you’ll find the tubers at farmers markets and specialty grocers, they’re still not common in regular grocery stores. Sunchokes are a versatile tuber that can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a nutty, sweet taste and a crunchy texture when raw. The tuber is good grated or shaved in salads and makes a great addition to stirfrys. It can be roasted and pureed into a delicious soup either in place of, or along with, potatoes. Sunchokes also benefit from pickling, boiling, mashing, roasting, baking and frying. No matter how they are prepared they’re bound to make a winter meal a bit more exciting.