A sunchoke is the root of a perennial sunflower that is eaten as a vegetable and has a crunchy, delicate, sweet, nutty flavor. The taste of the sunchoke is reminiscent of jicama, water chestnuts, or artichokes.
The sunchoke also is called Jerusalem artichoke but it not related to the artichoke. It is available at farm markets in the fall and winter, from October to March in the Northern Hemisphere.
The sunchoke tuber is from 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long and 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in diameter. It is a knobby root that resembles ginger root. It has a thin beige skin which is edible and an ivory to yellowish-white flesh that is crisp and juicy.
The plant itself grows as high a 12 feet (3.6 m) and bears a bright yellow sunflower. The sunchoke originated in North America where it was first used a food by Native Americans living in the New England region.
Choose. Select sunchokes that are small and firm and fresh-looking, Avoid soft or wrinkled tubers or roots that are greenish in color or have begun to sprout.
Store. Wrap the sunchoke in a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week or store in a cool, dry well-ventilated area away from light. Withered sunchokes have lost moisture. Handle sunchokes with care because they bruise easily.
Prepare. Wash sunchokes before using. Sunchokes are difficult to peel so cook them before you try to peel them. Peel them right after cooking because the skin will harden as it cooks. Place sliced or chopped sunchoke in acidulated water or the flesh will turn gray when it is exposed to air.
Serve. Sunchokes can be eaten raw in salads but are best cooked or marinated, puréed, or prepared au gratin.
- Shred, slice, or julienne sunchokes, then soak briefly in acidulated water, drain and add to salads and slaws.
- Sunchokes can be cooked by boiling or steaming and served as a side dish with poultry or roasted meats, and they can be served as a substitute for water chestnuts and potatoes.
- Add sunchokes to soups, stews, crepes, and fritters.
- Sunchokes taste go well with butter, cinnamon, cloves, cream, mint, mustard, nut oils, nutmeg, onion, roasted meats, and vinaigrette.
- Peel and chunk sunchokes, simmer in water with a squeeze of lemon until just tender about 10 minutes, drain and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped parsley. Add cubed avocado and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
- Cook sunchokes with potatoes, onions, celery, and herbs. Purée and add milk, cream, or butter to taste. This is called Palestine soup.
- Gently cook thinly slice sunchokes in butter for 5 minutes, add chicken stock to cover, simmer until tender, then add heavy cream, a little nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Grate carrots and sauté them gently while you grate chokes into acidulated water. When the carrots are almost tender, squeeze sunchokes dry, add them to the carrots and stir-fry until tender.
- Boil sunchokes with their skins in slightly salted water with a teaspoon of oil for 15 minutes, Peel and mash; add butter and chopped parsley, sorrel or chive for seasoning.
- Mash sunchokes with potatoes.
- Add raw sunchokes to salads.
- Add thin sliced sunchokes to a tray of raw vegetables.
- Use sunchokes as a substitute for water chestnuts in Asian dishes.
- Deep fry thin slices to make nutty chips.
- Make savory pancakes by shredding sunchokes and combining them with flour, egg and shredded onion.
- Roast tossed with oil.
- Cook until tender then serve cooled and sliced in a salad.
- Serve peeled raw with mushrooms and a vinaigrette dressing.
- Cook and then purée sunchokes.
- Sauté sunchoke slices with tomatoes or toss them with butter and seasoning as a side dish with meat or poultry.
- Use sunchokes as an extender in meat loaf.
They may have a slight laxative effect or cause flatulence so watch your servings until you know your tolerance.
Nutrition. Sunchokes are a good source of iron and potassium.
Sunchokes facts and trivia. The sunchoke was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century. The French improved the tubers and went on to cultivate sunchokes on a large scale. The French call the sunchoke topinambour which comes from the name of a South American tribe, the Topinamabas. Members of this tribe were visiting France in the sixteenth century when the sunchoke was introduced to Europe.
The name Jerusalem artichoke is believed to have developed from the mispronunciation of the Italian name for this plant which is girasole articiocco which means sunflower artichoke. Girasole articiocco became Jerusalem artichoke.
Modern growers prefer the name sunchoke.
The botanical name for the sunchoke is Helianthus tuberosus.