What Do I Do with Jerusalem Artichokes?

Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke in a paper bag

Jerusalem artichoke in a paper bag

Like many people, I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. What this means is that I get a “share” of items from a particular local farm, or group of farmers, every week, an assortment of seasonal produce (and occasionally other things, like honey or eggs). Every week is a bit of a surprise, though if you are familiar with what is in season in your area, you’ll have some idea of what might be in the box.

There are lots of benefits to joining a CSA. You get to cook in tune with the seasons, you get products that are super-fresh and local, you get to support your area farms and you get inspired to try things you might not pick up in a supermarket. But with this last benefit can come a challenge: “What the $#@! do I do with this (fill in the blank)?” Even if you’re a seasoned cook, you may not have cooked with every ingredient that comes your way; or perhaps you have, but you need some new inspiration for that rutabaga/kohlrabi/chard/what have you. That’s what this column is for: to provide you with inspiration and recipes to make the most of your little farmers market in a box.

And if you don’t belong to a CSA, you may find yourself confronting the pleasant dilemma of what to do with all of that loot you bought at an actual farmers market. We all have faced that mountain of beautiful produce that begged to be brought home. Now what? This. This is what.

First up: Jerusalem artichokes.

The Jerusalem artichoke also goes by the names sunchoke, sunflower choke and sunroot, and it is in fact part of the sunflower family, though its taste is reminiscent of an artichoke. The word “Jerusalem” was probably a misappropriation of the word “girasole,” which is Italian for “sunflower.”

Though they’ve been eaten for centuries (they were cultivated by the Native Americans), only in recent decades have Jerusalem artichokes become more popular again, showing up on menus at fine-dining restaurants across the country. It’s the starchy root, or tuber, that is cooked and eaten. Jerusalem artichokes are usually 2 to 4 inches long, and look much like fresh ginger, though usually without quite as many knobs. The skin can vary in color from white or light brown to a reddish purple, and they contain a nice amount of potassium and are rich in iron and other minerals. Look for a taut, smooth skin.

Jerusalem artichokes have a potatolike consistency, a slight sweetness and a bit of a nutty flavor. They can be used raw, thinly sliced into a salad, for instance (though beware, because raw sunchokes may cause a bit of gastric distress in some people), or roasted, fried, sauteed, mashed or pureed — really anything you would do with potatoes. Store them in a cool, dry place, or in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

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Photo by: Picasa ©Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Picasa, Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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