Though also called a Jerusalem artichoke, this vegetable is not truly an artichoke but a variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned tuber that often resembles a gingerroot. It also has nothing to do with Jerusalemthat moniker actually comes from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole. The white flesh of this vegetable is nutty, sweet and crunchy. Sunchokes are available year-round but best from about October to March. Select those that are firm and fresh-looking and not soft or wrinkled. Handle carefully, as sunchokes easily bruise. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. After that, they will begin to wither because of moisture loss. They may be peeled or, because the skin is very thin and quite nutritious, simply washed well before being used. Sunchokes can be eaten raw in salads or cooked by boiling or steaming and served as a side dish. They also make a delicious soup. Aluminum or iron pans will cause this tuber to turn an unappetizing pale gray. In France, the sunchoke is known as topinambou, and in Italy as girasole articiocco.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.