Sunchokes



Sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes are a particularly fantastic nuisance to have around. In the late summer, sunchokes may easily be mistaken for an average sunflower.  Wait until cold weather (spring or fall), however, and they are a plentiful food crop.

This time of year, dig into the cool ground and you will find loads of tubers running through the soil.  Some will be the size of an acorn and smooth, others might be the size of your fist and knobby.  Sunchokes come in both red and white varieties.

I was lucky enough to find a sweet spot in my own yard. When we bought the house I recognized the flowers right away. Tall Dark and Handsome said “Nice wild flowers.” I was thinking “Nice crop, can’t wait to dig’ em up!”

If left to their own devices the sunchokes will create a thick flower wall in the late summer. I love it, but it just keeps getting bigger! My strategy is to keep a bed of perennial sunflowers, but when a stray tuber jumps the bed, I dig it up and eat it. Take that invasive flower!

Sunchokes are tubers and can be eaten with or without their skins.  Cook them like potatoes. Serve sunchokes steamed, boiled, mashed, pickled or  fried.  Try pairing the earthy green flavor with butter, parmesan, parsley, garlic, vinegar,  ginger, mint, lemon juice, nuts, cloves, or mint.

Sunchokes excel as a side dish with roasted meats and make a hearty veggie main. Did I miss anything?

But what do they taste like??  Sunchokes taste something like a cross between a white potato and an artichoke.  Picture the flavor of an artichoke in a potato form. Greener tasting than a potato, if that makes any sense…

Avoid cooking sunchokes in aluminum or cast iron cookware, as doing so can turn them gray because of funky chemical reactions that cause them to oxidize. If serving sunchokes in a salads where they will be cut, but uncooked, a brief soak in water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice will keep them from turning brown (that oxidation thing).

Here are a few ideas for cooking sun chokes:

  • Pickled with horseradish lemon pepper like the girls from Rurally Screwed did in their book Tart & Sweet.
  • Baked au Gratin
  • Sunchoke Gnocchi like Salty Seattle does, (lots of yummy ideas here!
  • Mashed with potatoes
  • Roasted with garlic and rosemary like theKitchn did.
  • or find a copy of Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Cookbook & Field Guide, loads of goodness here, too.

Enjoy!