The sunchoke is a funny, nubby, little tuber that also goes by the name of Jerusalem artichoke. But don’t let its name deceive you: it has much more in common with a potato than an artichoke. By sight alone, sunchokes could easily be confused with fresh ginger with their finger-like shape, thin, light brown skin and moist, yellow flesh. One cup of raw sunchokes is an excellent source of iron and thiamin (a B vitamin that turns carbohydrates into energy). In addition, sunchokes are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, niacin, copper, phosphorus and dietary fiber. Lots of vitamins and minerals in these little tubers!
While they look like small potatoes, sunchokes are actually a variety of perennial sunflowers. They should be planted at the end of winter, a few weeks before the last frost. It’s very easy to grow sunchokes—in fact, almost too easy! Tubers spread rapidly and can quickly take over a garden if not contained by barriers or completely uprooted at the end of the season. Sunchoke plants grow to be 5-10 feet tall with beautiful yellow flowers, and sprout many tubers per plant. The tubers will be ready to harvest 4-5 months after planting. Kids and adults love to harvest them; “it’s like digging for gold.”
Roasted, sunchokes are quite starchy and sweet, like a parsnip, and they have a similar texture to a potato when cooked. Raw, they are crunchy, like a water chestnut, and they have a flavor reminiscent of artichokes, despite not having any biological connection. Sunchokes make great additions to stir fries, or as a substitute for any root vegetable or potato.
At the Barn, we slice them raw and add them to our super salad bar as a yummy topping; and we also toss them in olive oil, sea salt and a little pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes until fork tender.
How do you use sunchokes?