When I was a kid, my mother often used to add sliced raw jerusalem artichokes to our salads. I have no idea why. She doesn’t do it any more, and hasn’t for years. At the time I just thought they were weird looking and didn’t taste like much. Nothing at all like the real artichokes that we kids fought over at the dinner table. My kid’s mind decided that they didn’t grow very good artichokes in Jerusalem. Hah! Well, mystery solved. Turns out jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes, nor are they from Jerusalem. They’re tubers, native of North America, and the plant is related to and resembles sunflowers. (In fact, these days they are often called “sunchokes”.) “Jerusalem” is thought to have evolved from the Italian name for the plant, “girasole” for sunflower. Why “artichoke”? If my mom had only cooked them, then that part of the mystery would have been solved for me. Cooked, they taste surprisingly like artichokes. Yum!
A traditional and wonderfully easy way to prepare these chokes is as a soup. If you like the taste of artichokes, I urge you to try your hand at making this soup with jerusalem artichokes. This is lick-the-bowl good.
Word to the wise. Sunchokes are known for … well, how can I say it politely… causing flatulence, especially when raw. In fact, Hank calls them “fartichokes”. (He grows them in his garden, he should know.) He tells me that slow cooking them, like this soup preparation, greatly reduces the problem. Eh hem, although I’m sure I’m risking telling you Too Much Information, I had no particular gaseous issue with this soup. Thank goodness, because I can’t wait to make it again.
1 Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat and cook the onions and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt.
2 Add the jerusalem artichokes and the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the jerusalem artichokes begin to break down, 45 minutes to an hour.
3 Using an immersion blender or upright blender, purée the soup. If using an upright blender, fill the blender bowl up only to a third of capacity at a time, if the soup is hot, and hold down the lid while blending. Alternately, you can push the soup through the finest grate on a food mill, or push it through a sturdy sieve. Add salt to taste.
Sprinkle with freshly grated black pepper to serve.