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 childhood mind decided that they didn't grow very good artichokes in Jerusalem.
What Are Jerusalem Artichokes?
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.
How to Pick the Best Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes can be found in the produce department at the grocery store just like regular artichokes. The store you visit may label them as “sunchokes” since they’re also referred to this way to differentiate them from regular artichokes. They are sometimes also called "sunroots" and "earth apples."
Look for firm, even-colored chokes that haven’t gone soft to the touch, similar to the way fresh ginger feels. In fact, they do look a little like ginger roots, but are usually knobbier and more purple in color. Make sure there are no dark or green spots and no sprouting.
How to Store Jerusalem Artichokes
Although they look hardy, sunchokes can bruise easily. They should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Placing them in a basket with airflow is best. Jerusalem artichokes can also be stored in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Just be sure to wrap them in paper towels first to shield them from humidity.
Raw sunchokes can be store for about 1 to 3 weeks, depending on how fresh they are when you buy them.
How to Prepare Jerusalem Artichokes
Sunchokes can be boiled, braised, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or even eaten raw. You don't need to peel them; you can just scrub them clean and cook them. However, if you wish, you can peel them first.
If you wish to neutralize the inulin in Jersalem artichokes (it's the chemical that causes the bloating or gas that everyone is talking about), you can boil them in water with added lemon juice or vinegar. The acid hydrolyzes the inulin and turns it into sugars.
How to Store Leftovers
Cooked sunchokes will only keep for a couple of days in the fridge. The same goes for the leftover soup. Although this soup doesn't contain any dairy, it's best not to freeze the soup or keep it too long, since Jerusalem artichokes have a tendency to oxidize and discolor when exposed to air.
More Soup Recipes to Try!
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- Salt, to taste
- 2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 quart chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian option, and gluten-free stock if cooking gluten-free)
- Black pepper, to taste
Sauté the onions, celery, then garlic:
Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onions and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt.
Add the Jerusalem artichokes and stock:
Add the Jerusalem artichokes and your choice of stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the sunchokes begin to break down, 45 minutes to an hour.
Purée the soup and serve:
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. 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 more salt to taste.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper before serving.