What the heck is a sunchoke?

One of the greatest parts of my job as Feast’s produce manager is procuring a variety of unique seasonal fruits and vegetables.  One of our newest offerings are delicious sunchokes, aka, Jerusalem artichokes, from one of our favorite local growers, Harvest Thyme, located in Staunton, VA (who also happen to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met!).

If you haven’t seen one before, sunchokes are somewhat curious, knobby looking fellas… almost like ginger roots. And their name is misleading as they are not from Jerusalem, nor are they artichokes. One theory behind the name is that the word “Jerusalem” comes from the corruption of the original name “girasola”, which in Italian means “turning towards the sun”, which refers to its relative: the sunflower.  Native to North America, sunchokes were introduced to Europe by the French explorer Samuel de Champlaine after coming across them in Cape Cod in 1605.  They seemed have remained more popular across the pond but are making a culinary comeback here.

One reason for this regained popularity could be the health benefits associated with sunchokes.  They are rich in inulin, a carbohydrate, which is linked to good intestinal health because of its prebiotic properties. They are loaded Vitamin C, Thiamin, Phosphorus and Potassium.  If that weren’t enough, they are also an excellent source of Iron.

They can be cooked and eaten just like potatoes, however, sunchokes can actually be eaten raw. Slice them thin and try them in salads, dips or salsas. They have a slightly nutty flavor, somewhere between an artichoke heart and a sunflower seed, and are similar in texture to a water chestnut.  There are many ways to enjoy cooked sunchokes: roast them with olive oil & sea salt, add them to a potato gratin, toss them in a soup or risotto, or even throw them on the grill.  A splash of truffle oil never hurts…

Sunchoke with Warm Butter Dressing

After researching this humble yet versatile root veg, I’ve found quite a few recipes I want to try this fall: Sunchokes with Warm Butter Dressing, Sunchoke Soup, and Pan-Roasted Sunchokes to name a few.  Mmmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.  Stop by Feast! to get some for yourself (they arrive tomorrow, fresh picked) and let me know what you think!

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