By Carie Birkmeier EBS Contributor
The sunchoke, more technically referred to as a Jerusalem artichoke, has nothing to do with the city of Jersusalem, nor do they taste similar to or resemble an artichoke.
The sunchoke plant is more closely related to the sunflower, but produces edible tubers, or roots. The skin of the root has a knobby texture, similar to that of a piece of ginger, but is more tubular shaped. It is a resilient species and grows well in cold climates, allowing it to be harvested through the winter. The peak of the sunchoke season is late fall through early spring.
Sunchokes contain high amounts of inulin, a form of fiber not to be confused with insulin. While the plant is growing, this fiber provides a means for storing energy, as well as regulating the plant’s temperature. This allows it to withstand cold temperatures and survive the winter months. When we eat a sunchoke, this same fiber acts as a prebiotic in our digestive tract, providing a food source for probiotics, which aid in digestion and live in our gut.
The sunchoke is known for its trademark earthy and nutty flavor. They are one of many vegetables that lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods and flavor profiles. You can use them in many of the same applications as other root vegetables, but their texture works particularly well pureed or mashed. Equally delicious when left raw, they can add complexity to a salad’s flavor—but be sure to slice them thinly to avoid adding too much fibrous material to your salad.
Sunchokes have gained attention in recent years in dining establishments as well as farmers’ markets across the country, probably due to their low cost, health benefits and versatility. They are a great option because they can take the place of other starches on your plate, but are a low-carb, low-calorie, high-fiber option. If your grocer carries some of these odd-looking root veggies, don’t be afraid to give them a try!
Sunchoke & Wild Mushroom Bisque
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium sunchokes, peeled and diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
½ cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium pot, sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add wine and cook until wine is absorbed, about three minutes.
Add all remaining ingredients except thyme and cook until sunchokes and potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.
Puree the mixture with an immersion blender, or carefully in a regular blender. If using a regular blender, leave the lid cracked open to allow heat to escape.
Taste the mixture, season with salt and pepper as necessary, and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil.