You would think that something which calls itself as Jerusalem Artichoke would at least have made its appearance from Jerusalem and that it looks like an Artichoke! How can you be so naive – I ask myself! All those days of frantically trying to locate anything and everything remotely from Jerusalem and in the same aisle where artichokes were displayed only lead me astray. And that’s why, one should do the research and then do the shopping! Lesson learnt.;-) Anyways this is what Wikipedia has to tell us.
“The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also called the sunroot or sunchoke or earth apple or topinambur, is a species of sunflower native to the eastern United States, from Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas.It is also cultivated widely across the temperate world for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable “
1.How did Jerusalem Artichoke get its name?
There are quite a few theories for the name. One being that the word “Jerusalem” comes from the corruption of the original name “girasola” which in Italian means “turning towards the sun” denoting the sunflower to which its native.
“The name Jerusalem is due to folk etymology; when the Jerusalem artichoke was first discovered by Europeans it was called Girasole, the Italian word for sunflower. The Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower, in the same genus as the garden sunflower Helianthus annuus. Over time the name Girasole transformed into Jerusalem, and to avoid confusion some people have recently started to refer to it as sunchoke or sunroot .The artichoke part of the Jerusalem artichoke’s name comes from the taste of its edible tuber. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, sent the first samples of the plant to France, noting that its taste was similar to an artichoke.” – says wikipedia.
One more theory is garbling of Ter Neusen which is in Netherlands area where supposedly the sunchokes were originally introduced to Europe. There is also an explanation given for the word artichoke being associated with this as the word “artichoke” having derived from the Arabic “al-khurshuf”, which denotes “thistle” , a reference to the appearance of the foliage above the ground.
2.How does Jerusalem Artichoke look like?
It looks like a knobby tuber and is more so known as Sunchoke and marketed under that name than Jerusalem artichoke. Check for them in your vegetable aisle mostly in packed containers. They look quite similar to ginger root, but with a potato like texture. you can use them as potato substitute if avoiding Potatoes for personal reasons.
3. How to buy Jerusalem Artichokes ?
As i mentioned earlier Jerusalem Artichokes are available packaged in plastic containers and found the vegetable/produce aisle of all major supermarkets. Look out for plump and vibrant looking ones. Take care to avoid them if you notice any greenish tinge on them – by way of sprouting or molding. Also avoid them if they look shriveled.
4. How to Prepare Jerusalem Artichokes ?
Most of the recipes would suggest peeling the artichoke which is not that simple because of angles of the root. But one can also scrub the root well with a vegetable brush enough to remove dirt and pesticides if any, trim the rough edges and cook them straightaway. Since most of the nutrients are just below its skin, its better to avoid peeling. Like apples, once cut they start discoloring very fast, so immerse them in water with vinegar or lemon to prevent them from oxidizing. Cooking them with peels on will darken their appearance slightly – no cause to worry since its due to high iron content in the sun chokes.
5. Uses of Jerusalem Artichokes ?
They are used for Alcohol production, esp in France where they have been used to make wine and beer for many years. They are also used for producing Fructose. Mostly used for human food consumption, they are now treated in many areas as Gourmet food.They are similar to potatoes except that nhuge starch level is actually substituted as inulin in case of sunchokes. This is this inulin which gets converted to Fructose causing the slightly sweet taste.
6. How to Store Jerusalem Artichokes?
They last well for about 2 weeks if stored in refrigerated wrapped in plastic. But they are best when fresh for the obvious reasons for more flavor and nutrients. The fructose increases with refrigeration and so the sunchokes are known to increase in sweetness with longer storage.
7. How to enjoy Jerusalem Artichokes?
They can be enjoyed
a) Raw - in soups, with marinades and as salads
b) Stir fries - they take only about 5 minutes to soften making them an excellent stir fry vegetable. For a crispier texture, stir fry them for 2-3 min
c) Baked: They can be sliced or baked as whole. Coat them with little Olive oil and bake them in a preheated 350F oven on a Baking sheet for 30-45 min. Turn them half way. Sliced artichokes will cook even faster than whole. Season to taste and serve warm.
d) Steamed: An excellent alternative to mashed potatoes. Coarsely chop them and steam for about 10 min. Remove when soft. Serve as they are, or mashed.
You can boil them too in water for 10-15min or roast them just like you would do for potatoes.
8. What are the health benefits of Jerusalem Artichokes?
They are immensely rich in Potassium. They also contain Vitamin C and fiber. They are rich in iron and thiamine and they help the healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract to grow. They cause flatulence in some people, so take care of the amounts when first trying them out.