05 November 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes: aka Sunchokes

This year we experimented for the first time with sunchokes. We grew the tubers at St. Anne's and in the Third Grade garden at school. Both locations suited the plants. They grew taller than any of us, student or adult, and each stalk spawned at least 5 chokes. You can see a Third Grader digging for them here.

To harvest, one must wait until the yellow flower dies and the stalk goes brown. Some folks think the tuber is sweeter if you let it rest through the first frost, but we don't have a guaranteed frost, and so pulled them up as we needed them through the fall. We ate them raw (resembles jicama), and sauteed with garlic and olive oil. The children and residents both preferred the cooked variety. Sauteeing them brings out the pronounced sweetness. The tubers contain a high percentage of inulin, which over time converts to fructose, this imparts the sweetness to the choke.

Jerusalem artichokes are not related to Jerusalem (they are native to North America), nor to artichokes. Their taste does resemble artichokes, which is why "choke" is in their name. The word Jerusalem is thought to be a derivative of the name given to them by Italian settlers: girasole, or, sunflower. Another idea is that they were named by the pilgrims as they ate them here in the pilgrim's "New Jerusalem" - the American wilderness. Sunchokes have been cultivated for hundreds of years by the Native Americans.