You know, if there were to be a competition for the most oxymoron of a name of all the vegetables and fruits, I bet Jerusalem artichokes will win the first prize! No competition whatsoever! Why do I say that: well for one, no, they are not artichokes and for two, no they are not native of Jerusalem either. I mean why would something that is not Jerusalem native nor an artichoke be named Jerusalem artichokes?!
Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, as they have been known recently, are tubers of a sunflower family tree. Sunchokes are native to the eastern side of the northern america. The tree produces bright yellow sunflower like flowers and these delicious tubers. The tubers to me look like ginger roots or the arbi found in India.
So whats with the name you ask? Well, the theory goes (sources: here and here) that sunchokes were being cultivated by native americans long before the Europeans came over. The great French traveler Samuel de Champlain brought back the sunchokes from america to Europe during one of his visits to the states. In his opinion they tasted more like artichokes; so he brings back to Europe the sort of potatoes that he feels are 'artichoke' testing which is what gave them that artichoke part of the name. From there on the sunchokes traveled to Italy where they are believed to be named 'girasole' meaning 'turning to sun' alluring to the fact of that these tubers come from the sunflower trees. The name 'girasole', it is widely believed, was later corrupted into 'Jerusalem'. So, there, now you know why something that wasn't from Jerusalem and isn't an artichoke is still called Jerusalem artichokes. As far as I go, I prefer the name sunchokes much better because every-time I say sunchokes I dream of a sunny day and vast ranging sunflower fields and happiness :)
To me the sunchokes tasted like a cross between water-chestnuts, apples and potatoes. When fresh they are crunchy like water-chestnuts, slightly sweet like apples and starchy like potatoes. I beg to differ with the great Samuel de Champlain, but no, to me, they did not taste like artichokes at-all :)
Here are some ways you can use them:
- Roast or saute them as shown below.
- Make a sabji like the arbi sabji.
- Make a soup like a potato soup.
- Eat raw or slightly cooked in salads or stir-frys.
Today I give you a simple roasted sunchokes recipe, adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe. Next time I am going to surely try them in some stir-frys because I later realized I liked their crunchiness better uncooked than when they were cooked..
Source: Adapted from Jamie Oliver recipe here
6 medium sized Jerusalem artichokes
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Mix Jerusalem artichokes with rest of the ingredients and roast for 15minutes.
- Increase heat to 425F, stir the artichokes so they browned evenly and roast on an upper oven rack for another 15minutes
- Sprinkle with lime juice and eat warm.