Though autumn is officially here, our field is having separation anxiety over parting from the summer crops. True, summer vegetables have smaller yields: The last corncobs are being harvested these weeks, but other summer children are still ripening in our field. Peppers, eggplants, lubia and okra are being delivered to your homes, as we write. It’s high time to prepare your last autumn caponatas, so if you are – like yours truly – a procrastinator, you have earned one last chance…..
At the same time, the winter crops have begun crowding your boxes — Welcome, fresh salad greens and yummy cooking greens, leaf celery, beets and radishes! Amidst this colorful assortment of summer-and-winter-mixed-into-autumn, there’s one very distinctive autumn vegetable now growing, dependably punctual and improving every dish…Can you guess who?
Yes! Introducing the incredible sunroot, aka Helianthus tuberosus, or better yet by its very confusing moniker: the Jerusalem Artichoke.
But first, a clarification: the sunroot does look like ginger, but it certainly is not ginger!
We waited for them over six months, till the bushes dried up and wilted. Only then could we chop those down and begin pulling out the secret treasures buried below – delectable, satiating bulbs that will enhance every soup, quiche, antipasti or salad. And you don’t need a lot — they can be used just for seasoning.
This great photo from Gal’s blog, Ptitim:
In America, they’re commonly known as “sunchokes,” but actually the title “sunroot” is an accurate description, for the Jerusalem artichoke is in fact a species of sunflower which develops an edible root bulb. The origins of this delectable bulb are in the North American East Coast from Georgia to Nova Scotia, where it has been both growing wild and cultivated in Native American vegetable gardens for years on end. The bulb fully enjoys the American sunshine and rich, fertile earth, yielding farmers and gleaners its rich roots that abound with energy and sweetness.
The Europeans, who came to visit and stayed to conquer, tasted the sunroot and loved it. The first to describe the bulb was French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who noticed it in a Cape Cod vegetable garden in 1602. He sent some sunroots to France, from where they meandered to England, Germany and Italy in the 17th century. The Italians termed it girasole, Italian for “sunflower.” Somehow the pronunciation was distorted to “Jerusalem,” and it stuck. The “artichoke” part came from the fact that it somewhat resembles the artichoke in taste. (It’s a well-known fact that chefs are blessed with a very creative imagination…)
Like any sunflower, the sunroot adores the sun and thrives during the summer. For Chubeza, this is the sixth summer we’ve watched its growth. I say “watch,” because from the moment we placed the bulbs in the earth until we plunged the pitchfork in to remove them, we really did not have much to do (aside from occasional weeding and watering). We were rather amazed at the beautiful strength of its growth, at its ability to joyfully grow wild and dare the weeds to even think of coming close. In our field, the Jerusalem artichoke is free from pests (moles and rats are their natural nemesis), which is why we could just step aside and simply watch it grow. Patiently.
Here it is going wild, blooming, growing. The Jerusalem artichoke in Chubeza:
And yes, it required much patience. The plant took its sweet time for at least seven months, growing, wilting and clandestinely swelling up its unique roots. Only by the middle of October when the foliage had dried up, we inserted the pitchfork to examine the situation, only to discover that we needed more patience. So we waited a bit longer, and now, one month later, we finally mowed down its withered leaves to pull out all these yummy, distinctive bulbs. Welcome, gals!
Though it grows underground like the potato (even if it is more stubborn and recalcitrant than the latter) and has a similar caloric value, the Jerusalem artichoke is low in carbs. Instead of starch, it contains inulin, a fruit sucrose carbohydrate, soluble in water (which is how it stores its energy in the root bulb). Inulin aids in lowering blood sugar levels, making it recommended for diabetics (contrary to potatoes!). Inulin feeds the friendly microbes in the intestines and reduces the threat of a variety of diseases. On the other hand, it may cause gas, so if you’re first beginning to eat Jerusalem artichokes, start slowly to get the body accustomed. These bulbs are an excellent source of thiamine, iron, niacin, Vitamin B3 and potassium. Chinese medicine classifies the Jerusalem artichoke as a warming vegetable which strengthens the digestive system. A great winter vegetable!
- The Jerusalem Artichoke must be refrigerated, preferably in a closed plastic bag or sealed plastic container, to prevent them from growing soft.
- Most people peel them, but it can be quite a tedious task. First, you don’t have to peel them, you can simply scratch off the skin and cook or bake unpeeled. You can also steam the bulbs for a few minutes and then rub off the softened skin.
- The Jerusalem artichoke turns black quickly after being peeled. To prevent this, place in a bowl filled with water and some lemon juice
- And what about the well-kept secret of the Jerusalem artichokes…? The…um… gas? That gas is a product of inulin breakdown in our bodies, i.e., fructose. If it makes you gassy, best you eat in smaller quantities. Two last tips to reduce gas are: cook separately and add to a dish without the water it was cooked in, or season with cumin which assists in its digestion and reduces gas.
Check our recipe section for a variety of suggestions for cooking and serving the amazing sunroot, but feel free to add it to other familiar and favorite recipes in your own creative way. It really enhances the flavor in nearly every dish. Bon appetite!
Wishing everyone a good and healthy week,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the entire Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Bell peppers/eggplant/carrots/onions, Jerusalem artichoke/ Thai yard-long beans (lubia)/short Iraqi lubia/okra, lettuce, radishes/daikon, cucumbers, tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, parsley/coriander/dill, tatsoi/Swiss chard, slice of Neapolitan pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes.
Large box, in addition: Red beets, New Zealand spinach/kale, celery/corn.
FRUIT BOXES: Apples, pomegranates, avocados, oranges, bananas.
Wednesday: Bell peppers, carrots/kohlrabu/turnip, slice of Neapolitan pumpkin/onions, lettuce, red beets/daikon, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley/coriander/dill, Swiss chard/kale, sweet potatoes, potatoes.
Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichoke/Thai yard-long beans (lubia)/short Iraqi lubia/okra, tatsoi/New Zealand spinach, celery/eggplant.
FRUIT BOXES: Apples, pomegranates/mango, avocados, oranges/pomelit, bananas.