Otherwise commonly known as "Sunchokes" and sometimes as "Iroquois Potatoes", this vegetable isn't even related to the artichoke family, nor does it have anything historically to do with Jerusalem. Rather it is the root of a variety of sunflower. The name derived instead from the Italian word "girasole", which translates to "sunflower". It originated in North America and was introduced to Europe back in the 17th century.
Otherwise commonly known as "Sunchokes" and sometimes as "Iroquois Potatoes", this vegetable isn't an artichoke at all, nor does it have anything historically to do with Jerusalem. Rather it is the root of a variety of sunflower. The name derived instead from the Italian word "girasole", which translates to "sunflower". It originated in North America and was introduced to Europe back in the 17th century.
As you can see, it looks very much like ginger in that it's a brown knobby tuber. It is a vegetable with a white flesh and is nutty, sweet, and crunchy - similar to the flavor of globe artichokes.
You can eat Jerusalem artichokes raw in salads, as a salad of its own (like potato salad), or as a side dish. The skin is usually removed, but it is very nutritious (a great source of iron) so many people just wash it well and cook and eat it with the skin still on. As a side dish you can braise it with butter and serve a nice béchamel or cream sauce and sprinkle it with parsley. It also makes for a very good soup. Other ways of cooking it is battering and frying it, cooking and pureeing it, or even souffleeing it.
Sunchokes are a good choice for diabetics. They possess a complex carbohydrate called INULIN that is metabolized differently than other complex carbohydrates. Fructose, not glucose, is the building block of inulin, so there is a smaller rise in blood sugar levels after eating sunchokes than there is with potatoes or rice. Inulin is a naturally occurring substance found in over 35,000 plants and vegetables worldwide. Chemically, inulin is a non-digestible carbohydrate in the class of fiber substances called fructans. Inulin, and its subgroup fruit oligosaccharides (FOS), promote the health and balance of good bacteria in the colon by serving as a "food" for these organisms. The health benefits of lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria are well known. Through its role as a food source (also called a pre-biotic) which promotes proliferation of these organisms, INULIN-FOS helps maintain normal bowel function, regularity and urinary tract health. Recent studies have also found that INULIN-FOS supports proper mineral absorption (especially important for women), cardiovascular health and immune function, as well as proper blood sugar and blood fat metabolism.
A 3 1/2 ounce (100 g) serving of fresh, harvested roots provides about 35 calories. In storage, however, the roots mature, or ripen, and inulin turns to sugar, so the calorie content increases to about 75 calories. Sunchokes provide nutritious amounts of iron, potassium, thiamine and niacin.
For some individuals, sunchokes, like legumes, may be a source of intestinal gas, or flatulence. To remedy this, eat smaller portions of cooked, not raw, sunchokes or wait until spring to eat stored sunchokes, when they are sweeter and easier to digest.
Just like anything else you may not have used before, get a little and try it -- it can't hurt! Everybody likes finding something tasty and new on their plate.