Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A-Z Blog Challenge: J is for Jerusalem Artichokes

These delicious, knobbly little tubers are, of course, not artichokes and nor are they from anywhere near Jerusalem. Unlike the globe artichoke (which is a kind of thistle bud and which the tubers of the Jerusalem artichoke supposedly taste similar to though I can't see it myself) Jerusalem artichokes are from a variety of sunflowers which are found throughout eastern North America ranging from Canada to as far south as Florida and Texas. These are very pretty and can be used as cut flowers. Picking is also supposed to improve the quality of the tubers so that's a bonus, I suppose. Oh and where does the 'Jerusalem' come from? Well, there are a couple of theories. One is that it's a corruption of the Italian word 'girasola' meaning 'turning to the sun' which sunflower blossoms do while the other that it comes from a garbling of the area in the Netherlands where it was first farmed in Europe. Because of this confusion of names in some areas they are now being marketed as sunchokes which certainly makes a lot more sense.

So how do we use these little tubers? Well, they can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways - steaming is the best way to retain their crunchy texture, I'm told - and they are slightly sweet and nutty, something like water chestnuts. Delicious and full of goodness as they are, they have something of a reputation for causing wind in some people but on the other hand some also believe they make a healthy food choice for patients with Type 2 diabetes because they contain fructose which is better tolerated than sucrose. But that is for your doctor to advise you about, not me. I just see them as little bundles of yumminess - and that's whichever way you choose to eat them. Apparently they are also used as animal food. That's reasonable, I suppose. After all, why should we be the only ones to enjoy them,

I've been tempted to grow my own Jerusalem artichokes because they are hardy, pretty and prolific but, because even a tiny fragment can sprout, which means they are potentially invasive weeds, I've resisted. Instead I'm very happy to rely on the skills of commercial growers.

You can read more about them here.


Yvonne Ventresca said...

Interesting! I'm not sure if I've ever tried these.

Yvonne V

Helen V. said...

They are quite tasty, Yvonne. Thanks for dropping by.

Jo said...

My mother used to cook them in England many years ago Helen and in those days I didn't like them. I haven't tried them in years but, come to that, I haven't seen them in years either or I would certainly do so.

Helen V. said...

They're easy to come by here, Jo, although in small quantities. I suspect most people don't know how to use them.