What is a Jerusalem Artichoke?

…and how do you eat them?

The name, “Jerusalem artichoke”, is somewhat misleading.  Botanically-named helianthus tuberosus, the Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke.

The name, Jerusalem artichoke, is thought to be a corruption of the Italian “Griasole Articiocco,” meaning “turns toward the sun”.  Jerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes.

The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America.  It is a tuber of the Asteraceae or Compositae family – a family of plants that include asters, daisies and sunflowers.  The plant produces small yellow sunflowers which resemble sunflowers.

The leafy (above ground) part of a Jerusalem artichoke grow feet high – or more!  According to a knowledgeable local, you cannot stop a Jerusalem artichoke from growing!  You can plant a Jerusalem artichoke by snipping a nub of the tuber and placing it (ideally) in loose, fertile soil.  Be careful when composting (raw) scraps of a Jerusalem artichoke as you may end up with a hearty – perhaps uncontrollable – bed of artichokes.  The Jerusalem artichoke grows very well in Nova Scotia.

The tubers of the plant are edible. They are also delicious!

The tubers look like potatoes or ginger root and can vary in size and shape from small, round and knobby to long, slender and smooth.

There are many varieties of Jerusalem artichokes with the tubers varying in colour from white to pink or red.  The cultivated strains of Jerusalem artichoke produce large tubers and shorter, thicker stems than the wild types.

The tubers of the Jerusalem artichoke have a potato-like texture when cooked, with a crisp texture when raw.  They have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor (cooked or raw).  The tubers can be used as a potato substitute or, raw and sliced thinly, make a delicious salad.

Jerusalem artichokes are 100% starchless.  They are rich in prebiotics and thus good for the intestinal tract.  Jerusalem artichokes are also high in iron, potassium and thiamine, and are low in fat.

How to Prepare Jerusalem Artichoke:

Before eating or cooking a Jerusalem artichoke, scrub the tubers thoroughly with a vegetable brush or anything that will remove the outer dirt.  Peeling can be difficult due to their bumpy nature.

The peels can be eaten (and are full of vitamins, etc.) but do tend to cook faster than the flesh of the tuber.

A tip for peeling the tubers is to slice off the smaller bumpy areas so that you can then remove the skin easier with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. You could then thinly slice the bumpy bits and eat them raw or plant them in your garden.

The tubers keep well whether kept in the ground over winter (freezing does not injure them) or stored in (ideally) a well ventilated, dark, cool, humid space.  You can also keep them in the veggie drawer of your fridge – ideally wrapped in a moist cloth or paper towel.  Over overlooked, Jerusalem artichokes are a terrific Nova Scotia winter vegetable!

CREAM OF JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
(serves 6-8 people)

  • 2 lb. (1kg) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
  • 1 large cooking onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb (250g) celey root, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups (1.5L) homemade stock (we used homemade veggie stock)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (we used cream blend)
    salt, pepper (white pepper preferably), and lemon juice to taste
  • Fresh parsley (optional)
  1. Chop the Jerusalem artichokes (prepared as described above) and place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent blackening.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Gently saute onion and celery root until soft – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add Jerusalem artichokes and stock. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender.
  4. Puree with a hand blender.
  5. Whisk in cream.

We like to add chunky Oulton’s bacon bits as an optional addition to the soup.

RAW JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SALAD

  • 12 Jerusalem artichokes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (quality) oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • fresh dill, fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prep Jerusalem Artichokes as described above prior to thinly slicing.
  2. After that, simply chop, mix, and combine to form a delicious salad.

Blog written by: Danielle

Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre. Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood

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2 thoughts on “What is a Jerusalem Artichoke?

  1. Thanks for the info. Maybe I can persuade my Dad to start growing some in his Halifax garden. Then when I come home for visits I can cook with the Jerusalem artichokes. They are so great when roasted.

  2. sorry but you’re incorrect when you say “Jerusalem artichokes are especially great for diabetics as they store starch as insulin.”. What they use to store their energy is inulin, a sugar that is not digestible

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