What is this? Jerusalem Artichokes
Also known as sunchokes, this root looks like ginger and tastes like a cross between a potato and an artichoke but they actually have no connection to ginger, Jerusalem or artichokes at all. Jerusalem Artichokes are in the sunflower family (hence the sunchoke moniker) and are native to North America, serving as a staple amongst indigenous tribes long before the colonists arrived. When French explores discovered them, they sent them back to Europe, where they grew heartily and remained popular (particularly in France), but in the states their popularity waned.
Jerusalem Artichokes are the root of a flower, planted in the early spring and harvested in late fall. They grow tall but their flowers are much smaller than your average decorative sunflower (see slideshow above). They are prolific and tenacious - one plant can produce up to six pounds of tubers. They are sometimes be considered invasive, and do grow in the wild.
Jerusalem Artichokes are rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which is a both blessing and a curse. Inulin is low-glycemic, so these tubers are much better for diabetics than potatoes, but it is also indigestible, and is the cause of such infamous digestive issues that they are nicknamed "fartichokes". It is said that boiling them in lemon water will eliminate it's infamous effect, but I have not yet tried it. They are also rich in potassium, iron, as well as other nutrients, and so generally a good veggie all around.
How to store Jerusalem Artichokes:
Wrap unwashed Jerusalem artichokes in paper towels, place in a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator crisper. They tend to bruise easily, so handle them with care. They should keep for at least a week and up to two. Check them frequently for blotches and soft spots, discarding any damaged ones.
What do you do with them?
Apart from my Roasted Sunchoke Soup recipe (slideshow above), there are tons of creative users for Jerusalem Artichokes:
Sometimes a simple mash will do the trick
Can you believe there is Schnapps for it?
Epicurious' recipe for frying them in sage butter has gotten great reviews
Emeril Lagasse' gratin sounds delicious (vegan version tbp)
And if his Grilled Lobster Tails With Mashed Jerusalem Artichokes, Sauteed Asparagus, And Lemon Tarragon Butter recipe isn't good enough for you I have no words