You may have come across sunchokes in your grocery store or farmers’ market, or seen them (or their other name, Jerusalem artichokes) mentioned on a restaurant menu. These rhizomes are one of the many vegetables included in Vegetables Illustrated, which includes exciting, inspired recipes for 70 veggies, both familiar and more obscure. For many, sunchokes fall into the latter category. Here’s what you need to know about this uncommon ingredient.
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What Are Sunchokes?
Sunchokes are a rhizome. This means that unlike a root vegetable, sunchokes are a modified plant stem that grows underground, from which new plants can emerge. Ginger and horseradish are also examples of rhizomes.
Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are neither from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. These knobby-looking North American natives are part of the sunflower genus and were quite popular during the colonial era. In modern times, farmers’ markets have brought attention back to this neglected rhizome.
What Do Sunchokes Taste Like?
They have a tender, creamy texture and sweet, vegetable taste like a cross between potatoes and artichokes. Although they resemble gingerroot, their thin skin covers a crunchy white flesh that is distinctly nutty, with a slight smoky taste.
How to Shop for Sunchokes
Sunchokes are available from fall through spring. When shopping for them, look for those with tan or light yellow skin, with no soft or green spots or signs of sprouting or blemishes. Choose ones that are easy to clean and peel.
How to Store Sunchokes
Although they look sturdy and potato-like, sunchokes actually bruise fairly easily. They will keep wrapped in paper towels in a plastic produce bag in the refrigerator for about one week.
How to Clean Sunchokes
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How to Cook Sunchokes
Sunchokes are great sliced thinly and eaten raw, but they also take well to cooked applications.
Like potatoes, sunchokes fry up really well. In our Fried Sunchoke recipe in Vegetables Illustrated, we achieve super-crispy sunchokes with a creamy, tender interior by frying the sunchokes twice. First we fried them whole to get rid of some moisture and cook the interiors. Before the second fry, we smashed them to vastly increase the number of crags, edges, nooks, and crannies in each sunchoke.
Since sunchokes don’t contain starch, they transform nicely into soups and purees without becoming pasty or gummy. In our Sunchoke Chowder recipe in Vegetables Illustrated, we caramelize the sunchokes in butter before adding the aromatics, which produces a deep brown fond. We then puree most of the sunchokes into the chowder and add some whole pieces to the finished soup to ensure textural variety.
If you're interested in more information on different types of vegetables, check out these articles: