Sunchokes are one of my favorite titillating tubers.
Indigenous to North America, they are crunchy, white in flesh and are excellent sauteed or raw in a salad. They grow in the ground – like a potato – and above ground, they produce a yellow flower that shines like a sunflower.
Cultivated and enjoyed by Indians for centuries, explorers to the New World exported them to Europe.
Sunchokes are also called Jerusalem Artichokes. And like many foodstuffs, they have multiple names and get lost in translation.
There are several theories on how sunchokes became associated with artichokes and Jerusalem.
Sunchokes somehow migrated to the gardens of Cardinal Farnese in Rome around 1617, near the Vatican. The Italian word for sunchokes is girasole.
Its rough Italian translation is sunflower or “toward the sun.” Somehow the Cardinal translated them to Latin to English to Italian and back again. They might have grown toward Jerusalem. There seems to be something lost in translation…
Another theory is a gardener from Ter-Heusen, Holland, distributed his “artichoke-apples” throughout Europe and the New World. During the 17th century the Puritan-Pilgrims in their original-sin-theological tongue translated Ter-Heusen to Jerusalem…while in Salem, Mass.
This information should help to unchoke some confusion into these crunchy delectable tubers.
Sunchokes have made their way to restaurant menus and farmers’ markets in recent years and are readily available at organic grocers.
They look like a little knobby root, and need to be peeled, like a potato, to reveal the white flesh. They can be cooked just like a waxy potato and give cold salads a nice crunch. I like to blanch them in salted water and then saute them with olive oil and lemon. You can also prepare them just like mashed potatoes.