Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are one of the few tubers native to North America. Despite the name, these plants are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. They are in fact a type of sunflower, though their flavor is similar to that of an artichoke. For this reason Italian cultivators called them girasole, the Italian translation of sunflower. When pronounced in Italian, girasole sounds similar to Jerusalem. Hence the name Jerusalem artichoke.
Their unique taste and texture make sunchokes a fantastic addition to many foods, however they are particularly useful as a potato substitute for diabetics. Unlike most tubers, sunchokes store their carbohydrates in the form of inulin instead of starch. Our digestive enzymes do not breakdown inulin, so it has a minimal impact on blood sugar and does not raise triglycerides.
The down side of inulin is that since it is not easily digested it can produce gas and bloating in sensitive people. Cooking sunchokes well can minimize this effect. It is also a good idea to eat a small amount the first time you try them and build up your tolerance.
Sunchokes are a good source of potassium, thiamin and phosphorus, and a fantastic source of iron and soluble fiber.
They make a delicious soup, but can also be roasted, sauteed or eaten raw.
What is your favorite way to eat and prepare sunchokes?