Sunchokes and Jerusalem artichokes are the same thing. You probably already know that. Everything I am reading about sunchokes says that “sunchokes” is a more correct name for the tuber, so I’ll go with that.
My daughter gave me a handful of these tubers a year ago last fall and I planted them. They grew. Boy, did they grow! From that one pound or so of chokes, I dug up over fifty pounds of tubers this winter.
And they are so delicious. However there are a couple of problems with them but they are fairly easy to overcome.
The first problem is that they cause flatulence. Gas. The windy city. If beans cause you a problem, sunchokes will cause you a serious problem. To get over this, just eat a little bit every day. Start with only a teaspoon or so. Increase the amount daily until they don’t bother you any more. It takes about ten day to two weeks.
The chokes store carbohydrates differently that most other vegetables. They create inulin (not insulin which is a hormone) which converts very easily to fructose. In fact, sunchokes are grown commercially just for the fructose content. Most people don’t eat a diet high in inulin (artichoke hearts, asparagus, burdock, chicory, garlic, leeks, etc.) so they don’t have the intestinal flora and fauna needed to digest it. That makes sunchoke a serious pre-biotic which is hot in the news these days. And helps keep your digestive tract happy and healthy.
The effects of the inulin can be minimized by adding vinegar, lime or lemon juice to the cooking water and cooking them a little longer. However, the inulin is a lot of the value of the sunchoke so it kind of defeats the purpose.
The second problem is that they don’t keep very well. After I dug the first batch, I left them outside and they wilted fairly quickly. Quickly meaning that at the end of day two laying outside, they were limp. If you put them in water in the refrigerator at less than forty degrees F, they will keep for about three weeks.
Like some fruit and avocados, chokes oxidize rather quickly and turn black. It does not affect their flavor nor their nutrition but it is not a particularly good appearance. If you put just a little bit of lime or lemon juice in with the water, they will stay nice and pale. You cannot undo the oxidation once it happens.
To keep them fresh, I tried burying them. I had an old onion bag that I put them in and dug a hole about a foot deep and put the bag in the hole. That worked pretty well but if you don’t have a yard that you can dig holes in willy-nilly it would be a difficult technique to perform.
After some experimentation, I found that grating or slicing them and dehydrating them works great. I dried them to the snap stage and stored them in air tight glass jars. Just put a handful of the gratings or slices into a kettle and cook them for about half an hour. They rehydrate just beautifully. Or you can just munch on the dried pieces which is a pretty good snack.
I have not yet discovered a way to cook the chokes that isn’t good. We have had them boiled, boiled and mashed like potatoes, boiled and mashed with potatoes and sauteed in butter or olive oil. They are great baked, too. Cut them into chunks, cover with a thin coating of your favorite oil and bake in a 350 degree oven for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Dust with a little garlic, salt and pepper. Nummy!!
A few days ago, we did a crock pot chuck roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and chokes. It turned out just awesome.
What I haven’t tried yet is pickling them.
Will you like sunchokes? If you like artichoke hearts, you will probably love them. That particular flavor is a little more enhanced with cooking. Eating them fresh is good because they are on the sweet side and crunchy. If you’re like me and constantly on a diet, they are really good because they don’t taste like a carrot but have a lot of fiber so they are filling. And crunchy. I already said that, didn’t I? Most diabetics can eat them without getting a sugar spike because they have fructose and not glucose. Both are sugars, of course, but are metabolized very differently.
Will your kids like them? Probably because they are sweet and not green. They will probably love them if you slice them fairly thin and bake them with a little salt until they are crisp. A healthy chip.
But beware. These little tubers are addictive. They are so easy to grow and so good to eat. I find myself filching them out of the frig and munching on them all day long. That’s okay though because they are really good for you!