One of the things I love about belonging to a CSA program is the encouragement to try new foods, especially when we’re surprised with a fruit or veggie we’re not familiar with. These interesting-looking, knobby root veggies were in the extras basket when we picked up our share last week. I actually thought they were ginger root at first. Turns out they were jerusalem artichokes, and now I know what I was missing out on by overlooking them in the past. Have you ever eaten one? Read on to find out why you’ll want to try this nutrient-dense root veggie!
What is a Jerusalem Artichoke?
Jerusalem artichokes, sometimes called sunchokes, are the edible tubers of the plant (Helianthus tuberosus) which is a type of sunflower (source.) They’re actually not artichokes, although I think they taste remotely similar. My honest opinion is that I don’t think they’re an amazingly delicious standalone veggie when raw. However, I would like to incorporate them into my meals more because they’re an easy way to add more valuable nutrients without majorly affecting the flavor of the dish; i.e., my toddler doesn’t know they’re there.
What are the Health Benefits of Jerusalem Artichokes?
Jerusalem artichokes are particularly high in dietary fiber, and they’re rich in potassium, magnesium, iron and B vitamins (source.) Jerusalem artichokes are high in inulin, a non-digestible soluble fiber. Inulin increases healthy intestinal bacteria which results in the prebiotic effect. Healthy bacteria in the gut can fight off unwanted bacteria and improve digestive health. Jerusalem artichokes can also help regulate blood sugar since they’re high in inulin. They have a low glycemic index and do not cause rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels (source.) Some people are sensitive to jerusalem artichokes and have digestive discomfort after eating them because of the inulin. No one in my family experienced this, after eating them raw and cooked.
How to Eat Jerusalem Artichokes
Unlike some other unusual fruits or veggies, jerusalem artichokes are versatile. Like potatoes, they can be steamed, baked, roasted or grilled. They can also be sautéed. They have the highest nutrient content when eaten raw. I don’t think they taste horrible raw, but they don’t have much flavor that way. A water chestnut comes to mind when I eat a raw jerusalem artichoke. You can either peel them or leave the skin on. I thought they were a little bit difficult to clean because of their texture and peeling was time consuming, if the goal is to get every bit of skin off, that is. I used an old fashioned veggie peeler to remove the skin, but they definitely don’t peel as clean as a potato. I wasn’t too worried about getting all of the skin off because it’s not very tough.
We cut some jerusalem artichokes into small pieces and sautéed them with some other veggies that were going into a homemade soup. When sautéed, I think they have a bit of a nutty flavor, but they didn’t alter the flavor of the tomato-based soup we were making. It’s one of my three year old’s favorite soups and she didn’t even notice the jerusalem artichokes. A way to eat them raw is to grate them into salads or coleslaws. You can also thinly slice them, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put them on the grill or roast in the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and roast for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
We definitely have a new appreciation jerusalem artichokes thanks to our CSA, and we might even try some in our own garden this year. Next time you’re grocery shopping, don’t forget about these little guys! They’re definitely worth a try!