Overlooked Winter Veggies: Consider the Sunchoke

Image via blogs.kcrw.comSunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes (though they’re neither artichokes nor related to Jerusalem in any way) and nearly identical to gingerroot, are knobby tubers shrouded in misconception. But take them for what they are – the nutrient-rich roots of a North American sunflower variety, with a sweet, earthy flavor – and you’ll find that these über-local veggies deserve an identity all their own.

Sunchokes are available from October through March, and they store well in the fridge for a couple weeks after purchase. It’s up to you whether you peel them or not; just give them a vigorous scrub and leave the skins on for maximum nutritional benefit. Rich in vitamin C, potassium and iron, sunchokes are crunchy and nutty when raw, with a texture similar to water chestnuts. When roasted, baked, or cooked into soups, they make a great substitute for potatoes.

Try sunchokes shaved thinly over a salad (as in the following recipe), turn them into Jerusalem Artichoke Pickles, cook them in soup with pumpkin seeds, or simply roast or sauté them as you would other root vegetables. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not whip up Sunchoke Dumplings With Smoky Asparagus Puree or Parmesan Sunchoke Fries with Chimichurri Sauce? You’ll find that the possibilities are endless.

Raw Sunchoke and Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 6

  • 1 pound sunchokes, scrubbed
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bunch arugula, thick stems discarded
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan shavings
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sunchokes and simmer for 2 minutes; drain and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking.

Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice (or “shave”) the sunchokes. Transfer the sunchokes to a large bowl and immediately add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, parsley and basil. Toss well to coat the sunchokes in the vinaigrette. Add the arugula and half the Parmesan shavings to the bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the salad and transfer it to a platter or individual bowls. Scatter the remaining Parmesan shavings on top and serve.

PEGGY PAUL is a freelance editor, writer, and recipe developer (and part-time produce peddler) living in Philadelphia. On her blog, AnUnstillLife.com she shares seasonal recipes, cooking tips and inspirations.