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Jerusalem artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke, a recent rediscovery

Other names for Jerusalem artichokes are Canadian sunflowers and German turnips. Numerous names suggest that the tuber is extremely similar to a potato and is quite simple to cultivate; in fact, it does not have great requirements in terms of climate and soil. It is a herbaceous plant that might have reddish-purple hues or a prominent root system, which yields the white tubers.

It was once used as animal feed, but more recently, its nutritional value for humans has been rediscovered. The credit for this rediscovery goes to its very delicate flavour, similar to that of artichoke, as well as the renewed awareness of its nutritional value, which is very high.

The benefits of Jerusalem artichokes

The Jerusalem artichoke has a few advantages over potatoes despite tasting and looking identical (it’s a touch tougher and spherical). It has fewer calories to begin with—100 grammes of the product only have about 30 kcal. It also contains high levels of group B vitamins and vitamin A (which is beneficial for vision).

In terms of mineral salts, it offers sufficient amounts of magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Jerusalem artichokes are also rich in beneficial bacteria for the intestines, including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Jerusalem artichokes also have the advantage of having a very low glycemic index—even lower than potatoes—despite having a very decent amount of carbohydrates.

The varieties of Jerusalem artichokes

The tubers of Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), which closely resemble sweet potatoes, have a sweet and delicate flavour vaguely reminiscent of that of the artichoke. The Jerusalem artichoke belongs to the same family as the sunflower and was intensively cultivated by the American Indians. In 1605, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain found these tubers in an Indian garden on Cape Cod and imported them. It can be found on the markets at the end of autumn. Firm tubers with skin that is brownish-purple and free of superficial blemishes or bruises should be selected over the others.

It wrinkles easily when exposed to air, so it should be wrapped tightly in plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator.

The Jerusalem artichoke, having only recently gained prominence, has not been the subject of particular “botanical” attention. So it is rather homogeneous, and the varieties are just a handful; in fact, there are essentially two: the white Jerusalem artichoke and the red Jerusalem artichoke.

The first is rather early and is characterised by an intense and almost acrid flavour. The second is late and is characterised by sweeter hints and greater softness.

How to Use It in the Kitchen

The Jerusalem artichoke tuber, a vegetable similar to the potato, cannot be eaten raw (although it contains fewer toxic substances). However, its uses are similar to those of the potato. It is a tuber with an artichoke flavour. The Jerusalem artichoke, in fact, is considered a dietary substitute for the potato; therefore, it can be consumed boiled, fried, pureed, etc. This tuber is essentially used as a side dish, both for fish and meat-based main courses.

It can also be transformed into flour, which has the advantage of not containing gluten. However, it does not have great bread-making capabilities, so it must always be added to other flours. The Jerusalem artichoke can also be used on its own; in fact, it can be the main ingredient in certain recipes. In regard to this, Germany produces some very good savoury pies made with this intriguing vegetable.

Jerusalem artichoke syrup, a versatile dish

An ideal syrup for a variety of sweets Jerusalem artichoke syrup is perfect on pancakes. In this...