The misnamed Jerusalem artichoke has no real link with Jerusalem, and isn't related to other artichokes. It looks a bit like a knobbly pink-skinned ginger root and has a sweet, nutty flavour, reminiscent of water chestnuts.
Although not widely used (perhaps because of its awkward appearance or anti-social effects - see NUTRITION), it is an inexpensive and versatile food that can be used both raw and cooked and makes a delicious soup.
Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain brought them to Europe after coming across them at Cape Cod in 1605. He described them as tasting like artichokes, and is likely to be responsible for this part of their name. The Jerusalem part is thought to be derived from girasole, the Italian for sunflower to which they are related. Another theory suggests the name is a corruption of Terneuzen, the Dutch city from where the root was introduced to England in 1616.
The Jerusalem artichoke plant (Helianthus tuberosus) is related to the sunflower and produces edible tubers. It is hardy and grows readily in cold climates.
Jerualem artichokes are very rich in inulin, a carbohydrate linked with good intestinal health due to its prebiotic (bacteria promoting) properties. These health benefits come at a price; the food can have a potent wind-producing effect.
Jerusalem artichokes also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.
Roots should be free from soft spots, wrinkles or sprouting. Knobbles and uneveness are unavoidable (and not indicative of quality), but smoother, rounder artichokes are easier to prepare.
Jerusalem artichokes will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Like potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke can be served with or without the skin - scrub clean and leave it on for maximum nutritional benefit.
Cook as you would potatoes - roast, sauté, bake, boil or steam. If peeling or cutting, drop pieces into water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Unlike potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke can also be used raw (e.g. in salads) or lightly stir-fried.
100g provides as percentage of recommended daily allowance
& Calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper and traces of other minerals.
6% Vitamin C
& small amounts of other B vitamins