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What Is It?
A distinctive and underused tuber/root vegetable in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to North America.
FALL to EARLY SPRING
Starchy/sweet with a relatively crunchy texture
Sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, topinambour (French)
Look for them at farmers’ markets and well-stocked greengrocers and grocery stores.
Look for smooth, unblemished tubers. These bruise easily, so don’t be put off by a few scuffs or dents, but do avoid obvious soft/dark areas and any fuzzy or badly wilted tubers.
Difficulty: Low to Medium – Jerusalem artichokes can be washed to remove any clinging dirt and used as-is. If you peel them (which many recipes call for) they can be a bit more work because of their irregular knobby shape. Chopped Jerusalem artichokes will begin to brown when exposed to air, so you may wish to toss them with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
Frequently cooked and used like potatoes (e.g. in recipes, as a side, mashed, pureed, etc.). Jerusalem artichokes are also eaten raw in salads, etc. The skin is edible and relatively thin.
A cool, dark dry location or in a paper bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge for up to 10 days. Jerusalem artichokes do not freeze well.
Nutty/Starchy/Sweet – As with many other tubers, Jerusalem artichokes have a starchy consistency with a slightly nutty taste. They are also quite sweet for a vegetable thanks to the indigestible carbohydrate/fiber inulin.
Substituting for galangal is difficult. Frozen galangal is the best choice if fresh is unavailable. Dried galangal (which is shelf-stable) is the next best option.
Gingerserves a similar purpose in recipes, but does NOT have the same flavour profile (see “Need More Detail?” below).
Despite being important to First Nations North American peoples, Jerusalem artichokes have only recently become more popular in contemporary North American cuisine. They do have a longer history of use in France. Purees and mashes are particularly popular, but they’re surprisingly versatile and can be used in salads, baked dishes, soups, and much more.
Raw: Nuts, salad greens, crisp fruits
Cooked: cheese, tomatoes and tomato sauce, roasted meats, milder savoury herbs.
Sunchoke is the most common commercially grown and marketed variety, but there are numerous others varying in shape and colour (see “Need More Detail?” below for a list).
High in Vitamin C, and in the indigestible fiber inulin.
The tubers of the plant are eaten, including the skin (if desired). No other part of the plant is commonly consumed.
Health & Science
– Jerusalem artichokes are exceptionally high in inulin, which is an indigestible polymer of fructose responsible for their sweet flavour. Inulin is an important dietary fiber, and particularly important in diabetic diets.
– Inulin can’t be digested by humans, bacteria in the gut can go to town on it. These bacteria produce waste gases, meaning that a diet high in Jerusalem artichokes can lead to a great deal of (ahem) flatulence and (for some) intestinal discomfort.
Organic vs. Conventional
Jerusalem artichokes are popular amongst small-scale organic farmers, especially thanks to their prolific growth-habit. Conventionally grown tubers are also fairly common. Because the plants are so hardy and resistant to pests, you can generally assume that very few pesticides have been used regardless of organic/conventional status.