The Jerusalem artichoke which also goes by the names sunchoke and sunroot and less commonly, Earth apples, is the tuber of a breed of sunflowers. A tuber is plant's storage organ, it holds the plant's nutrients, potatoes are among the most well known of the edible tubers. But the Jerusalem artichoke shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to cooking with root vegetables. The knobby sunchoke tubers look similar to ginger roots, with light brown skin which may be tinged with yellow, red, or purple depending on the soil they are grown in.
They are 3 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Although available year-round, prime season is from October to April, and they are best dug after a light frost. They are native to North America and found most commonly on the east coast. While they fell out of popularity in the early 1900's their popularity is beginning to rise again.
How to Choose a Sunchoke
When it comes to picking the best sunchokes you want to look for smooth, clean, unblemished, firm tubers with a minimum of bumps. Farmers are attempting to breed out the bumps in newer varieties, so you will find some are less knobby than others. Avoid those with wrinkled skins, soft spots, blotched green areas or sprouts.
Jerusalem artichokes may be eaten raw or cooked. Before eating or cooking, scrub the tubers thoroughly with a vegetable brush. Peeling can be difficult due to the protuberances and is not necessary. The peels are perfectly edible.
However, if you must peel them, slice off the smaller bumpy areas and remove skin with a vegetable peeler. If you will be eating them cooked, you will find it easier to boil, steam or microwave them whole and unpeeled first, and then peel if necessary.
How To Store Jerusalem Artichokes
Handle sunchokes with care as they will bruise easily.
Raw sunchokes should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from light. They may also be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels to absorb humidity, and sealed in a plastic bag.
Depending on how long they have been sitting at the market, raw sunchokes can be stored from 1 to 3 weeks.
Cooked sunchokes should be refrigerated and consumed within 2 days. Canning and freezing are not recommended due to discoloration and deterioration of texture.
Health Benefits of Sunchokes
Unlike their tuber cousin the potato, Sunchokes have no starch. They're also about 2 percent protein. They contain inulin which is a type of carb that converts into fructose when the tuber is cut from the plant. This makes it a good food for people with type 2 diabetes. The fructose is said to be easily tolerated by diabetics. It also gives the root vegetable a sweet flavor.