William Nile Endicott and Penny, in front of a stand of sunchokes!
William Nile Endi­cott and Pen­ny, in front of a stand of sun­chokes!

Jerusalem Artichokes” Are Neither Artichokes Nor From Jerusalem

A few years ago, I couldn’t be at my par­ents’ house for Thanks­giv­ing, so I gave them a pack­age of sun­chokes (Jerusalem arti­chokes). I told them that sun­chokes were an authen­tic food from the native peo­ples of Mass­a­chu­setts, and would there­fore have been among the foods that Massasoit’s peo­ple would have shared with the Pil­grims back in 1621. I told my par­ents that they could eat the sun­chokes or save them for plant­i­ng in the spring. If they plant­ed them, they’d end up with great huge sun­flow­ers whose blos­soms sup­pos­ed­ly smell like choco­late. Both of my par­ents are avid gar­den­ers, so my dad plant­ed the sun­chokes, and you can see the results in the pho­to­graph.

My par­ents end­ed up with a huge har­vest of sun­chokes, which has got­ten big­ger year by year. My dad waits until after a killing frost to dig them up. That makes them sweet­er.

My dad just gave me a 5-gal­lon buck­et of sun­chokes, so I’m going to be adding sun­chokes to a lot of recipes over the next few weeks. They’re tasty, and they’re real­ly good for you. One sun­choke fanci­er even argues that they helped him cure his type 2 dia­betes ( For a British friend of mine, sun­chokes are “com­fort food,” because he ate them when he was a lit­tle boy dur­ing World War II.

Some peo­ple com­plain that sun­chokes give them gas. Oth­er peo­ple say that this isn’t a real prob­lem if you start with only a small por­tion, to give your sys­tem a chance to adjust. My sys­tem is already accus­tomed to an extreme­ly high-fiber diet, which is prob­a­bly why I nev­er have a prob­lem with sun­chokes, or even with beans.

Sun­chokes are easy to pre­pare. You don’t have to remove the skin, just scrub them very well to remove any dirt and grit. Then you can slice them and serve them raw in sal­ads or a veg­etable plat­ter. (You can dip them in vine­gar or lemon juice to keep them from turn­ing brown if you are serv­ing them raw.) You can also roast or boil them like pota­toes.

Sun­chokes are easy to grow. But once you plant them, they’ll keep com­ing back, sort of like Jason in the Fri­day the 13th movies. I’ve been told that the only way to erad­i­cate them com­plete­ly from a patch of ground is to let some pigs loose there. So think care­ful­ly before you plant sun­chokes!