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!