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!

Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Mushroom Gravy, Apple Salad, and Carrot Cake

I put this meal togeth­er because the roast­ed veg­eta­bles and the car­rot cake are both baked at 350 degrees. I pre­pare the veg­eta­bles and put them in the oven, then make the car­rot cake. While the car­rot cake is bak­ing, I have time to make the mush­room gravy and the sal­ad. Then I have time to tidy up the kitchen and set a nice table.

I don’t give mea­sure­ments here, because the veg­eta­bles vary in size any­way. I just keep chop­ping up veg­eta­bles until I have a big serv­ing for each per­son. I used about half of the bulb of fen­nel, so I’d have some left over for sal­ads over the fol­low­ing few days. I also saved all the feath­ery leafy bits of the fen­nel for use in gar­nish­ing sal­ads.

Roast­ed autumn veg­eta­bles
1 bulb of fen­nel
Pota­toes with nice skin, scrubbed
Parsnips, peeled
Sev­er­al cloves of gar­lic, peeled
1 red onion, peeled
1 c water or veg­etable stock

Cut up the veg­eta­bles into small chunks and place them in a bak­ing dish. Mix the herbs into about half a cup of water or stock, with about a table­spoon­ful of bal­sam­ic vine­gar. Pour over the veg­eta­bles. Put it in on the bot­tom rack of the oven and turn the oven on and set it to 350 degrees.

Car­rot cake
After you put the veg­eta­bles in the oven, make the car­rot cake. I used Mary McDougall’s recipe for raisin car­rot cake (, except that I added a half tea­spoon of car­damom and I sub­sti­tut­ed a gluten-free all-pur­pose flour for the whole-wheat flour. Put the cake in the oven on the mid­dle rack. When you put the car­rot cake in the oven, stir the veg­eta­bles and add the rest of the water and herbs.

Apple sal­ad
While the veg­eta­bles and cake are bak­ing, chop up a very sweet red apple, some cel­ery, and some raw Jerusalem arti­chokes (sun­chokes), if you have them. Toss them with a rasp­ber­ry-fla­vored vine­gar and serve on a bed of let­tuce. The vine­gar keeps the apples and sun­chokes from turn­ing dark before you serve them. If your apples aren’t over­ly sweet, you could add a lit­tle bit of the sweet­en­er of your choice to the vine­gar before mix­ing it with the apples.

Mush­room gravy
Stir-fry a chopped onion over medi­um heat in a dry pan until the onion is very brown. Then add two cloves of minced gar­lic and fry for anoth­er minute or so. Then add 2 cups of water and ½ chopped fresh mush­rooms or a hand­ful of dried mush­rooms. Let it sim­mer slow­ly until you are about ready to serve the veg­eta­bles. Then com­bine ¼ cup of corn­starch with anoth­er cup of water. Mix thor­ough­ly, then stir it into the boil­ing mush­rooms. Keep stir­ring until it is thick­ened. You can adjust the amount of water and corn­starch until you get the desired vol­ume and con­sis­ten­cy. Serve the gravy over the roast­ed veg­eta­bles.