Let’s talk about the name shall we? It’s actually not an artichoke (no relation, either) and did not come from Jerusalem. According the the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs it’s thought the name is a corruption of the Italian “Griasole Articiocco,” meaning sunflower artichoke. It’s also called a sunchoke or sunroot, is a member of the sunflower family and native to North America. The flowers are sunflower-like. It grows wild along river and stream banks, and in meadows and valleys throughout Ontario. It’s been cultivated as an ornamental as well as for its edible tubers.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website taught me quite a bit about this odd-looking vegetable that you can’t always find in the store/ market. Apparently, most farmers in Ontario consider Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) to be a nuisance even though it is sold as a specialty vegetable! Appreciated by the early settlers in North America as a readily available source of food, their gardens became an important factor in the spread of the plant. It’s been recommended as forage plant, a feed for hogs, and as a leafy vegetable and is also a potential source for sugar and alcohol production, though the OMAFRA says it has not been cultivated widely in North America. Hence I guess why you don’t often see it on sale.
Until the day I was making this dish, I couldn’t find it anywhere and then Neil struck the jackpot at our local organic produce store which often carries more unusual items.
These are a starchy vegetable – sometimes used as a substitute for potatoes but able to be eaten (thinly sliced) raw as well – Gourmet Sleuth says you can use jicama or water chestnuts if you can’t find Jerusalem artichokes although potatoes, parsnips and turnips were going to be my go-to if I couldn’t find these this week.
In the end, I simply washed them, peeled them as best I could and roasted with garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Oh and some lemon zest for good measure! We served this alongside many other side dishes for our Thanksgiving meal.
These were ok, nothing special. No distinctive flavour to speak of but a pleasant side dish. I wouldn’t seek out Jerusalem artichokes again but if I do see them, at least I’ll know what to do with them! And hey, I learned something this week about a vegetable I didn’t really know much about. So, score!
Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke with Garlic on page 353 of Around my French Table.
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