Despite their name, sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, have absolutely nothing to do with Israel or artichokes: they are native to the East coast of North America and are actually related to sunflowers.
This root vegetable looks like small, knobby ginger root, often with a bit of pink colour. While some claim they taste like artichokes, we don’t get it! The texture is similar to a water chestnut, but the taste is comparable to starchy root veggies like potatoes with a hint of nutty sweetness. Think jicama but less watery! When you buy sunchokes, look for firm, smooth roots without green sprouts; they can be kept in the fridge for a week.
Low in calories and a rich source of potassium, choline and fibre, sunchokes also contain fructans, specifically inulin, a type of carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic in the colon. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy microflora in your colon and have been linked to improved symptoms in IBD, improved immunity, and reduced inflammation (1). Sunchokes are like Benefibre ®, but in whole food form! For this very reason, it’s best not to overdo it if you’re new to sunchokes: they can cause some cramping and gas in large amounts, particularly if your diet is not loaded with inulin already.
The mild taste of sunchokes makes them very versatile. Here are some of our favourite ways to use sunchokes:
- crunchy stir-fry: replace water chestnuts in a stir-fry with peeled sunchokes cut into matchsticks
- root veggie roast: roast unpeeled sunchokes alongside beets, yams and parsnips when making a roast chicken
- super slaw: add grated raw sunchoke to a broccoli and carrot slaw with rice wine vinegar dressing
- potato alternative: mash steamed sunchokes and butternut squash, and mix with milk or low-sodium chicken broth and a *little* butter
Need more inspiration? Here is a simple and light soup, perfect for the transition into near-Spring. I prefer to leave the sunchokes unpeeled (more fibre!), but if you want a smoother soup, you can peel the sunchokes much like you would ginger – the back of a spoon works well.
Creamy Carrot and Sunchoke Soup
- 2.5 lbs. (about 4 – 5 cups, chopped) carrots
- 1 lb. (about 3 cups, chopped) sunchokes
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Balsamic syrup or good quality, thick balsamic vinegar
- Scrub and chop the carrots and sunchokes; set aside.
- In a large pot, heat butter over medium high heat. Sauté onion for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add the carrots and sunchokes. Allow to start to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze pan, if using.
- Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
- Working in batches, transfer soup to food processor or blender (or use immersion blender directly in pot but off the heat) and pureé until smooth.
- Return soup to pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped tarragon and parsley. Drizzle with balsamic before serving.
- Lomax AR, Calder PC. Prebiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence. Brit J Nutr 2009; 101:633–58.