Sunchoke – Helianthus tuberosus

Sunchoke is also known as Jerusalem Artichoke although it originates from the Americas and is a Sunflower and has no relationship to Artichokes at all. They are a very tasty root vegetable that are sadly under used and often badly prepared or cooked when they are used.

They have a high inulin content (like Yacon) that converts to fructose with some storage time which is what gives them a sweet taste but it is not digestible by humans so you don’t get all the calories.

However some people need exposure to inulin over time to build up their digestive response or they can get a lot of intestinal gas. Apparently the more you eat foods like this with inulin in it – the more your system adjusts and those symptoms go away and it’s supposedly beneficial to your system.

They are a very easy growing sunflower plant that is usually up to about 1.5m plus in height with small yellow flowers in mid to late summer.

You just need to give them some room in a sunny spot and you will likely literally never get rid of them.

They can actually be a little weedy if left to themselves.

If you give them a good deep soil with a good supply of moisture while growing they will get to a good size by the time you dig them up.  They can get to about 15cm long and quite thick if well grown.

Make sure you give yourself some space to dig them up from the root zone which can go down to about 30cm below ground and maybe leave a good space around the bed so they don’t spread too much.

Usually you wait for the stems to dry off and then the tuberous roots are ready to dig up.

They provide a great trellis system to grow other things on like beans or vines. They don’t seem to mind the competition and are very strong stems.

There are a number of cultivars with various features like colours that range from the standard creamy white to a intensely blushed red and with various levels of smooth skin. Some can have many nodes and  rooting points which makes them a pain to clean and prepare for cooking. Pick a smooth one if you can get them.

They get sweeter if you store them for some time after harvest in a dark dry space as more of the inulin converts to fructose.

They are really nice just eaten fresh and have a nice crunchy sweet fresh flavour if eaten finely sliced. The texture is almost like a crunchy apple when fresh from the ground. When they have been stored for some time they tend to get softer and sweeter.

I would recommend that you try baking some of them and with that add some finely sliced skin ‘chips’ quickly fried in a pan to a crispy texture and thrown on top for some variation.