A cup of these little beauties will give you 28% of your recommended
daily intake of iron. They are also high in thiamin, phosphorus, and
potassium, with vitamin C, magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6 and riboflavin.
If that isn't enough, they're recommended for people with insulin resistant
diabetes (Type 2). That's because their carbohydrates are stored as
something called inulin. Inulin is a fructan or fructose. The body breaks
it down slowly so your blood sugar doesn't rapidly increase as it does
with white potatoes. It is also rumoured they are a probiotic. In other
they're good for the helpful little critters in your intestine.
So where have they been all our lives? That is a good question and I
don't know the answer. Samuel de Champlain, the famous French explorer,
noticed that people in Cape Cod grew them. Intrigued, he took them back
to France where they have been a growing concern ever since, both as
silage and people food crop. Somewhere along the way in North America
they just dropped out of sight.
The writer learned about them through his father who ate them in Sweden
as a boy. 15 years ago he saw them at a display of experimental crops
and took some home. They went into his little seaside plot in Nova Scotia
and been providing good eating ever since.
After years of looking I ran across Jerusalem artichokes again at Choices
Market on Cambie Street in Vancouver, British Columbia. They were organically
grown at Bhumi Farms near Ashcroft, British Columbia. Bhumi's owners,
Jim MacComb and his partner, were given a few some seven years ago by
a friend. He liked them and planted them. Two years later he started
supplying Discovery Organics in Burnaby. In Jim's words, "they
aren't big feeders and come back as volunteers." So he can just
plow them under and start again. He takes an early crop of the over
wintered roots and starts taking new roots in July. According to the
people at Discovery he is the largest producer in British Columbia.
Otherwise they would come up from California.
So when you see "sunchokes," take them home and eat 'em. I
suggest raw to start with. Don't peel them. That's where much of the
nutrition is. Just scrub well and cut them up like oversized tooth picks.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice and your favourite herb. Eat alone or in
a salad. Then you can try some boiled or sautéed in garlic-steeped
olive oil. Or slice, wrap in foil and barbeque. Jerusalem artichokes
have a delightful crisp texture and nutty flavour, and can be enjoyed
in lots of ways.
Have fun, eat well!