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Jerusalem Artichoke or Sunchoke

by Peter Junger

If You See this Vegetable eat them raw - Jerusalem artichoke puts iron in you. 

These specimens look a lot like ginger but are not. Commonly called Jerusalem artichokes, they are not from Jerusalem or artichokes. Rather, they are the North American sun flower, Helianthus Tuberosus. Now some people call them sunchokes. Whatever you choose to call them, they are great eating and good for you. 

Let's examine the helath benefits of the Jerusalem artichoke.


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 words, 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!


About the author: Pete Junger is a cook working in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has run restaurant and industrial (work camp) kitchens.
jerusalem artichoke
Pete holding Jerusalem Artichokes
photo taken by Chantal Pellerin


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