Sunday, April 29, 2007

Unidentified Vegtacular Object

What is this crazy knobby vegetable in the photo, you ask? Well, it is a perennial North American native, which is the easiest thing to grow in my upstate New York garden. It's a Jerusalem Artichoke, or Sunchoke, which I planted as a tuber many years ago in our sandy soil and which flourishes each year no matter our weather.

The tubers sprout into six-foot-tall stalks that are topped with small yellow sunflower-like blossoms in September. After the frost is the best time to harvest the tubers, which grow very close to the surface. I wash them carefully and usually slice them thinly into our salads or sprinkle with kosher salt and serve as a raw vegetable. We've also cooked them like potatoes and eaten them, but prefer them crispy. They taste somewhat nutty and a little sweet. We have also harvested them in the early Spring, but they are a bit starchier then. They do spread like crazy, so we have them in their own circular spot in the yard and just mow around them.

One word of warning. This is a very "windy" vegetable. Even a small taste of a Jerusalem Artichoke causes a lot of flatulence, so they are family-friendly fare only. Party food they aren't. They are, however, full of inulin, rather than the normal starch when they are first harvested, so diabetics can partake of them freely.
Check out the 'chokes!

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