Many tubers, like potatoes and yams, are starchy and unpleasant to eat when they are raw. As a type of tuber, it is often assumed that the sunchoke shares this characteristic. Yet sunchokes that are selected and prepared with care are just as enjoyable raw as they are cooked.
It's No Choke
Also known as “Jerusalem artichokes,” sunchokes are knobby roots that come from a type of sunflower native to North America. Sunchokes are not closely related to artichokes as their name suggests, but they do have a mildly earthy, sweet flavor somewhat similar to that of an artichoke heart. Water chestnuts and jicama are more akin to the sunchoke’s flavor and texture, however, especially when they are each compared in their raw form.
Raw sunchokes are moist and crisp. Unlike potatoes, sunchokes are less starchy when they are raw than when they are cooked. Raw, sliced sunchokes make a refreshing addition to salads and crudité platters. After the raw sunchokes are cut or peeled, they gradually become limp and oxidized, turning the white flesh to a murky tan color. Inhibit oxidation by submerging the cut sunchokes in cold water spiked with lemon juice until you are ready to serve them.
When you shop for sunchokes, look for tubers that are firm and free of bruises. Avoid sunchokes that are soft or shriveled, as well as sunchokes with sprouts growing from them. The thin, papery skin is edible and unobtrusive, so peeling the sunchokes is optional. Simply scrub the unpeeled sunchokes clean before cutting them. Store the sunchokes in the refrigerator for up to a week.
A Word of Caution
Sunchokes contain inulin, a type of fructose that humans do not have the enzymes to digest. As a result, humans rely on the beneficial bacteria naturally present in their intestines to digest the inulin. This digestive process produces gases that can cause mild abdominal discomfort, earning sunchokes an unflattering reputation. While most people can eat moderate amounts of raw sunchokes without any ill effects, it is worth noting that sunchokes are more digestible after long, slow cooking.
- Fine Cooking: Sunchokes
- The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- On Food and Cooking; Harold McGee
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images