The sunchoke, often called the Jerusalem artichoke, is a plant that grows underground like a potato and is related to the sunflower. It is native to America, and has nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes. It was originally cultivated by native Americans. The tubers are gnarly and uneven, vaguely resembling ginger root.
It is also called sunroot, earth apple or topinambour, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas.
Jerusalem artichokes are a knobby root vegetable with a slightly nutty and savory taste, like a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you’ve ever had. The flavor has also been compared to a water chestnut. Paul and I really love them!
They can be roasted whole in their skins, or they can be peeled. To roast whole, scrub very carefully to remove any grit from the deep crevices as they are very irregular in shape. If you eat them cooked, they have a creamy texture and you can use them in ways similar to potatoes. They can be eaten raw as well. With their peel left intact, you can wash, then thinly slice raw Jerusalem artichokes and add them to any type of salad.
Jerusalem artichoke is one of the finest sources of dietary fibers, especially high in oligo-fructose inulin, which is a soluble non-starch polysaccharide. Inulin is a zero calorie saccharine and inert carbohydrate which does not metabolize inside the human body, and thereby making it an ideal sweetener for diabetics. As we have discussed in a past blog, inulin is a prebiotic and provides great health benefits for the gut.
Five reasons to fall in love with sunchokes:
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- High in potassium
- Decreases blood cholesterol
- One cup of sunchokes provides you with a quarter of your daily iron
- High in protein
Jerusalem artichoke is moderately high in calories; provides about 73 calories per 100 g, roughly equivalent to that of potatoes. One cup also contains 0 grams fat, 6 mlligrams of sodium and 14 grams of sugar. This amount provides 3 grams of protein and about 2.5 grams of dietary fiber.
The root has negligible amounts of fat and contains zero cholesterol. Nevertheless, its high-quality phytochemical profile is comprised of dietary fiber (non-starch carbohydrates), and antioxidants, in addition to small proportions of minerals, and vitamins.
Soluble as well as insoluble fibers in this tuber retain moisture in the gut and create bulk. Studies suggest that adequate roughage in the diet helps reduce constipation problems. Dietary fibers also offer some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.
The tuber contains anti-oxidant vitamins such as Vitamin-C, Vitamin-A, Vitamin-E. These vitamins, together with flavonoid compounds like carotenes, helps scavenge harmful free radicals and thereby offers protection from cancers, inflammation and viral cough and cold. A one-cup serving provides 6 milligrams of vitamin C, about 2 milligrams of niacin and 30 International Units of vitamin A.
Jerusalem artichokes are an excellent source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, calcium and copper. 100 g of fresh root holds 429 mg or 9% of daily required levels of potassium. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte which reduces blood pressure and heart rate by countering negative effects of sodium.
100 g of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of this trace element among the common edible roots and tubers. It contains 21 milligrams of calcium. It also contains some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin.
Whether you eat them raw in salads or cooked in stir frys or soups or even on home-made pizza, these little nuggets will not only add life to your plate, but also to your body. Give them a try, you will be hooked for life!