Why You Should Be Eating Sunchokes Daily

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!

Comments

  1. Deborah Graham February 9, 2017

    Are they hard to find at the grocery stores, and would they be in the area where potatoes are? I’ve never noticed them, but then, maybe I didn’t know what I was looking at.

    • Melody Hord February 10, 2017

      Hi Deborah. I just saw them this past weekend in North Carolina at a Charlotte Farmer’s Market. When they are in season, they can be found at some grocery stores that stock wider varieties of produce.

  2. barbara White February 9, 2017

    I so appreciate this information. I have never eaten it.but I will from no on.

  3. Angie Olson February 11, 2017

    Thanks for the info! I’ll try them in a salad if I find them

  4. Connie Gesser February 11, 2017

    I cannot wait to try them! Great to know that they contain so much nutrition. Nice to have a new vegetable to add to the ones we usually eat to add variety.

  5. Sonja Weber February 12, 2017

    Can you grow them yourself? If yes, from seeds or do you buy plants?/

  6. Jackie Arnold March 7, 2017

    I have a ? on smoothies. Were trying to drink 2 smoothies a day to loose weight & get healthier. My ? is : I always buy the greens that have been washed already, I heard somewhere they use some kind of bleach to wash them, I’ m not sure if that’s true, but is it ok to use it or have some of the nutrients been remove.

  7. My wife and I grow Sunchokes on our 1 1/2 in-town lot. We’ve got three varieties, one is a commercially common one called Stampede. They are white/tan gnarly tubers under a 5’+ top. We’ve also got a Red Fescue which is of course, red skinned, not as knobby as the Stampede and supposed to be a bit higher in antioxidants. They grow under a 6’+ top. The third is a white/tan Fuseau which is carrot sized and shaped, very easy to clean, just rub them like a carrot! These ones grow under a 12′ top! Ya wanna privacy screen from early July until late fall? I gathered the last two locally.
    They can be prepared any way any other vegetable can be prepared; boiled, steamed, roasted, au gratin, fried, raw and fermented like sauerkraut! They’re wetter than potatoes, so for hash browns and such, squeeze the water out of them after you shred them. I dried some raw chips last fall and made flour in a food processor. It’s a heavy flour like Buckwheat. You have to add wheat to get it to rise. Without wheat I’ll bet it makes a decent flat bread. We’ll be trying that when I make more. This fall I plan on boiling some, mashing and drying to see if I get instant Sunchoke flakes for mashed ‘chokes. Boil and mash ‘chokes and potatoes 50/50 … OH! Add a bit of garlic for some more OH!
    We can most of ours. Some we do like plain potatoes and a lot we do as pickles, Bread-n-Butter, Dill, etc. We also do some like relishes. I like them better than cukes! They don’t have to be skinned, just well scrubbed, like you’d scrub potatoes or any other root vegetable.
    We live in west-central Pennsylvania, and in-town there are at least four other flower gardens with ‘chokes in them. The shortest I’ve seen grows about 3′ tall. Outside of town there are dozens of patches, in flower gardens and along the roads. I’ll wager most of the folks don’t have a clue what they have. World wide there are supposed to be around 400 varieties of them. I can believe it!
    The colonials liked them and took them all over the world. A friend of ours in Tasmania remembers her mother cooking with them when she was young.
    If you want to grow them, I’ll warn you, they’ll take over any patch you put them in. Put them where you can keep them contained. Mowing a swath at least 3’ wide around them will do. I have mine mixed with a couple other veggies that like to spread, Field Garlic and Horseradish. I also have some Day lilies mixed in, but they get stunted.
    I pull the stalks when they die in the fall and remove any tubers that come up with. I then put the stalks through a small chipper and scatter the chips over the patches where I turn them under as I dig for more roots. You can’t and will never be able to get all the roots, they will come back next year. They grow in zones 3 through 8 and with mulching can be grown in zone 2, and with a couple weeks of forced dormancy in a refrigerator they can grow in tropical areas too. Do not throw the stalks into your mulch pile. Your mulch pile will grow ‘chokes! Any bit of root will grow! When the soil reaches around 50°F in the spring the tubers start to sprout. They are nearly drought tolerant until they are making tubers, then, if it’s too dry, they like a little water. They don’t do well in wet soil, they get pithy or rot.
    I made wine out of the flowers and the tubers. The root wine was stout, not a good drinking wine, but it was a good cooking wine. The flower wine was straight, no citrus or other flavors, just flower broth, water, sugar and raisins for natural yeast. I like it as is or blended with other wines. It gives them a nice earthy flavor. My wife doesn’t like it .. more for me!
    Some friends grow ‘chokes and rabbits. That’s a good mix. They strip off some leaves to treat their rabbits and spread the rabbit treats over their ‘choke patch. you can strip off quite a few of the leaves without affecting the ‘chokes at all. If we didn’t live in-town …
    When to harvest? When the stalks die you’ll get the full prebiotic healthy goodness of the Inulin, plus, if your gut flora is out of sorts you’ll discover why another name for them is ‘Fartichokes’! When you start to munch on them in the fall, go slow and low. Small helpings until your guts adjust and after you get home from work, not before going to work! Bean-o works on proteins to prevent gas. Inulin is not a protein and Bean-o has no affect! After a good frost or freeze the Inulin starts to convert to Fructose and they become sweeter. If you live where the ground freezes and harvest some in the spring, they’re like eating candy out of the dirt! The Inulin will totally convert to Fructose and you’ll lose the prebiotic benefits and the gas. Several hours of slow cooking also converts Inulin into Fructose as does a week or so of fermenting.
    When to plant? It takes about 100 to 130 days to mature depending on variety, so early spring is best, or you’re a bit late just make sure you get them in the ground around 130 days before first frost, roughly four months. If you get knobby tubers, they can be cut just like potatoes, but instead of eyes, the end of each knob will sprout. If you get the smooth ones, they can be cut too, just not too small, say pieces about 2″ long will do. If you’re not comfortable cutting them, just drop the whole tuber into the ground anywhere from 2″ to 4″ deep and about 18″ apart. If you fertilize them, do so lightly, they don’t need much. They’ll do just fine in poor soil. With my mixing in the chipped stalks, the soil has loosened nicely and the ‘chokes get more than enough nutrition.

    • Melody Hord June 28, 2019

      Blaine,
      That was so informative. Makes me want to grow them. Thanks a million times for taking the time to explain all this!

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