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The Many Health Benefits of Jerusalem Artichokes, and How to Use Them

Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) are our go-to root vegetable for this month’s in-season pick. Here’s what to know about them.

jerusalem artichokes

You may be surprised to learn that Jerusalem artichokes aren’t artichokes at all, and they don’t even come from Jerusalem. Confusing, right? Some say the flavor of a Jerusalem artichoke is notably sweet, earthy, nutty, and slightly reminiscent of an artichoke flavor, and the texture, when cooked down, is artichoke-like as well. This is likely how they got their name, explains Debra Moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets in Washington D.C.

The Jerusalem artichoke, sometimes referred to as a sunchoke, is a vegetable similar to a potato and is considered a tuber, explains Lee Jones, a farmer behind The Chef’s Garden. Native to North America, it’s the root of a certain species of sunflowers and is known as a staple in Native American cuisine, he adds. But the mysterious Jerusalem artichoke wasn’t always the tasty tuber many know and love today.

The Jerusalem artichoke plant is considered an invasive species and often will completely take over the space it’s growing in, says Lawrence Tse, farm manager at Dig Inn. Because of this, they were once actively removed from land by farmers, but nowadays, they’re cultivated because farmers realized they began to grow in popularity and can last all winter long.

The little tubers, which Jones says look “gnarly” and similar to ginger root, have small knots and warts on them and usually come in an irregular shape. When choosing a Jerusalem artichoke to bring home, Jones suggests opting for something firm, light brown, and with tight skin. Avoid anything that’s soft and anything bruised, he warns.

You likely won’t find these sold at your regular supermarket, but specialty stores and winter farmers’ markets in most areas of the country will sell them, says Juliet Glass, director of communications at FRESHFARM, a non-profit that operates producer-only farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Jerusalem artichoke nutrition and health benefits

Jerusalem artichokes are sweet, nutty, and potato-like, with even more health benefits then their root vegetable cousins. Moser says they’re very high in vitamins, potassium, iron, and fiber. “They’re really a very healthy vegetable,” she notes.

Julie Harrington, R.D., chef and co-founder of Culinary Nutrition Studio. agrees, adding that they contain vitamin C, which is particularly great as an antioxidant to protect your cells, and the B vitamins niacin and thiamine, which help turn food into energy in the body.

One of their greatest health benefits is that Jerusalem artichokes are really rich in prebiotic fiber, Harrington says. This fiber can help support heart health, glucose control, weight management, and is generally a healthy way to prevent chronic disease, she adds.

Additionally, Harrington says “sunchokes have more bang for your buck,” noting that they provide 26.2 grams of carbohydrates and 2.5 grams of fiber, which is 25% of your daily value. Because of their high fiber content, Moser adds that they have a lower glycemic index, making them great for someone watching their sugar intake but wanting a sweeter flavor.

But before you stock up on Jerusalem artichoke to reap their wonderful health benefits, Glass warns to start slow and ensure you can tolerate the vegetable. This is because the high fiber present, called inulin, is known to cause digestive issues, including stomach discomfort and gas, in some people. Harrington agrees, adding that sometimes too much fiber at once can lead to these symptoms, so drinking plenty of water can help alleviate the discomfort.

When Jerusalem artichokes are best

The best time to snag a Jerusalem artichoke is during the winter months through the spring. Especially after the first frost when the crop is extra sweet/ Because they can last all winter long, you may see them popping up through April, Jones says.

“They’re one of the last things we’re going to harvest in the fall and we’ll store them, keep them cool and dry, and we can work out of that storage through April,” he says.

How to store Jerusalem artichokes

You may be tempted to leave your Jerusalem artichokes on the countertop along with your other tubers, but Jones emphasizes that Jerusalem artichokes can thrive in storage all season long, as long as they’re kept cool and dry. He suggests putting them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator in a bag to help hold the moisture they have. But if you find your Jerusalem artichoke is still drying out, Jones says you can put them in water to rehydrate for a few minutes.

How to cook Jerusalem artichokes.

When getting ready to cook with Jerusalem artichokes, Moser says there’s no need to peel off the tender skin. She suggests waiting until you’re ready to cook the produce before washing and cutting them to preserve their white color and moisture. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these healthy Jerusalem artichoke recipes and ideas:

  • Make ‘em mashed. Just like you would a mashed potato, you can make mashed Jerusalem artichokes. Because of their high water content, you can also sub them in for some of the potatoes in your favorite mashed potato recipe to ensure it’s not too watery, Moser says.
  • Grate into hash. Just like you would serve ham and eggs with hash browns or a veggie hash, Jones says adding in sunchokes to your breakfast plate is a great use of the produce. “They’re the best hash browns you could ever imagine,” he exclaims.
  • Enjoy them raw. Though much less common, Moser says chopped raw Jerusalem artichoke is similar in texture to a water chestnut or jicama with a surprisingly sweet flavor.
  • Blend into soups. Winter means soup season, and Glass says Jerusalem artichoke works great alongside other root vegetable soups. She suggests pureeing them into a potato leek soup for an extra sweet flavor and luscious texture.
  • Mix into sweet treats. Jones says that because of their sugar content, he encourages using them in sweets and desserts for a nutty and earthy, but sweet flavor. His farm’s chef has even crafted a sunchoke ice cream.
  • Fry into chips. Using a mandoline slicer or a very sharp chef's knife, slice the Jerusalem artichokes into very thin strips and fry like you would potato chips, Glass suggests. The sunchoke chips get super crunchy and sweet to top salads, soups, grain bowls, and more.
  • Caramelize them. Because these tubers are super sweet, Jones loves to cook them down and caramelize them like you would other root vegetables either on the stovetop or roasted in the oven with other root vegetables.

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