Perennial sunflowers you can eat
Our last harvest of the year, Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus, also called Jerusalem artichoke).
A species of sunflower native to eastern North America, Sunchokes were originally cultivated as a food source by Native Americans. Their tubers can be dug until the ground freezes and with proper storage can last through Winter.
Europeans must’ve really taken to Sunchokes after trying them during the colonization of the east coast. They were shipped back home and are now more commonly eaten there than they are here in the states.
Normally tan/brown-skinned, we grow a variety that was bred in France to have red skin with fewer bumps. “Tompinambour” is the French name for Sunchoke- you might find them in a store under that name.
Sunchokes are rich in inulin, a starch-like carbohydrate that is diabetic-friendly and a probiotic. They are also high in fiber, iron, and potassium.
Prepared like potatoes, they can be boiled, sauteed or roasted. No need to peel, just give them a good scrub. The flavor can be compared to artichoke with the texture of water chestnut.
Here are some easy recipe ideas I’ve found on the web:
- Roasted Sunchokes with garlic and thyme
- Crispy Sunchokes with balsamic vinegar and rosemary
- Sunchoke-Kale Hash with Farro
- Curried Sunchoke and Chickpea Soup
- and the incredible sounding Spiced Rum Jerk Sunchokes with Rice & Beans *
* Sorry to recommend a recipe I haven’t actually tried, but I’ve only just stumbled across the Spiced Rum Jerk. It looks delicious! Hawkeye and I love anything Caribbean so I think I can safely say even before tasting it this one will be a favorite.
One thing you should know before eating too many is that Sunchoke’s unflattering nickname, “Fartichoke”, is well-deserved. They can cause gas. They don’t seem to bother everyone, but you won’t know until you try! A good first test might be to mix and mash them half and half with potato.