Our high mountain desert is brown and frozen. It seems as if there is nothing fresh to eat, but if we dig a little we can find a sweet little jewel – The Jerusalem artichoke also known as Sun Choke. Winter is the season to eat this exotically flavored rhizome. I think they are best eaten right after they have been dug up. You want to harvest the Jerusalem artichoke after the entire plant has died back all the way to the ground. As I kneel in the cold winter dirt picking up Sun Chokes and letting frozen soil slip through my fingers, I imagine I am a native rooting for Camas root.
How I like to eat them:
- In soup. Fast and easy. Wash, cut in cubes, put in soup.
- Shave thin like ginger. Put in shallow bowl with vinaigrette. Let soak for 30 to 60 min. Serve as side dish like a pickle.
- Whatever you would do with a potatoes you can do with chokes.
- Eat them soon after picking. The longer you wait the tougher the skin. Eaten right after picking no need to peel.
Growing Jerusalem artichokes:
Sun Chokes grow like an invasive weed. I sometimes wonder if they aren’t called chokes because they will take over. The plant gets about ten feet tall and need full sun. At the end of Fall they finally bloom. Little sunflower like blossoms a top a very tall plant. Stalks and leaf also resemble sunflower. Put somewhere you don’t care if they take over because they will. I grow them on the ditch bank. Harvest after plant has died back all the way to the ground. Best not to harvest the rhizome when frozen, wait for a day when the ground is thawed like after rain. Once they start sprouting root will vanish soon after. Best time to plant, now until March! Pick a day when the ground is thawed and you can dig.
How to get Jerusalem artichokes:
Call Farmer Marty (208)713-1675 $2 a lbs. For seed or food.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Here is a recipe that we published last year in the Global Gardens’ CSA cookbook. I don’t have a photo of it because we haven’t made it since last winter. We served it at a pre-season party for Marty’s CSA members, with a big loaf of crusty homemade bread, and I remember it being wonderful! More info on both CSAs, coming soon!
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 ancho peppers or other medium-hot peppers (we used barbecued, frozen ones from last season!)
- 20-30 Jerusalem artichokes, chopped into 2 or 3 pieces.
- 4-6 c. water or broth
- 1/2 can of coconut milk or to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pumpkin seeds (available in the bulk section at the Co-op)
Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add onions and garlic. Cook slowly until clear and caramelized, 10-15 minutes, adding ancho peppers halfway through cooking. (Farmer Marty likes to barbecue his anchos, and freeze them to use later in soups.). Add artichokes and water to pot and simmer until they are soft. Puree with a blender or food processor, stir in coconut milk, salt, and pepper. Serve in bowls topped with pumpkin seeds.