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In season:: Jerusalem artichokes

November 12, 2010
Time to try something new this weekend! Have a go at cooking lovely Jerusalem artichokes, which have appeared on the vegetable stalls this month. Despite its name the Jerusalem artichoke is confusingly neither a type of artichoke nor connected to Jerusalem as its name would suggest. It originally hails from North America and its white flesh has a deliciously sweet and nutty mild flavour. Its taste has been likened to that of a globe artichoke, which is likely to be responsible for this part of its name. TheJerusalem part is thought to be derived from girasole, the Italian for sunflower to which they are related. In appearance the knobbly root looks more like a ginger root than an artichoke. Because Jerusalem artichokes are hardy and grow readily in cold climates they are available in abundance between November and March. Jerusalem artichokes are packed with vitamin C, phosphorous, potassium and are an excellent source of thiamine, niacin and iron. They also contain probiotic properties so are excellent for intestinal health. Although beware, these health benefits do come at a price as too much of the food can cause some embarrassing excess wind!
With a similar consistency to potatoes and parsnips the artichoke can be cooked in a variety of ways, including roasting (try roasting them wrapped in bacon!), sautéing or steaming. Unlike potatoes though it can also be eaten raw, finely sliced or shredded in salads. The carbohydrates present in the tuber give the artichoke a tendency to become soft and mushy when boiled so steaming is a better option to retain their texture.
When buying, look for roots which are pale brown without any dark or soft patches. The artichoke should be firm and fresh. Knobbles and unevenness are unavoidable but choosing the smoother, rounder ones makes preparation easier. A good scrub or rub will remove enough of the skin. For very knobbly roots it is easier to peel them once cooked, although the skin is edible and packed with nutritional benefits. It is also important to remember that if cutting or removing the skin the artichoke flesh will darken when exposed to air so they need to stored in acidulated water. Jerusalem artichokes are not renowned for their long shelf-life, however they should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge or a cool, dark place. Fabulous Jerusalem artichoke recipes include:
Jerusalem artichoke velouté with curry and a touch of honey
Glazed Turbot fillet with jerusalem artichokes purée and crunchy grapes

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