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Seasons: caution to the wind

Susan Jung

 

The Jerusalem artichoke (also known as the sunchoke) has a bad reputation. It's not because of the flavour (which is sweet) or that it is unhealthy (because it's said to be highly nutritious). This tuber is known for causing what must be acknowledged for what it is: flatulence.

It doesn't affect everybody, though, and cooking them long and slow (12 to 24 hours at 93 degrees Celsius, as suggested by Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking), or refrigerating them so their indigestible inulin converts to digestible fructose, as advised by the horticultural department of Purdue University in the United States, can help overcome this problem.

If eating Jerusalem artichokes for the first time, do so in small quantities, and be wary of serving them to unsuspecting dinner party guests - unless you dislike those seated around the table.

Those for whom the Jerusalem artichoke doesn't cause digestive problems will appreciate the tuber's other qualities. When raw, it's quite like a Nashi pear in texture - crisp and moist (although not as sweet); when cooked, the texture turns more potato-like, and has a flavour reminiscent of the globe artichoke.

The Jerusalem artichoke looks something like a potato crossed with ginger root. Scraping away the tan-coloured skin reveals off-white flesh. When buying them, feel all over and reject those with soft spots. The Jerusalem artichoke can also be dried, pickled and made into alcoholic drinks.

Raw, the tubers can be sliced or julienned and used in salads. They can also be roasted as you would other root vegetables - rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt then baked until just tender. You can also boil them with potatoes, then mash them together with butter, salt and pepper.

 

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