One of my favorite fall crops is sunchokes (also known as jerusalem artichokes). The plants are tall with small sunflower like flowers. The part people eat are the tubers, which look a bit like iris or ginger tubers, sort of knobby and white. I use to grow sunchokes when I was gardening in Southern Ohio, but haven’t had a chance to plant any since then. They are native to North America and perennial, so are super easy to grow.
The problem with sunchokes is that they can be invasive, since they spread by growing new tubers. Even if you dig them out in the fall it’s very difficult to get every single piece of root, so you need to be careful about where you plant them.
Ideally, if you have a sunny back fence or narrow side yard where they will be out of the way they will continue to provide you food year after year with little to no effort on your part. Generally you dig the tubers once the tops have started to die back and the weather has gotten cool. The tubers can then be washed and stored in the fridge. If I was digging my own I would pick out the less knobby ones to eat and replant the rest since you are going to have to peel them.
Last week I bought some sunchoke tubers from the local farmers market because I don’t have a place of my own to plant them. Tonight we made a delicious sunchoke mash out of them as an alternative to mashed potatoes. Sunchokes have a lot of inulin (a type of fiber) in them and I believe are better for diabetics (and other folks who need to watch their blood sugar) than potatoes. Like a lot of healthy vegetables, sunchokes can produce gas when being digested, so be warned. (I haven’t noticed a problem, but everyone is different.)
- 1 lb Sunchokes (peeled and chopped)
- 2 Tbls butter
- a pinch of salt
- (or substitute a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon for salt and butter)
Steam the sunchokes for about 15 minutes until tender when poked with a fork. Dump in a food processor with the butter and salt and process until smooth. Alternately you could mash them by hand.
Yum! They do taste a bit like an artichoke I think.