Spring Eating

Picture 319This time of year, one of the first spring crops to come into the house are the Jerusalem artichokes ( also referred to as Sunchokes). A native to North America, these knobby tubers can become rather invasive, but if you can find an area to grow them ( and control them), they are a delicious spring addition to meals. We begin digging them in mid April, and find lots of creative ways to use them in recipes. Jerusalem artichokes look a bit like a knobby potato. Most strains have a reddish skin and are crisp, with a nutty taste. Our favorite way to prepare sunchokes is to roast them along with lots of garlic, onions, and olive oil…….maybe with some hot pepper flakes thrown in. There is no need to peel their thin skin, simply wash them thoroughly and chop them into chunks. Roast them in the oven at 350. If we’re feeling decadent, a splash of maple syrup towards the end of roasting, fancies things up.
Jerusalem artichokes also make a nice soup, we like this variation from the Local Flavors cookbook. We’ll share the recipe:
1 small onion
3 small red potatoes
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes
1 celery rib
2 Tbls. Sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (we use more)
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
Sea salt/freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
Milk or cream for thinning
½ cup croutons, crisped in the oven
Roasted hazelnut oil
Wash all the vegetables. then chop them into ½ inch chunks. Heat oil in soup pot, add the vegetables, and sauté over high heat, until lightly browned. About ten minutes. Add the garlic during the last few minutes. Pour in the stock. Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender. About 25 minutes. Cool briefly, then puree until perfectly smooth. Return to soup pot and add enough cream to thin it to the desired consistency. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve with a few croutons and the oil drizzled in a thin stream over top. Enjoy!

You can dig Jerusalem artichokes in the spring or fall. By the end of summer, they are one of the last flowering plants to be standing. Like giant sunflowers…..masses of them if they take on that invasive spirit I was talking about. After a long winter of stored vegetables, it’s a treat to have something fresh out of the ground. Our own patch, which is tucked away from the other garden spots, borders on being invasive. Because they remain separate from prime growing spots, we aren’t too worried and can enjoy sharing them with others. Besides, like asparagus, I like having this perennial food supply nearby.
Tomorrow, the kale seedlings, tatsoi, and pak choi all go out into the garden. No more waiting……..time to get planting! Picture 315