Sunchoke also known as sun root and Jerusalem artichoke (no relation to Jerusalem and not a type of artichoke) is a relative of sunflower and native to North America.
Raw and cooked flavors are totally different.
Raw or slightly cooked, it has a mildly sweet, nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
Fully cooked, it has a mild artichoke taste and a buttery texture.
NOTE: Sunchoke has a high content of inulin that some people are unable to digest thus causing intestinal distress (extreme gas pain). The first time you are introduced to sunchoke, eat a small portion to see how your system handles it.
Growing: Sunchoke is a hardy perennial that grows up to 10 feet tall (will need support from strong winds). Plant in full sun in a permanent area of your garden out of the way as it can become invasive.
Although sunchoke will grow in very poor soil, gardeners will be rewarded with larger and less knobby tubers if the soil is well prepared and amended with compost and/or manure. Plant tubers 2 – 3 inches deep, about 18 inches apart (2 – 3 plants is all you will probably need). After the initial planting, nothing more needs to be done until fall when the stems die. Cut dead stems to about 3 inches from the ground to serve as a marker. You will not need to plant again as there will always be a few tubers left in the ground. Just make sure there aren’t too many left behind or you will end up with too many plants and very small tubers due to overcrowding.
Harvesting: Harvest, as needed, from fall (flavor improves after frost) into spring (before it starts to root and send out new shoot). Sunchoke is extremely hardy and can remain in the ground through the winter. You may wish to mulch with leaves or straw for easier winter digging. Be sure to harvest most of the tubers leaving only a few for new crop.
Cooking: Sunchoke is a versatile tuber and can be eaten raw or cooked. I use it as a substitute for water chestnut or jicama in stir-fry recipes; substitute for part of the potatoes when making mashed potatoes.
If not using right away, place prepared sunchoke in acidulated water to prevent discoloration.
To peel or not to peel: Peeling is not necessary a good scrubbing will do. However if I am freezing cooked sunchoke or microwaving it, I will peel because I do not like the texture of the skin after freezing or microwaving.
Raw: Peel (optional), slice and add to salad. Marinate in a vinegarette dressing, makes great pickles.
Roasting: Leave whole or cut into desired shapes and sizes, toss with oil, salt and pepper, spread (single layer, do not crowd) on baking sheet, bake at 400º for 15 – 30 minutes or until reached desired doneness. If desired add fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme…) pureed garlic or combine with other root vegetables.
Stir-fry: Slice to desired thickness, stir-fry until just heated through.
Microwave: Two or more minutes, depending on shape and size.