We are now into mid-January and local produce is getting pretty thin at the market. I was casting about for something interesting to buy when I noticed a bin of Jerusalem artichokes from Ontario. I decided I had better take my own advice.
I bought a handful of them and brought them home, having no idea what I was going to do with them. When you look at them they don't really say "eat me, eat me!" but "plant me, plant me!". Had it been spring I would have taken them out into my garden and planted them next to my Iris rhizomes. Of course, they are the tubers of a type of sunflower, rather than artichokes, as the name suggests. They aren't from Jerusalem either. They are native to North America.According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, they are considered nuisance plants because they grow weed like and compete with other cultivated crops.
None of this information, while interesting, helped me decide how to cook them. After checking out my cookbooks and recipes on the internet, I discovered lots of recipes where they were mixed with potatoes or cooked as a gratin. I did find a really delicious looking soup, but I didn't have enough of them to make it. Then I decided if I really wanted to know how they tasted, I shouldn't mask them with potato or cheese or cream, I should just roast them. Even though I have never cooked them before, I instantly recognized the taste, so I've had them at a restaurant at some time.
If you decide to try them, here is what I learned. Choose the smoothest tubers you can find. Just scrub them and don't peel them, because the nutrients are just below the surface of the skin. You can use them raw in a salad but you have to put some lemon or vinegar over them because they oxidize quickly. They pair particularly well with potatoes, apparently.
I just sliced them, drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes until they were golden brown. They were surprisingly sweet and kind of nutty-tasting. All in all, a successful experiment in foraging locally in January.
Difficulty level: Easy