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Guide to Vegatables

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are related to the sunflower and have nothing to do with Jerusalem. One explanation for their name is that they were christened girasole, "Jerusalem", because their yellow flowers turned towards the sun. The Italian name for the Jerusalem artichoke is girasole articocco. These small knobbly tubers have a lovely distinct flavor and are good in Palestine soup, a popular classic recipe. They are also delicious baked or braised.

History : Jerusalem artichokes are thought to have come from the central United States and Canada, where they were cultivated by the American-Indians as long ago as the fifteenth century. However, many writers have alluded to the fact that they cause "wind", which tempers their popularity.

Buying and Storing : Jerusalem artichokes are at their best during winter and early spring. They are invariably knobbly but if possible buy neat ones with the minimum of knobs to save waste. The skins should be pale brown without any dark or soft patches. If they are stored in a cool dark place they will keep well for up to 10 days.

Preparing : The white flesh of artichokes turns purplish brown when exposed to light, so when peeling or slicing them raw, place them in a bowl of acidulated water (water to which the juice of about half a lemon has been added). Because artichokes are so knobbly, it is often easier to boil them in acidulated water in their skins and peel them afterwards - the cooked skins should slip off easily.

Cooking : Jerusalem artichokes can be cooked in many of the ways in which you would cook potatoes or parsnips. They are excellent roasted, sauteed or dipped in batter and fried, but first par-boil them for 10-15 minutes until nearly tender. For creamed artichokes, mix with potatoes in equal amounts; this slightly blunts their flavor, making a tasty side dish which is not too overpowering.

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