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.