The versatile, unassuming, and misnamed Jerusalem artichoke
The Jerusalem artichoke is delicious to eat. With a bland but intriguing flavor and a pleasant crisp texture, it bears no resemblance to the more easily recognized globe artichoke, although both belong to the same horticultural family.
The edible part of the globe artichoke plant is the large bud, which looks like a plump green pine cone. The Jerusalem artichoke, by comparison, is grown for its edible tuber rather than its bud. It does not, incidentally, have any connection with the Holy Land.
This vegetable deserves far more attention than it gets, for it lends itself to many kinds of preparation. Its rather subtle flavor is not too different from that of the globe artichoke. The texture is interesting and crisp, somewhat like the water chestnut.
A native of North America, it grows in most of the United States and Canada to a height of 12 feet. Its yellow flowers are similar to the wild sunflower. Because of this resemblance, it is often called sunchoke.
Jerusalem artichoke tubers may be pickled, eaten raw, or added to any vegetable salad or to a roast or stew. They may also be used as a substitute for potatoes. Fried artichokes are not as crisp as home-fried potatoes, but once this difference is accepted, they can become a tasty accompaniment to breakfast bacon or sausage.
To make fried artichokes, simply scrub the artichokes. Peeling is not necesary. Slice and fry with chopped onion until golden brown. Drain, season, and serve.
A delicious variation on this theme becomes scrambled artichokes. Fry as above, then add beaten eggs. Scramble the mixture until eggs are set and serve for breakfast or supper.
Sliced artichokes darken quickly. To prevent discoloration, drop cut artichokes into water with a small amount of lemon juice. Raw chokes may be shredded or diced for salads, added to soups or stews, or simply served as a crisp appetizer.
Cleaned and stored, Jerusalem artichokes keep much like potatoes. Humidity in the storage area must remain fairly high, as tubers begin to shrivel if allowed to become too dry. Cream of Sunchoke Soup 1 large onion, diced 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 2 cups scrubbed, cubed artichokes 1 tablespoon flour l/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups water 1 cup milk or cream 1 tablespoon butter 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste
Cook onions in butter until soft. Add artichokes and saute 3 minutes. Add flour and salt. Stirring constantly, slowly add water. Simmer until artichoke is tender.
Pour into blender and blend until smooth, or mash artichoke in the simmering liquid. Add milk and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter.
Stir 2 tablespoons of liquid into beaten egg yolk and add gradually to soup. Add nutmeg. Mix well, taste for seasoning, and serve. Serves 6.