Sunchoke (known as Jerusalem artichoke in the UK) looks a bit like a knobbly pink-skinned ginger root and has a sweet, nutty flavour, reminiscent of water chestnuts.
Although not widely used (perhaps because of its awkward appearance or potentially anti-social effects - see NUTRITION), it is an inexpensive and versatile food that can be used both raw and cooked and makes a delicious soup
Sunchokes are native to North America. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain brought them to Europe after coming across them at Cape Cod in 1605.
The sunchoke plant (Helianthus tuberosus) is related to the sunflower and produces edible tubers. It is hardy and grows readily in cold climates.
Roots should be free from soft spots, wrinkles or sprouting. Knobbles and uneveness are unavoidable (and not indicative of quality), but smoother, rounder artichokes are easier to prepare.
Sunchokes will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Like potatoes, sunchoke can be served with or without the skin - scrub clean and leave it on for maximum nutritional benefit.
Cook as you would potatoes - roast, sauté, bake, boil or steam. If peeling or cutting, drop pieces into water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Unlike potatoes, sunchoke can also be used raw (e.g. in salads) or lightly stir-fried.
Sunchoke are used in the industrial production of fructose, which is derived from the inulin content of the vegetable.