In my neck of the woods, the Northeastern United States, we are still finding the greenmarket filled with potatoes and apples. So I was very happy to see one of my all-time favorite tubers pop up last weekend: The knobby little sunchoke. Sunchokes are their sweetest in the spring, and this simple recipe is a lovely way to showcase these little darlings.
Native to North America, sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes (although not from Jerusalem and not artichokes), were first cultivated by the Native Americans who called them sun roots. Sunchokes are a tuber, an underground stem, of a bright yellow flower that is related to the sunflower.
Sunchokes look like small, knobby potatoes, but they have a very unique flavorsweet and nutty, reminiscent of an artichoke heart. An interesting nutritional fact about sunchokes is that 75 to 80 percent of their carbohydrate content is in the form of inulin (not insulin!) rather than starch. This mean that the sugars break down into sucrose, not glucose, which might be of interest to those with concerns about sugar levels. Inulin is also a prebiotic, which can improve digestion and enhance immunity.
Look for clean, firm tubers that do not have a greenish tinge or any sign of sprouting or mold. Some people peel them, but this can be rather tedious, you lose a lot of the tuber, and it reduces the nutritive value. Give them a good scrub and you’re ready to roast. In this recipe, I toss in lemon wedges to roast toothey get caramelized around the edges and give the finished dish some visual texture.
1 pound sunchokes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, preferably organic and unwaxed, scrubbed and cut into sixths
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh thyme or rosemary for optional garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Toss sunchokes with oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon wedges onto sunchokes and then toss the wedges into the mix and stir.
Put on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan and cook until golden and starting to brown, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size.
Place in a serving dish and scatter a handful of herbs on top, if using.