jerusalemCrunchy, dense, and earthy with a hint of grassy sweetness, Jerusalem artichokes make great pancakes!

jerusalem artichokeJerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes or sunroot. They are the funny looking, knobby tube root of a species of sunflower; very similar in appearance to gingerroot. They are native to the North American continent although as they grow in popularity, they are being cultivated in appropriate climates around the world. They were initially cultivated across the U.S. and Canada by the native populations and shared with the arriving Europeans who then took them back home.

Jerusalem artichokes are tubers, which are different from root vegetables. They are a good source of protein and lower in starch although very high in inulin. Inulin is a naturally occurring polysaccharide that is a prebiotic, so great for the gut. It also works as a good source of fiber, retaining fluid in the gut and assisting with motility and tissue repair. Research suggests that consuming foods with inulin can assist with lowering cholesterol, balancing blood serum levels, and boost immune function. As a prebiotic it helps populate the gut with friendly bacteria, which in turn balances not only digestion but also mood and cognitive function.

jerusalem latkesJerusalem artichokes are sort of, but not entirely, similar in texture to potatoes. When they are raw, I actually find them to be a little more like jicama root; sort of sweet and earthy, with a juicy crispness. Cooked they can take on more of a potato like consistency, however, they can also become a little bit gummy if overcooked. I think that is due to the lack of starch. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Jerusalem artichokes is as a “latke” or potato pancake. Grate them, add the egg and some herbs and spices and fry them up. You can also dice and roast them, then use them in things like “potato salad” or mash them and enjoy with butter.

One caveat about them, since they are very high in inulin, they can cause abdominal discomfort for people who are unable to absorb or assimilate fructans or for people who typically eat a low fiber diet. If you’re going to give them a try, I suggest introducing them slowly so your gut has time to adjust and enjoy all of their delicious healthful qualities.