The sunchoke, sometimes known as the Jerusalem artichoke or Canadian truffle, is the edible root of a perennial sunflower. Their small, knobby appearance and papery skin is similar in appearance to fresh ginger. Their name, coined in the 1960s, is a portmanteau of “sunflower” and “artichoke,” with which they share certain flavor characteristics.
Sunchokes were common in Native American foodways—they were eaten mashed and used as a thickener for soups and stews. It’s believed that this critical indigenous food source was key to the survival of early French Canadian settlers. European colonists sent sunchoke tubers back to the Old World, where they became quite popular in England, France, and the Netherlands.
A rich source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, sunchokes also contain the carbohydrate inulin, which can help to stabilize blood sugar and function as a prebiotic.
Sunchokes can be stored for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator if wrapped in paper towels and sealed in an airtight bag or container. They can also be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct light. Be sure to handle sunchokes gently, as they bruise easily.
The nutty, sweet flavor of sunchokes is paired with a yielding, creamy texture like that of a fingerling potato. Their low starch content makes them a popular substitute for potatoes when baked, fried, or mashed, but they can also be sliced and eaten raw, as well as pickled or made into chutney.
Peel and cut sunchokes into bite-size chunks, and roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through. While roasting, combine equal parts honey and soy sauce in a pan and warm over medium-low heat until thickened slightly. When sunchokes are tender, remove and toss with honey-soy glaze. Serve warm, topped with toasted sesame seeds.
The high inulin content of sunchokes sometimes leads to an unwanted gassy effect. To prevent this, boil sunchokes in lemon juice for about 15 minutes before cooking. This will also help sunchokes retain their pale color when cut and cooked.