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All about the Jerusalem Artichoke

Where am I from?

North America! You wouldn't necessarily have thought it considering my name is Jerusalem artichoke, but I'm actually native to the eastern part of North America, from Canada down to Florida. I'm actually a variety of sunflower, the Italian word for sunflower is girasole, which may have migrated into the word Jerusalem, on the other hand some folk think the American Pilgrims may have named me, mind you Americans now call me Sunchoke. I am a member of the daisy family like other artichokes, but I'm not actually strictly speaking an actual artichoke. I'm the tuber of the sunflower (helianthus tuberosus).

What do I look like?

Knobbly. I'm a tuber, and I look a little like large ginger. I'm lumpy, usually with brown skin. Occasionally it's a paler beige and can go as dark as purple. So basically I look nothing like a globe artichoke (or Jerusalem!)

And on the inside?

I've white flesh. I contain roughly 10% protein and store the carbohydrate inulin (no not insulin!) Inulin is a naturally occuring polysaccharide - similar to fructose -  that we lack the enzymes to digest, thus helping reduce calorie intake, providing dietary fibre and prebiotic functions. That prebiotic effect, does give rise to some nasty rumours about me causing flatulence and gas, but if you mix me with other vegetables and don't eat a mountain of me all by itself you shouldn't have any problems.

What do I do?

I contain loads of thiamin (400 times the amount in a potato! Beginning to see why I'm beloved now?) I also contain good amounts of niacin, carbohydrates and iron. There's also some vitamin C, riboflavin., potassium and phosphorous. Due to the high content of inulin I'm nigh on calorie free (7calories per 100g), aid the healthy bacteria to keep your belly happy and am highly recommended to folk with type II diabetes (diabetics tolerate inulin well), I'm also a folk remedy for diabetes.

So now you've found out all about the Jerusalem artichoke, you may well be asking yourself, but what do I actually do with you? Well, what can't you do? Slice me thinly and have me raw or lightly braised in salads. You can treat me as you would potatoes and parsnips, baked, braised, steamed or boiled. I'll take about 5-10 minutes to boil, 15-20 minutes to steam. I'm also good pureéd and popped into soups and risottos.

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