If your sunchokes sprout…

…plant flowers!

I’ve been told by the folks in the know that our sunchokes, if planted in the ground, will grow into flowers very much like Black Eyed Susans by the fall.  So if you’re just not a fan, or don’t get to them before they start to sprout in the fridge, you can turn gourmet vegetables into very attractive flowers for your dining table.

Sunchoke overload

One of the vagaries of CSA membership is the overload of some vegetables coupled with the complete lack of others due to crop loss or uncooperative weather.  We agree to support the farmer through those ups and downs in return for some really great produce.  But occasionally, enough is enough.  I believe a few of you are feeling this way about the sunchokes.  I can assure you, the two CSA managers have fridge-fulls ourselves.  Even sharing them with friends, I have a couple of bags waiting to be used.  I don’t want them every night or even twice a week for dinner… so they languish.  Luckily, they aren’t going bad, and options remain for using them up.

Here is a simple (and not terribly heavy) sunchoke and leek soup I found.  I made one very similar, but instead of leeks I added Chinese broccoli.  This would be great with kale (coming in a week or two).


A vegetarian friend of mine, gifted with sunchokes by me and doubly gifted with abilities to improvise recipes, made a fantastic and simple hash-brown sort of recipe from scratch last week.

Skillet Sunchokes
a pound or so of sunchokes
2-4 Tbsp oil (olive, or if you have it, sunflower)
herbs and spices to taste (I think she used salt, pepper, and thyme)
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds

Clean the chokes well.  Slice them into thumb-sized chunks.  Throw them into the heated oil in the skillet, stirring to prevent sticking and spicing to taste.  When they’re soft and getting crispy on the edges, add the sunflower seeds and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Serve with salad.

Variations — add some diced onion, peppers, and garlic to the mix before the sunchokes make it to the pan.

Sunchoke recipe

I bet you’re all cursing the dirt that the sunchokes grew in about now.  Try floating them in a sink full of warm water, bang them around a little bit, drain the water, rinse down the bulk of the dirt, and start again.  The dirt will fall away pretty quickly with a change of the water.  Then give them a thorough scrubbing and rinse.

Here is the sunchoke gratin I threw together last night, using the spinach, the young garlic, and the beef from the share as well.

1 lb ground beef
half an onion, diced
several young garlic, chopped
3-4 smallish potatoes, unpeeled, 1/4″ slices
a double handfull of sunchokes, unpeeled, 1/4″ slices
a double handfull of spinach, shredded
about a pint of Mexican crema (you could use 1/2&1/2, milk, sour cream, or whatever sounds tasty with your spice combo)
cheese to top

  1. Set the oven to 350 and oil a casserole dish.
  2. Brown the beef with the onion and garlic, spiced to your taste.  I used a greek mix that I like a lot, but you could use salt, pepper, paprika, more garlic, herbs — basically however you’d like to theme your gratin.
  3. Make a layer of potatoes and chokes.  Then add a layer of the beef, then some spinach, then some crema, then repeat.  Salt and spice to taste as you go.  I finished with potatoes/chokes, and topped with cheese. 
  4. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
  5. Uncover and cook another 15-30 minutes.  Your cheese should be brown and your potatoes soft.


Sunchokes, aka Jerusalem Artichokes

These are probably the least common of the vegetables in our share this week.  Sunchokes are the starchy tuber of a sunflower relative, with a taste between an artichoke and a potato, and a texture between a water chestnut and a potato.  They can be eaten raw or cooked, peeled or unpeeled.  These guys are pretty dirty because they were just dug up on Saturday, so give them a good scrubbing in a sink full of water before doing anything else with them.  Store them in a cool, dry place, or in the vegetable drawer of your fridge wrapped in paper towels and plastic.  They should keep for 2-3 weeks.

My go-to way of preparing a root vegetable that I’m unfamiliar with?  Roasting with other root vegetables.  And we have parsnips in the share this week as well.  Chop them up into a casserole dish, throw in a quartered onion, some chopped celery, maybe a beet, sweet potato, or carrots, then drizzle with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice.  Add a cup or so of stock (or water or beer), cover in foil, and roast @325 until everything is soft and slightly caramelized (between 1 and 2 hours, depending on how much is in your dish).

Sliced sunchokes can be used to make a gratin (just substitute the chokes for the potatoes in your favorite recipe).  The spinach and chard we received this week would go great in this.  You can also deepfry the slices to make sunchoke chips.

Lightly (15 minutes) boiled sunchokes, pureed, can be added to a soup as a thickener.  Or make a variation on potato soup using your sunchokes.  Or mash them with potatoes, carrots, or parsnips to make an interesting variation on mashed potatoes.

If in doubt on recipes, go to the web!
About.com has the best synopsis of the roots I found, but if you come across something truly fantastic please share it via the comments.

A word of warning:  Some people don’t process the starch in this tuber, inulin, all that well.  If you haven’t eaten sunchokes before, don’t overdo it with your first meal.  You could get a gassy bellyache.