I recently came over to visit my friend, Audi, who works in produce at Central Market, here in Shoreline at his home in Everett. He and his wife, Marian and 7 year old son, Aumar (cool combo of their names, eh) were recently blessed with another healthy little boy a few months ago and it was my first time seeing the precious one.
After a fabulous pasta dinner, a game of Parcheesi, and Marian, being a proud, no-shame Filipino, insisting we do karaoke, Audi dug me up something from his garden:
Shared by a friend of his starting out with just four pieces tubers, which quickly multiplied, I had my own stash of the so-called "sunchoke" or Jerusalem artichokes (which don't really look like artichokes we're accustomed to, but they're actually in the same family ASTERACEAE).
He recommend that I try them 1) roasted like you would potatoes or 2) slice them thinly and add the to salads.
SO I DID BOTH!
I prepared a meal for my friend, Sandhya, and invited her over for a stuffed pork dish I had prepared before. I served it with grilled leek (like last time), fennel and I took the sunchokes and some beets and roasted those in the oven to have on the side. I sliced up a few tubers and put them on our starter salad.
They have a wonderfully firm and crisp texture to them. It almost looks like a translucent potato and it has a nutty flavor much like water chestnuts and jicama combined.
The plant, where these tubers come from, is quite tall and large. It's actually the same genus as sunflowers (Helianthus) and the full scientific name is H. tuberosus. It is native to eastern North America. It's essentially a herbaceous perennial that can tower up to 10 feet in height and produced simple yellow, daisy-like flowers. It's the roots, however, that's the main draw.
I don't know of too many people that grow them because they can take up so much space, but I've heard that they're easily cultivated in well-prepared soil with ample moisture. I don't think I'll devote space to growing them. Even though they were tasty, I think I'd only consume a large handful like the batch Audi gave me. I'll just ask him to hook me up next fall and use that as an excuse to play with the kids and see them grow up!