Freaky Produce: Sunchokes

Every week, we get a a box of gorgeous, fresh produce from Papa Spud’s*. It’s like having the farmer’s market delivered to our door by a guy wearing a tie-dyed tee-shirt. We love PS’s because, unlike some other produce deliveries, we can choose exactly what’s in our box each week, and because we definitely get our money’s worth. Seriously, we are overwhelmed with vegetables at times. (How many ways ARE there to cook turnips, and does anybody need a carload of serrano peppers?)

Sometimes, when we’re kale-and-rutabaga-ed out, we pick out something we’ve never tried before. Here’s our review of the ugly darling of the root vegetables, the sunchoke

Also called earth apple, sunroot, and Jerusalem artichoke, they are obviously nothing like an artichoke. They’re actually the root of a kind of sunflower, and they look like ginger.

Peeling proved difficult. Jeff tried with the tip of a spoon, I used the peeler, and we both either lost our patience (him) or skin from our fingers (me). Eventually, the little sunchokes looked like slimy raw chicken wings. Bleck.

They were a little hard to slice, as there’s definitely a grain to the root. Might have had better luck slicing length-wise.
First bites: Raw, the sunchokes were crispy and offensively bland. Initial reactions:
Jeff: “Water chestnuts, if water chestnuts weren’t evil.”
Arrie: “A cross between carrots and apples, with the flavor of neither.”
We cooked them as simply as possible, with butter, salt, and pepper.
And after 20 minutes or so (“of leeching out the evil”), they actually started to smell … wonderful! The edges seared really nice and brown, and they started smelling rich, earthy, and sort of  sweet.
Verdict: The first bites were met with some confused, hesitant chewing. And then another bite, more head-tilting and slow shrugs. It’s like we were afraid to admit to each other if we liked them, and yet we kept reaching for them. We think they were delicious. We ate almost all of them while cooking our real dinner.
The insides end up soft and gooey, a little sweet, and the outsides were crispy, yet chewy, almost like we’d caramelized sugar on them. After dinner, when they’d cooled and the outsides were no longer crispy, they were like cold french fries. Just… no.
Will we cook these again? Eh, maybe?  I don’t know what else they’d go well in, other than a roasted vegetable medley, which we’ve admittedly been doing a lot of lately, but they’re much higher maintenance than a carrot or turnip. Jeff mentioned that he could see them being a good vegetarian alternative to scallops, cooked with butter and lemon. (And wrapped in bacon, natch.)
*Psst: (Raleigh-area friends: If you sign up for Papa Spud’s, please put me down as your referral (first and last name)–they have a great referral program, too!)

4 responses to “Freaky Produce: Sunchokes

  1. The flowers are prolific, tall and beautiful. Can’t remember if they were a nuisance after getting established as some tuberous plants can be. I wonder why you don’t see this in regular grocery stores?

    • I’ve seen sunchokes in grocery stores, in the refrigerated, showery section, usually near the radishes. If the Harris Teeter in Wilson had them, I bet the Ingles in Hull will!

  2. had never heard of a sunchoke before so had to have a look when the picture popped up in my follow feed thingy. interesting stuff. might have to get a bit more adventurous. especially if I can fry it!

  3. Just stumbled across your post; I recently experimented with sunchokes for the first time too! I actually didn’t peel mine; I read that a good scrubbing was sufficient. They’re also great roasted and dipped in ketchup 🙂 My version is here.

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