What the heck is a sunchoke??

This is a sunchoke:

Ugly, ain’t it.

Since I started shopping regularly at the farmers market last year, I tend to buy the same things every time. Carrots, lettuce, zucchini, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, herbs, green beans, fennel. Maybe some fruit if I’m feeling crazy. I’m a creature of habit and I know what I like. Also, I always rush through the market going to the same vendors for the same stuff-I’m there maybe 10 minutes. But, I’m not sure why I rush. On a nice day, I have no reason to rush but I do anyway. I never really look at new and different produce, stuff I’ve never tried or am not sure how to cook. I’m adventurous in a lot of my cooking but never in my market shopping. Crazy at the market for me is buying cilantro instead of basil. Livin’ on the edge! However, because of this there is so much stuff I’m missing! The Green Market is a fantastic farmers market with tons of vendors selling a huge variety of seasonal produce. By sticking to my rushed list I’m missing out on great produce at its peak that is super tasty. And it’s making me sad. 😦

However, after the success that was the ramps these past two weeks (I’d never tried them before), I decided to venture out and be a little crazy! My new goal at the market is to buy something new and different every week. It can be small and a single of one thing just to try it out, but I will buy something new that I’ve never either eaten or cooked with every week. I think it will be a fun to try new stuff and broaden my veggie horizons. It’s a great way to find new ways to cook my healthy food and taste the best that summer has to offer. Wow! Watch out-I’m taking some risks now!! (yeah-not really. but kinda.)

My first venture was buying that ugly sunchoke. I’ve seen them before at the market at a vendor that sells tons of different varieties of potatoes in the winter but had no idea what they were. I asked the seller and he said it was a root veg like a turnip or potato and available in the winter-it’s a good thing I got mine now cause they’re going to be unavailable soon! I’d seen them on menus at fancy schmancy restaurants and on Top Chef so I knew they were classy, like me. (Side note-has anyone else noticed how quinoa keeps popping up in tons of episodes? I feel so trendy considering one of my most commonly eaten foods is THE trendy ingredient on Top Chef. Yeah.) I picked a pretty small one (a bit smaller than my fist) and paid $.20 for it. Ahhh, cheap eats at the market. It took it home and promptly forgot about it. Until last night when I remembered I had bought it and decided to cook it up.

But how?? I googled sunchoke (also called a Jerusalem artichoke, latin name Helianthus tuberosus-so I’m a plant dork…are you gonna make fun of me?) and just decide to dice it and roast it so I could experience it without any other flavors covering it. It wanted to taste the sunchoke as it was so I could know how I could use it in the future and what flavors it would meld well with. So, I cut it up into chunks (it was white-like a potato on the inside) and tossed it in a hot (450) oven for about 45 minutes along with some chunks of sweet potato. When I removed it it looked like this:


I took a bite, having no idea what I was going to taste. I was expecting something bland, like a potato considering the inside looked like a potato. What did I taste? Something totally different! It without a doubt tasted like an artichoke and considering I like artichokes this was a good thing. The flavor was strong but not in an overpowering way. It could definitely be a dominant ingredient in a recipe-in a good way. I liked it. A lot. The flavor was bright and yummy. I could see it being good smashed with a little olive oil and lemon. Maybe mixed with smashed cauliflower to add volume. Mmmm-a simple recipe in the making? Possibly! Although just plain, how I ate it last night, was pretty perfect.


I ate it along with my sweet potatoes which was an excellent combo. The sweetness of the sweet potato combined with the bright and strong flavor of the sunchoke made it more interesting that my regular sweet potato.

Verdict? Sunchokes are yummy and will be purchased again. Success! My first risk-taking adventure into the world of unknown produce was a winner. Next time? who knows. Stay tuned…


26 Responses to “What the heck is a sunchoke??”

  1. 1 VeggieGirl May 16, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    The sunchoke is ugly, yes; but tasty at the same time! And it looks fabulous with the sweet potatoes, in your dish – yum!

  2. 2 Romina May 16, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I find the ugliest things in life are often the best hidden secrets. Especially food-wise!!

    I must find these sunchokes… I’ve never heard of / seen them.

  3. 3 Alice (in Veganland) May 17, 2008 at 3:10 am

    I bought some and grated them in a salad with lemon juice! they were great too!

  4. 4 molly May 17, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I am very proud of your risk taking! Go Betsy!

  5. 5 lindzakins921 May 17, 2008 at 10:06 am

    it’s ugly but it sounds like it’s taste is divine… i LOOOOOOVE artichokes, so when i read sunchoke, i was thinking hmmmm is it in the same family?

    and no you are NOT a plant dork, I love learning about these new finds thru your knowledge!

  6. 6 Mom May 17, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    when I was a little girl, we used to bring them back
    from Alabama “pickled” by my great Aunt Mamie ( the best cook in the world) We also used to bring back “Lady Baltimore” cakes. Perhaps you get your love of baking from your great great aunt!

  7. 7 Cara May 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    haha I do notice quinoa keeps showing up in top chef. this show is why I have learned to venture out. haha.

  8. 8 maggiescamera May 18, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I think the rush as to do with how Dad often rushes through the market at home going to the same people for the same things. I think you should start writing blogs about top chef, esp if they ever do one that is all about organic food.

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    I just saw sun chokes in Albersons weekly ad, so I google found out what they are & lead me to your blog. Thanks. Going to go buy some.

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