Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jerusalem Artichokes

I found some Jerusalem Artichokes at Whole Foods yesterday, on my mission to find some concentrated cherry juice. New vegetables always catch my eye. I had never had Jerusalem Artichokes before and was actually looking for a second vegetable to serve with my roasted chicken for dinner so I bought a pack. Of course when I got home I had to do a little research to find out exactly what they are and how to prepare them. They look like knobs of ginger or fresh raw horseradish, and I love both so naturally these would appeal to me. They are loaded with potassium, iron, fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.

I knew they had nothing to do with the traditional artichoke or Jerusalem but I did not know they were also part of the Daisy family. In my reading I discovered they are actually a tuber and also go by the names sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambur. They come from the sunflower.

So what to do with them? I love root vegetable of all kinds, especially roasted so I decided to peel and roast them. They peeled easily, although a few of them seemed a bit soft and sort of mushy so I tossed those, thinking they might be spoiled. The harder crunchy raw tubers tasted like a potato only sweeter and nuttier. I tossed them in olive oil and generously sprinkled with salt and pepper and tossed them in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.

They were excellent! More importantly they passed Tina's taste test and her brother liked them as well. I didn't have too many of them and I am sure we all would have eaten more. They were indeed sweeter than a potato but similar in texture. They had caramelized in the oven which contributed to the sweetness.

Now here's the thing, I developed an unusual amount of flatulence shortly after dinner which lasted well into the evening and early hours of the morning. My belly bloated and was uncomfortable with gastric pain all night long. So I did a bit more reading this morning and learned that the Jerusalem Artichoke tubers store the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin) instead of starch like most tubers. For this reason they are a source of fructose. The carbohydrates give them a tendency to become soft and mushy (probably a wise decision to toss my softer mushier tubers). The inulin is not well digested by some people, obviously I am one of them, and can lead to flatulence and gastric pain.

The great English planter John Goodyer wrote on the Jerusalem Artichoke in the Oxford Companion to Food "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine the men". Had I read this before indulging, I might not have. Will I eat them again, yes! They were worth the gas and pain. I would however make a disclaimer if I ever serve them to guests again. I hope Charlie and Tina didn't have too rough a night!


beegirl said...

Oh, Cari, I have always wondered about this veg! Thanks for doing my legwork for me. What a great quote, too. So sorry about your difficult night!

GF Gidget said...

I just stumbled upon those last week at the store. Thanks for the warning! HAHAHA!

Anonymous said...

Let it be know that the rummbling in my tummy started within an hour of getting home from the wonderful dinner. As noted by Cari my stomach pain lasted well into the night as well. The paint was peeling from my walls, and I coudln't get away from myself. They were good though...but I pass on them next time :-)

The Brother.

SS said...

I have had a hiatus hernia for over 2 years and it has always caused me severe discomfort every time I bend over. Last week I ate a large quantity of these and it had the affect you observed most drastically - in fact I am still 'loose' 5 days later! However, I now find I can bend over with no pain in my stomach. I just did 2 hrs of gardening yesterday and again today - the first time in 2 years! Now it may be a coincidence, but if anyone has a hiatus hernia or stomach problems, why not give them a go.
By the way, the 'wind' is caused by the bacteria in the lower gut. They can digest the inulin but our stomachs cannot - hence the bacteria have a field day and produce large amounts of gas!

moi said...

Make a soup as you would a potatoe soup. It is really delicious and appears to solve the gas problem !!