What is Jerusalem Artichoke?
Jerusalem artichoke is a bumpy, fleshy, root vegetable of sunflower family plants. Its underground nutty, flavorful, starch-rich root is eaten much the same way like potato in many parts of Western Europe and Mediterranean regions.
It should not be confused to globe artichoke, which is an edible flower bud. Similarly, their name is widely misunderstood as “artichokes from Jerusalem” misinterpreted for the Italian girasole articiocco, translating to sunflower artichoke in English. Some of the common names are sunroot, sunchoke, topinambour etc. Scientific name: Helianthus tuberosus.
“Jerusalem artichoke” has been its common name since the 17th century. The plant has no connection to either Jerusalem or artichokes, but is, in fact, a type of sunflower. So, why is it called a Jerusalem artichoke? One story is that the French explorer Champlain sampled the vegetable in the early 1600s in Massachusetts, where it was cultivated by Native Americans, and he likened its taste to that of an artichoke. Some years later, after they had been introduced to Europe, the English added Jerusalem, perhaps a corruption of girasole (an Italian word that means sunflower).
Health Benefits of Jerusalem Artichoke
Jerusalem artichoke is moderately high in calories; provides about 73 calories per 100 g, roughly equivalent to that of potatoes. The root has negligible amounts of fat and contains zero cholesterol. Nevertheless, it’s high-quality phyto-nutrition profile comprises of dietary fiber (non-starch carbohydrates), and antioxidants, in addition to small proportions of minerals, and vitamins.
It is one of the finest sources of dietary fibers, especially high in oligo-fructose inulin, which is a soluble non-starch polysaccharide. Inulin should not be confused for insulin, which is a hormone. The root provides 1.6 mg or 4% of fiber. Inulin is a zero calorie saccharine and inert carbohydrate which does not undergo metabolism inside the human body, and thereby; make this tuber an ideal sweetener in diabetics and dietetics.
Soluble as well as insoluble fibers in this tuber add up to the bulk of food by retaining moisture in the gut. Studies suggest that adequate roughage in the diet helps reduce constipation problems. Dietary Fibers also offer some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.
The tuber contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E. These vitamins, together with flavonoid compound like carotenes, helps scavenge harmful free radicals, and thereby offers protection from cancers, inflammation and viral cough and cold.
Further, Jerusalem artichokes are a very good source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, and copper. 100 g of fresh root holds 429 mg or 9% of daily-required levels of potassium. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte which brings reduction in the blood pressure and heart rate by countering pressing effects of sodium.
100 g of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of iron for the common edible roots and tubers.
It also contains small levels of some of valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin
Uses of Jerusalem Artichoke
The Jerusalem artichoke does not have a skin so no peeling required.
It is often consumed raw and therefore works well in a salad.
The taste is sweet and resembles nuts and artichoke.
The Jerusalem artichoke can be boiled, which creates a resemblance with potatoes and reduces the flavour. Do not boil them with too much water and definitely not for too long (15-20 minutes) otherwise they will fall apart.
Jerusalem artichokes can also be fried. Cut them in slices as you would with a regular potato.
The tuber adds flavour to soups.
It works very well with some summer savory or fennel seeds.
Nutritional value of Jerusalem Artichoke
Fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, good source of vitamin B1 and iron.
Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of iron, with 3.4mg per serving. Vegetarians will be happy to know that this is more iron than lean ground beef. Dieters will be happy to note that they have only 35 calories per 100g. A serving of Jerusalem artichokes contains 2.3 g of protein, .1g of fat, 16.7g of carbohydrates, .8g of dietary fibre, and 6% of the daily allowance for vitamin C.