Jerusalem artichokes are neither from Jerusalem, nor are they artichokes, so the name could be considered a little misleading. In fact, they come from North America, arriving in the UK in the early 17th Century. Although these little knobbly, nutty-tasting roots are delicious and full of health-giving properties, they seem to have fallen a little out of popularity recently. Hopefully, this post will convince you to give them a try if you haven’t already.
Look out for them at your local farmer’s market, or if you get a regular vegetable box delivered, you may find a bag or two arriving a few times over the winter months. Once you’ve got hold of some, they will keep for several weeks in a cool place or in the fridge. Not unlike a ginger root in appearance, their flesh tastes like a cross between a potato and a globe artichoke (hence, I suppose, the name).
They cook in much the same way as you would a parsnip or potato – so think roasted, soups, dips or mash. There are a few tasty ideas in the recipes below for you to try.
Jerusalem artichokes are one of the best foods available to us for their prebiotic action. This basically means that they contain a special type of fibre, which cannot be digested and absorbed by our bodies, but instead is like nectar to our beneficial gut bacteria (which we now know play a very important role in both health and disease) (1) (2). In the simplest terms, I tend to think about prebiotics as food for our intestinal flora, whereas probiotics are the intestinal flora themselves.
One particular type of such prebiotic fibre is called inulin. This nutrient has had a lot of interest recently, as we have discovered all sorts of ways that it can potentially be wonderfully beneficial to our health
Analysis of the hunter-gatherer diets of our ancestors suggest that some ancient tribes were eating around 135g of inulin per day, mainly from desert plants (3). To give this number some context, you would need to be eating more than 3kg of onions, or 750g Jerusalem artichokes to get this much! In more recent history (and rather more realistically), we were eating around 25-32g/day of inulin from plants, but with the rise of refined and processed foods over the past couple of decades, the average intake of this beneficial fibre is now more like 2-11g/day (and the vast majority of this comes from just onions or wheat) (3).
So, given that we now know that inulin is really good for us, and that the human body is able to tolerate much higher doses than we currently eat, it seems sensible to try to get a little more inulin and the other prebiotic fibres into our modern diets too. Apart from the little powerhouse of inulin that Jerusalem artichokes provide (at around 18g inulin per 100g of the vegetable), other foods naturally high in inulin include (2) (4) (5);
- Chicory root 5g/100g
- Onions 3g/100g
- Garlic 5g/100g
- Leeks 5g/100g
- Asparagus 5g/100g
- Banana 5g/100g
A word of warning;
Due to all that brilliant fermentable fibre we have just discussed, Jerusalem artichokes can also have a few unwanted side effects. These are classically bloating and flatulence, but may also cause diarrhea if eaten in large amounts. Thankfully, you can reduce these effects by not eating too much at once, and eating them with your other meals rather than on their own (2). Traditional remedies also include using a bay leaf or caraway seeds as you cook them too.
Up to 20g/day of inulin (about 110g Jerusalem artichokes) is enough for most people, especially to start with (2), although if you have problems with intestinal discomfort already, you may wish to start even lower than this. Introduce them slowly and your stomach will thank you for it!
Here are three delicious seasonal recipes to try:
Jerusalem Artichoke, Chestnut & Celeriac Puree
The rich, sweet and nutty joys of Jerusalem artichoke partner wonderfully with chestnut and celeriac for this puree – it’s a festive, wintery marriage. This puree also lends itself perfectly as a velvety base for meaty white fish like turbot, brill or cod, with steamed winter greens. I also enjoy this as a simple dip with crunchy English apple slices and bitter chicory leaves, somehow this strange mix of bitter-sweet works (oh! And it looks so pretty).
You’ll Need (Serves 6)
- 300g Jerusalem artichokes
- juice of half a lemon
- ½ a celeriac (about 300g), peeled and chopped diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 180g cooked chestnuts
- 2 bay leaf
- 200ml water
- pinch of salt
Suggestions to dip:
- 1-2 apples, cut into thin slices
- 2 chicory, leaves separated
- Peel the artichokes, roughly chop and drop into a bowl of cold water with the lemon juice to stop them going brown.
- In a large (lidded) heavy bottomed pan heat the oil, drain and pat dry the artichokes and sauté for 5 minutes to soften, add the celeriac, chestnuts, 200ml of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook on a low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the water has all but evaporated. Try not to take the lid of too many times, the vegetables need the steam to cook, add a splash more if you think it will dry up before they are tender.
- Blend until smooth and check for seasoning.
- If you are serving as a dip, drop the apple slices into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon to stop them discolouring. Arrange in a shallow dish with the chicory leaves and apple slices around it like petals.
- Or, if serving with fish, smear on to the plate and build the dish with steamed winter greens.
Warm Jerusalem Artichoke Salad
I love to eat warm salads at this time of year. This one, using Jerusalem artichokes, is nicely filling and delicious; if you’ve never eaten Jerusalem artichoke before, it’s a little like a potato but nutty, earthy and velvety – but eat in moderation as they are notoriously hard to digest (see my post here). Try topping with chicken or goat’s cheese, hazelnuts and crispy sage. It’s just as tasty at room temperature if you’ve made it ahead.
You’ll Need (Serves 4)
- 400g Jerusalem artichokes
- 200g carrots
- 2-3 tbsp coconut or olive oil
- 1 bunch of kale
For the Dressing
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp good olive oil
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- Preheat oven to 200/180c gas mark 4.
- Peel and cut the carrots into batons. Wash and scrub (or peel) the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into chunks. Toss with the carrots and oil, season and scatter on an oven tray in a single layer and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they are soft and golden.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together and steam the kale until just tender. When the vegetables are roasted, toss everything in the dressing, while still warm.
Jerusalem Artichoke, Sage & Hazelnut Soup
This recipe is taken from my #EatInSeason series for November.
Silky smooth Jerusalem artichokes, toasted hazelnuts and sage make a heavenly winter soup. I would suggest reducing the quantity of Jerusalem artichokes and replacing with parsnip, or similar, if you are new to eating them (they are quite hard to digest but richly nutritious, see my post here), or making this dish for guests to avoid any potential, uncomfortable side effects!
- 400g Jerusalem artichokes
- 2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sage leaves
- 1 stick celery, sliced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 800 ml chicken or vegetable stock
For the topping
- 50g hazelnuts
- 12 sage leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Turkish smoked chili flakes (or paprika)
- Pre heat oven to 180c / gas mark 4.
- Sauté the onion, garlic, bay, celery and carrot for 6-8 minutes until softened.
- Scrub or peel the artichokes, slice them and add to the pan. Cook for 2 more minutes before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend until smooth, and season to taste.
- Meanwhile, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Fry the sage leaves in a little oil until just crispy.
- Serve the soup with a sprinkle of hazelnuts, a few crispy sage leaves, a drizzle of good olive oil and sprinkle of chili flakes.
- Ramnani, P., Gaudier, E., Bingham, M., van Bruggen, P., Tuohy, K.M. and Gibson, G.R. (2010) ‘Prebiotic effect of fruit and vegetable shots containing Jerusalem artichoke inulin: A human intervention study’, British Journal of Nutrition, 104(02), pp. 233–240.
- Schaafsma, G. and Slavin, J.L. (2014) ‘Significance of Inulin Fructans in the human diet’, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14(1), pp. 37–47.
- Leach, J.D. and Sobolik, K.D. (2010) ‘High dietary intake of prebiotic inulin-type fructans in the prehistoric Chihuahuan desert’, British Journal of Nutrition, 103(11), pp. 1558–1561.
- Van Loo, J., Coussement, P., De Leenheer, L., Hoebregs, H. and Smits, G. (1995) ‘On the presence of Inulin and Oligofructose as natural ingredients in the western diet’, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 35(6), pp. 525–552
- Slavin, J. (2013) ‘Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and health benefits’, Nutrients, 5(4), pp. 1417–1435.