Sunchokes: The Musical Root

Please welcome a new writer for our Blog, Shana Martinez. She has a strong desire to feed her children nutritious food every day and she loves to try new things in the kitchen. She will be focussing on recipes made by easily grown perennial food in your Nebraskan backyard. Please enjoy her fun and witty adventures in feeding kids healthy food.

Well, it’s summer time, which means I will be forcing my children to try new foods thanks to all the fresh produce available in Nebraska this time of year. My first experiment was with sunchokes also known as Jerusalem artichokes or as my kids will forever call them fartichokes (but I will come back to this fun fact!)

Before, I endeavored on this culinary adventure I wanted to learn more about sunchokes as I had never seen any in the grocery store.  Sunchokes are actually the roots of a sunflower which in my mind makes them cooler than any other vegetable I know! They are native to North America and super easy to grow in our Nebraska climate. Honestly, I wish it was as easy to raise children as it is to grow sunchokes.  I would definitely be mom of the year!

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Here is a pic of a few of the gems I got from Omaha Permaculture. Ugly dudes, I know, that is probably why you don’t find them in your grocery store in this era of eating pretty food. However, what these guys lack in visual appeal they make up for taste. I opted to peel mine (which is totally optional) to get rid of the little sprout guys (that’s the scientific term). Also, I am super lazy and it seemed easier to peel them than it would be to scrub all the dirt off.

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Sunchokes can vary in size.  I included a picture of one next to a Roma tomato for scale.  This was one of the larger ones I had.  Forgive the shadow; this mama may have had a few glasses of wine while making this delicious meal.

For my maiden voyage into the goodness of sunchokes, I decided to start with chips since that it how I got my kiddos (4 and 6) to eat kale. It is all about the marketing for these little people. Using my best friend, the mandolin, I thinly sliced the sunchokes until I tried to chop off the end of my finger. Word to the wise: Don’t drink and slice, kids!

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Here is the before picture. Aren’t they pretty? They kind of look like flowers already. Other than the operator failure on the mandolin, these could not be easier to make.  I looked at a few recipes online, but assumed I was above using a recipe and winged it. I mixed olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and tossed it with the chips and baked in the oven until crispy (somewhere between 30-45 minutes).

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Here is the final product, and I must say they were just as addicting as any other chip on the market only better! They have a slight spice to them almost like horseradish, but much milder. They also got the thumbs up from my 4 year old. We served them with grilled pork chops. 

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At this point, I had had enough wine that I considered myself quite the culinary genius and topped my pork chops with the chips. I must say while I may not be a culinary genius it did taste amazing and I finished off the chips myself. 

The verdict: sunchokes are delicious. I must warn you, though, the nickname fartichoke is very fitting. My husband said I was farting in my sleep when he came to bed, but I have to say I have no regrets! I would just not suggest eating them on a first date.

I can’t wait to get more because I now have a million ideas on how to incorporate these into our family diet.  They are just as good raw as they are cooked.  I think they will add good crunch in summer pasta salad.  I am also looking forward to mixing them into my mashed potatoes for a little twist. They would also help add some creaminess to homemade mac and cheese while adding nutritional value.

So what are you waiting for? Throw some in your garden STAT. Shoot, if I would have known how easy they were, I would have just raised sunchokes instead of children!

Shana Martinez, 6/26/18