Winter may seem like one long, dark emptiness, especially this year, but there’s so much that we can embrace about winter when we look deeper. One thing I love about this season is the earthy, hearty root veg that come into season at this time. Parsnips and sprouts both develop their sweetness after a frost, and it’s the season for celeriac and carrots too. One lesser-known root veg comes into its own at this time of year, the Jerusalem artichoke, and it baffles me as to why it isn’t more popular. As far as I know, they don’t have anything to do with Jerusalem, and they’re actually not related to the artichoke either, but are in fact a species of sunflower and are called sunchokes in some parts of the world. We get Jerusalem artichokes from our local farmers market when they’re in season, but these knobbly little roots are apparently fairly straightforward to grow, and so they’re high on my list for next year on the allotment.
Jerusalem artichokes can be treated in a similar way to potatoes. They’re fantastic cooked and blitzed up into a purée, soup or sliced thinly into a gratin, but my favourite way to eat them is roasted in olive oil and scattered with herbs and salt flakes. Nigel Slater sprinkles his with lemon juice and grated parmesan, whereas Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall likes his with hazelnuts and hard goats cheese, or roasted with some garlic.
The flavour is often described as “nutty” and I absolutely agree. I love the squidgy centre that reminds me of parsnips when roasted, and the slight sweetness goes perfectly with venison and other game meats.
To peel or not to peel? The skins of Jerusalem artichokes are edible, and crisp up quite nicely when roasted, but if you’re roasting in order to blitz for a puree then you might wish to peel them for a smoother consistency. The best way I’ve found to do this is with a spoon the way you would peel root ginger.
I hope that more people will embrace different types of veg this winter, including Jerusalem artichokes. I think it’s important to vary our veg to make sure we’re allowing our bodies the wealth of nutrients from different plants, to keep us creative in the kitchen, and to encourage those who provide our food to push the boundaries and biodiversity of our food.
As always, get in touch with any comments or questions. I’m always delighted to hear from you over on Instagram @plotandlane or in the comments section below.
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