A knobbly root vegetable with stripy pink and brown skin, Jerusalem artichokes were originally a food of the Native American peoples. When introduced to Europe from Canada in 1605, they enjoyed a quick burst of popularity and were even used to make desserts.
Despite the name, they are not related to globe artichokes and can't be substituted for them in recipes, although some believe the flavour is similar. Jerusalem artichokes are related to the sunflower, and the name is thought to have come from a mispronunciation of the Italian word for sunflower, girasole.
IN THE KITCHEN
As Jerusalem artichokes have a tendency to collapse when cooked, they are commonly used in soup. Palestine soup made with Jerusalem artichokes and enriched with cream is a classic English dish. They can be used almost anywhere you would use potatoes: mashed, sautéed with butter and herbs, baked au gratin, or stewed in stock, and they make great chips.
The sweet, nutty flavour means they work well with salty foods such as ham and smoked fish. Chicken and game birds are other good partners. Jerusalem artichokes can be used raw and grated in salads, providing they are coated with lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
There are more than a dozen varieties, though you¹ll rarely find these specified at the greengrocer. Fuseau, if you can find it, is not as knobbly as other types and therefore easier to prepare.