Sunchokes are one our favorites - also known as Jerusalem artichokes, but they are not in the artichoke family and they are not from Jerusalem. They are related to the sunflower and indeed their growing habit is very like a sunflower - they have thick stalks and small sunflower-like flowers. They are beautiful, easy to grow (especially from 3.5 hours away!) and a native. Their taste is nutty and the texture is similar to a jicama. Although considered mildly invasive as once they are planted, it is difficult to eradicate them. I don't understand why one would want to - they are delicious!
I have a large patch of them at the Church-yard. Every fall I dig them up and we feast on sunchokes for weeks. Typically we eat them raw but last week I tried a soup; compliments of one of my heros, Deborah Madison.
From Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors
1 small onion
3 small red potatoes (I substituted 1 large sweet potato)
1 celery rib (I omitted)
2 T sunflower seed oil (highly recommend Smude Oil for those in the midwest - thanks to Brett for mentioned them in his posts)
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 C vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
Milk or cream for thinning
½ C croutons, crisped in the oven
Roasted hazelnut or pumpkin seed oil (I omitted this and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt)
1. Wash all the veggies, then chop into ½ inch chunks. Don’t bother to peel the sunchokes.
2. Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the veggies and sauté over high heating, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 mins. Add the garlic during the last few minutes. Pour in the stock. Add 1 ½ t salt and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 mins.
3. Cool briefly, then puree until perfectly smooth (love those stick blenders!). Return the soup to the stove and add enough milk or cream to think it to the desired consistency. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve with a few croutons in each bowl and the oil drizzled in a thin stream over the top.