Jerusalem artichokes: How to choose, store and prepare

Long before the marketing folks decided to re-brand prunes as dried plums, they renamed Jerusalem artichokes "sunchokes" with somewhat more success. It's no wonder that consumers adapted easily: These tubers don't really resemble artichokes, and they're native to North America, not the Middle East.

They look more like raw ginger than anything else. Whatever you call them, Jerusalem artichokes have a crisp texture and a mildly sweet flavor (a better alternative name is "earth apple"). Farmer Delia Coleman, who's also a very good cook, says she uses them in stir-fries and soups and simply blanched and sauteed with garlic. They're also good blended into potato purees.

How to choose: Look for chokes that are firm, with no soft spots or wilting. The peels are actually fairly delicate, so be sure there are no nicks or cuts. Flavor is better after at least a light frost.

How to store: Store in a cool, dry place, or keep them in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator, wrapped in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

How to prepare: The biggest problem with preparing Jerusalem artichokes is cleaning them: they are a root vegetable, grown underground, and are covered with knobs and warts that trap dirt. Brush them well under running water. Chokes can be eaten raw -- they are crisp and delicately flavored -- but they can cause gastric upset in some people. Otherwise, simmer them in water and add them to a potato puree.

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