Derek really likes jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) when he gets them at restaurants. Although I’m not as big of a fan, I have had some very tasty sunchokes at restaurants in the States. I’ve never seen sunchokes on a German menu, but I often see sunchokes (labeled Topinambur) at my local Turkish store, so someone here must eat them. I’ve tried cooking them myself a few times, but the texture has always turned out quite odd, so I stopped buying them. But I’ve recently been re-inspired to learn how to cook with jerusalem artichokes, as I’ve been reading about how healthy they are.
Jerusalem artichokes are in a select group of vegetables that are extremely high in inulin, an indigestible starch that is said to have all kinds of beneficial effects. Inulin is mainly promoted because of its pre-biotic properties: it feeds (i.e., promotes the growth of) good intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics are a relatively new buzzword on the internet. You’ve probably heard more about probiotics, which are live “good” bacteria that can help to improve the gut flora. But to actually colonize the gut, probiotics have to pass through (and survive) the very challenging conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, inulin is completely unfazed by the acids and biles in the stomach—it passes through the upper gastroinestinal tract undigested and is highly available to the gut bacterial flora in the large intestine.
Note that inulin is not without it’s detractors. If you’re not used to it, inulin (especially in large quantities) may give you mild gastrointestinal problems, or even serious cramping and pain [source]. Some people also say that if you eat inulin and you have a lot of bad bacteria in your gut, then the inulin may feed the bad bacteria instead of the good. So it’s best to start out slowly with small amounts of inulin, and increase your intake slowly.
- Chicory root 41.6
- Jerusalem artichoke 18
- Burdock <couldn’t find a number, but high>
- Dandelion greens, raw 13.5
- Garlic, raw 12.5
- Leeks, raw 6.5
- Globe artichoke 4.4
- Onions, raw 4.3
- Asparagus, raw 2.5
I love burdock, but I’ve never seen it in Saarbruecken. I’ve seen chicory root only in ground form as a coffee substitute. But chicory coffee, although tasty, doesn’t actually have that much inulin in it. Dandelion greens aren’t available here either. So I went looking for jerusalem artichoke recipes.
I found this recipe for Soup Doria on epicurious.com. Apparently it’s named after some Swiss princess. I left out the bacon and cut down on the potatoes a bit, but otherwise followed the recipe as written. The recipe says to slice the potatoes thinly, and to slice the jerusalem artichokes into thin rounds. I cut them into slices of similar thickness, which was a mistake. It turns out that potatoes cook much faster than jerusalem artichokes. All the veggies in the soup were fully cooked except the jerusalem artichokes, which were still a bit crunchy. Other than that, the recipe worked fine. I thought the soup was a little boring tasting (maybe because of the lack of bacon). I added some creme fraiche, which helped a little. Next time I think I’d cut my jerusalem artichokes much thinner, and add more spices.
Note that this recipe makes a huge pot of soup. I used my five quart dutch oven and it was totally full.