Jerusalem arti­choke — small tuber with nut­ty flavor

Jerusalem arti­choke — whether as a raw food, side dish or dessert: For a long time, the small tuber was con­sid­ered for­got­ten. In recent years, how­ev­er, the root veg­etable has expe­ri­enced a culi­nary renais­sance and is con­quer­ing kitchens with its nut­ty, arti­choke-like fla­vor. In pop­u­lar par­lance, the tuber is often known as the dia­bet­ic pota­to, as it has few­er calo­ries than the pota­to, is more fill­ing and has numer­ous healthy ingre­di­ents that have a pos­i­tive effect on our bodies. 

The ori­gin, prop­er­ties and his­to­ry of Jerusalem artichoke

The tuber has actu­al­ly been an inte­gral part of our sta­ple diet for cen­turies, but nowa­days hard­ly any­one knows what Jerusalem arti­choke actu­al­ly is. Jerusalem arti­choke belongs to the botan­i­cal fam­i­ly of com­pos­ite plants and, like the pota­to, grows under­ground. In appear­ance, the root veg­etable is some­what rem­i­nis­cent of the gin­ger tuber. The shape and col­or of the tuber vary depend­ing on the vari­ety and range from beige-brown to pur­ple-brown. The flesh is usu­al­ly white-beige, but can also be some­what yel­low­ish or brown­ish. With its slight­ly nut­ty fla­vor and sweet aro­ma, Jerusalem arti­choke is most rem­i­nis­cent of arti­chokes, chest­nuts or parsnips. 

The tuber got its name from the indige­nous peo­ple Top­inam­bá, who used the tuber­ous veg­etable as a food and rem­e­dy for them­selves and their ani­mals. Jerusalem arti­choke first came to Europe in the 17th cen­tu­ry, when French emi­grants came across the veg­etable dur­ing a famine and were con­vinced of its ben­e­fits. Jerusalem arti­choke met with much enthu­si­asm through­out Europe and was con­sid­ered an impor­tant food and feed until the 19th century. 

Over the years, how­ev­er, Jerusalem arti­choke was increas­ing­ly dis­placed by the pota­to, as the lat­ter could be stored much longer. Thus, Jerusalem arti­choke fell more and more into obliv­ion. Recent­ly, how­ev­er, the tuber has expe­ri­enced a culi­nary renais­sance and is increas­ing­ly used to refine dish­es. How­ev­er, the tuber has not yet made it back com­plete­ly. Unlike oth­er veg­eta­bles, Jerusalem arti­chokes are now only grown in small quan­ti­ties in south­ern France, the Nether­lands, Switzer­land and Ger­many. There­fore, the tuber can usu­al­ly only be found in health food stores or week­ly markets. 

The ingre­di­ents of Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem arti­choke is a healthy root veg­etable that con­sists of 80 % of water and con­tains almost no fat. With just 73 calo­ries and a fiber con­tent of 12.1 g per 100 g, the small tuber is ide­al as a diet com­pan­ion. In addi­tion, the root veg­etable con­tains numer­ous vit­a­mins, min­er­als and trace ele­ments. Thus, in 100 g Jerusalem arti­choke can be found: 

  • 500 mg potassium 
  • 78 mg phosphorus 
  • 20 mg magnesium 
  • 10 mg calcium 
  • 4 mg iron 
  • 4 mg vit­a­min C 
  • 3 mg sodium 
  • 1.3 mg vit­a­min B3 
  • 0.2 mg vit­a­min B1 
  • 0.1 mg copper 

Com­pared to the pota­to, Jerusalem arti­choke thus has around 60 % few­er calo­ries and 10 g more fiber. In addi­tion, Jerusalem arti­choke con­tains the car­bo­hy­drate inulin instead of starch. Around 16 g of inulin is con­tained in 100 g of Jerusalem arti­choke. This puts the tuber in sec­ond place among the foods rich­est in inulin. Accord­ing to experts, as lit­tle as 8 g of inulin has a pre­bi­ot­ic effect on the body. 

The effect of Jerusalem arti­choke on our body

Many of the valu­able ingre­di­ents have a health-pro­mot­ing effect. For exam­ple, potas­si­um ensures that the stim­u­lus trans­mis­sion of the mus­cles works prop­er­ly, while mag­ne­sium is respon­si­ble for sta­bi­liz­ing the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. Sodi­um, cal­ci­um and phos­pho­rus are good for our bones, strength­en our teeth and reg­u­late the acid-base bal­ance. Since the tuber also sati­ates quick­ly due to its high fiber con­tent, it is well suit­ed to sup­port weight loss. In addi­tion, the inulin con­tributes to the re-col­o­niza­tion of healthy intesti­nal bac­te­ria and thus sup­ports the devel­op­ment of the intesti­nal flo­ra. This strength­ens the immune sys­tem and pro­motes diges­tion. In addi­tion, inulin slows down the absorp­tion of blood sug­ar and thus reg­u­lates our blood sug­ar lev­el. Because of this, the tuber is a good alter­na­tive to the pota­to for peo­ple with dia­betes and is there­fore often called dia­bet­ic potato. 

Jerusalem arti­choke is fur­ther used to treat var­i­ous dis­eases and alle­vi­ate var­i­ous ail­ments. These include, in addi­tion to diabetes: 

  • Gas­troin­testi­nal complaints 
  • Rheuma­tism 
  • Lack of strength and insomnia 
  • Dry skin and eczema 

How­ev­er, exces­sive con­sump­tion of Jerusalem arti­chokes, espe­cial­ly in raw form or with the peel, can lead to flat­u­lence, diar­rhea and abdom­i­nal cramps. This is main­ly due to the high fiber con­tent, to the diges­tion of which the intesti­nal flo­ra must first get used to. To avoid diges­tive prob­lems, it is rec­om­mend­ed not to eat more than 50 — 100 g of Jerusalem arti­choke per day at first. 

Jerusalem arti­choke in the kitchen

Whether raw, fried, deep-fried or boiled — Jerusalem arti­choke can be used in many ways in the kitchen. The small tuber is ide­al for refin­ing var­i­ous casseroles, soups or sauces due to its sweet and nut­ty taste. It can also be used as a sub­sti­tute for pota­toes and served as a side dish with meat or fish dish­es. Shred­ded or grat­ed, it also looks good in sal­ads. Due to its rather del­i­cate fla­vor, how­ev­er, it should not be mixed with oth­er strong fla­vors as a mat­ter of pri­or­i­ty — oth­er­wise you will not be able to taste it. 

Pur­chase and stor­age of Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem arti­choke is a clas­sic win­ter veg­etable that is avail­able from Octo­ber to May. As already men­tioned, the tuber is rarely offered in stores and can there­fore usu­al­ly only be found in health food stores or at week­ly mar­kets. Jerusalem arti­choke los­es water quick­ly and there­fore can­not be stored for more than two weeks. If the veg­etable is not to be processed direct­ly, it should be stored as cool as pos­si­ble in the cel­lar or refrig­er­a­tor at home. It is rec­om­mend­ed to wash the tubers only before pro­cess­ing and store them with the soil until then. To increase the stor­age time up to three months, the tuber can also be care­ful­ly placed in a box filled with sand. The veg­eta­bles should then be cov­ered with about 5 cm of sand and stored in the cel­lar in a cool and dark place. Care should be tak­en not to remove the long, thin roots. 

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