In the nabo health blog: the vitamin-rich Jerusalem artichoke – looks like ginger, but with a piquant effect
The journalist Christa Herlinger blogs about this healthy tuber
Hello, my name is Christa Herlinger. As a journalist, housewife and mother, I also – of course – deal with the subject of healthy nutrition. The urban gardening movement has now reached our publishing house. One of my colleagues is also a big fan and has been the proud owner of a small garden for some time. We found this amusing at first, but we now think it’s more than great. Because he brings everything that his plot of land yields to the editorial desk as visual material. But it must not just be looked at.
He expressly wants us to sample the produce, take it away, and turn it into something at home. In the summer, there were gooseberries and raspberries. The Mirabelle plums were particularly delicious.
We have, in turn, tried out zucchini recipes, and used tomatoes to make salads or spreads. But he recently gave us all something to think about. Early one the morning, he stood in the office, smiling and holding a transparent plastic bag with strange contents. “Is anyone up for this?” he asked and came closer with his bag. Whereupon someone finally dared to ask what they were. Because we did not really recognize the strange little tubers, which he had harvested this time in the beds of his little garden. “Jerusalem artichokes,” the gardening enthusiast explained. This really did not enlighten us any further. “You have to try them”, he advised, but then went directly into raptures about them and let us take a closer look at the purple-colored tubers. Jerusalem artichokes? We had never heard of them. But why not?
The multifaceted tuber – it is also used in Baden to produce an earthy schnapps
“It looks a bit like ginger”, opined one colleague after a critical look at the unknown object in her hand. “But it smells different”, she noted.
So, let us divulge in the secrets of this strange plant. The tuber vegetable with the odd name originally comes from North and Central America. But as my gardening-enthusiast colleague has proven, it is now grown in Germany as well. “And, indeed, on a grand scale”, he told us. Mainly in Brandenburg and also in Baden. From this, a distillate with an earthy taste is produced – reminiscent of gentian schnapps. The Jerusalem tuber is offered there as a digestif, particularly after a meal.
However, we should not make schnapps from the small tubers. “They are far more suitable for consumption”, the enthusiastic gardener disclosed. He also advised us to “wash them well” as we went on our way. In terms of preparing them, we were spoilt for choice. Either grate them very finely and then add them to a salad. Or the tubers are also incredibly delicious when they are steamed with butter as pan-cooked vegetables.
The Jerusalem artichoke plant: definitely seen often, but not recognized
The Jerusalem artichoke plant is closely related to the sunflower and also turns a beautiful yellow color when it blooms. “Okay, you can try it”, I thought. Especially since my colleague had also listed the health benefits of the Jerusalem artichoke tuber for me. But now I wanted to know exactly what they were and so I asked the naturopath, Farid Zitoun at the Bottrop health institution. Rich in fiber, an even better source of iron than spinach, very filling, and also low in calories. And lo and behold, the naturopaths Farid Zitoun & Christian Rüger enthusiastically raved about the healthy tuber, its taste, and its characteristics.
I became a little pensive, however, when a colleague from the neighboring office – also someone with green fingers – told me during the lunch break that she was actually only familiar with Jerusalem artichokes as a bloom. “It looks like a small sunflower and you have surely seen it already.” that could well be true, but I could not have imagined that there was also something edible along with the bloom. However, as explained to me by the naturopath Christian Rüger from Naturheilzentrum Bottrop: you learn something new every day.
I enjoyed my first tubers as a salad garnish. Its slightly nutty taste won me over. Since then, I’ve gone on to sample a whole lot more. My absolute favorite recipe comes from Jamie Oliver. A delicious gratin. And it’s even more simple to make.
Perhaps you also feel like cooking it? If you like (ordinary) artichokes, you will also like the taste of Jerusalem artichokes, in any event. I am sure about that.
Easy to cook – recipe
- 850 grams Jerusalem artichokes
- 100 ml cream (alternatively the vegan cream, also known as ‘cuisine’)
- 200 ml creme fraiche (alternatively e.g., ‘Crème Fit’ from the ‘Soja Fit’ range)
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1 lemon
- 3 tsps dried thyme
- 200 grams parmesan (alternatively vegan parmesan: 150g plain cashew nuts, 25g yeast flakes, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder pureed in a blender)
- Fresh breadcrumbs (alternatively, e.g., vegan spelt breadcrumbs from the ‘Sommer’ range)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Wash the tubers well. It’s best to brush them down and cut them into thin slices. Squeeze the lemon, and peel and chop the garlic.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees (fan-assisted).
Mix the lemon juice, cream fraiche, garlic, cream, ¾ of the parmesan and the thyme in a bowl, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Stir in the Jerusalem artichokes. And then transfer the mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and the remaining parmesan, and then place in the oven. Cover with aluminum foil for around 45 minutes. Then remove the foil for another 15 to 20 minutes. This ensures a crispy crust.