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The Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus Tuberosus), also known as the sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambur, is a species of sunflower native to the eastern United States, from Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. Its tuber is used as a root vegetable and is cultivated widely across the temperate zone.

In spite of its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no connection to Jerusalem, and it is not even a type of artichoke. The origin of the name is uncertain. Italian settlers in the USA called the plant girasole (the Italian word for sunflower) because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower. Over time the name girasole may have been changed to Jerusalem. To avoid confusion, some people have recently started to refer to it as sunchoke or sunroot.

The word artichoke comes from the taste of its edible tuber. French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent the first samples of the plant to France, noting that its taste was similar to an artichoke.

The tubers are elongated and uneven and vaguely resembling ginger root, with a crisp texture when raw. They vary in colour from pale brown to white, red or purple.

When we prepare Jerusalem artichokes we peel them and have to put them straight into acidulated water as they oxidise extremely quickly and turn brown.

The Native Americans first cultivated Jerusalem artichokes long before the arrival of the Europeans; this extensive cultivation obscures the exact native range of the species. Samuel de Champlain found domestically grown plants at Cape Cod in 1605. The Jerusalem artichoke was titled ‘best soup vegetable’ in the 2002 Nice festival for the heritage of the French cuisine.

So naturally here at Knockderry Country House Hotel we love to make soup from the vegetable. A nice bowl of steamy white Jerusalem artichoke veloute, crunchy herb croutons and a shaving of fresh Swiss Gruyere tempts many of our guests.

Jerusalem Artichoke Veloute

500g Jerusalem Artichokes (peeled and finely sliced)
2 Pink shallots (finely sliced)
1 Clove garlic (finely sliced)
100ml Chicken stock (use more if too thick)
150ml Cream
Salt and pepper

Method

Sweat off onions and garlic in a little bit of butter until soft, but no colour.
Add artichokes and sweat those off until tender.
Add cream and stock and cook for around 20 minutes.
Blitz, season, pass.

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