Monday, December 14, 2009

The Musical Tuber with the Wrong Name

In last week's post, I told you about finding in the local farmer's market the mysterious purple carrot, as homely a vegetable you will encounter outside your nightmares. This week I want to share with you another find. The Jerusalem artichoke.GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA           The name is famously odd since it does not come from the Middle East at all and has no connection to artichokes. (I will bypass the theories about the origins of its name if you don't mind. You can find other sites for that if you're that curious.) The Jerusalem artichoke resembles a knobby white potato and originally came from North America. Therefore the species grown in Turkey are  not- in any way- native. Still, the price is very reasonable and their slightly nutty, fresh taste is worth exploring.

Interestingly, Edgar Cayce, a famous psychic healer, claimed that Jerusalem artichokes were useful in keeping Type II diabetes in check. Years later, scientists discovered that this tuberous vegetable contained a form of insulin, inulin which "has a minimal impact on blood sugar, and—unlike fructose—is not insulemic and does not raise triglycerides, making it generally considered suitable for diabetics and potentially helpful in managing blood sugar-related illnesses," according to Wikipedia. "Because normal digestion does not break inulin down into monosaccharides, it does not elevate blood sugar levels and may therefore be helpful in the management of diabetes. " Score one for Edgar.

Additionally, they are immensely rich in potassium. They also contain Vitamin C and fiber. They are rich in iron and thiamine and they help the healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract to grow.  That's a good thing, by the way.

The vegetable has the texture of a Chinese water chestnut and tastes great raw in salads or cooked like a potato. Since Jerusalem artichokes are not so well-known, using them to make a soup or baked and tossed with bay leaves will surely impress your friends at your next shindig.  Click on the photos for the recipes.

One delicate point to add here, this deceptively innocent looking vegetable is a creature which holds a musical secret. Other adventurers report it has a very real tendency to produce wind when eaten in large quantities. So, given that warning, turn up the volume and put the dog out and enjoy the Jerusalem artichoke.

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