The Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke. It is a knobbly tuber that looks like a potato, and, when cooked, it has an unusual sweet taste. It contains a non-digestible fibre called inulin, which acts as a prebiotic, meaning that it promotes the growth of populations of gut-friendly bacteria. Our bodies do not use the fibre, but our gut bacteria (especially the beneficial Bifidobacteria) love it and chomp on it producing metabolic by-products which are utilised by our bodies in many different ways, including synthesis of vitamins and neurotransmitters (the chemicals which affect our emotions). The indigestible fibre also helps to move waste along the bowel quickly which is great for helping to keep the bowel healthy.
One downside of all this fibre is that Jerusalem artichokes may live up their nickname of "fartichokes", so it may be wise to introduce them into your diet gradually, rather than having large amounts in one go!
Other nutritional highlights of the Jerusalem artichoke are that it is a source of iron, copper, potassium, molybdenum and magnesium. Copper and molybdenum are only required by the body in small amounts, with the other minerals needed by the body in greater quantities. Jerusalem artichokes are also a source of B vitamins.
This week I made Jerusalem artichoke soup. It was a simple soup to make - first I sautéed 2 onions for a few minutes, then I added approx 500g scrubbed and sliced Jerusalem artichokes, cooking them for a further 10 minutes. I added about a half cup of red wine and some seasoning, then enough water to cover and cooked it on a low heat until everything was soft. Then I blended the soup. It was delicious, enjoyed by all with its interesting taste.