Knobbly, dense and flavourful, the Jerusalem Artichoke harvest is one of our largest of the year. Ranging from 3-10cm long and 3-5cm thick, with creamy white flesh, they are robust tubers that go by so many names across the world, including sunchoke, earth apple and sunroot. Here at the Black Swan we most often refer to them as J.Chokes.
J.chokes are a versatile component of the winter menu. They have an underlying nutty sweetness, which coupled with the imagination of the guys in the kitchen, means they find themselves in all sorts of places. Previously used to create cakes, ice cream, puree and crisps to name but a few, this year they form part of the newest dish; our take on Panettone, a traditional Italian sweet bread prepared for Christmas and New Year. (More about this at the end)
Weirdly, despite what their name would have you believe, they are neither from Jerusalem, nor are they an artichoke. So thats’s a good start.
There are several theories of how this came to be. The most convincing story is that the pronunciation of it’s Italian name, ‘Girasole Artichoke’, was butchered by English speaking Americans into the similarly sounding ‘Jerusalem’. The ‘artichoke’ part coming from an unimaginative French man who sent the tubers home declaring they tasted like artichokes. Whatever their history, we love them and we’ve been counting down the days before their return to the kitchen.
From a garden perspective, they’re perennial and therefore a major win. They live for several years, sometimes indefinitely, so unlike most vegetables which need replanting every season, they hang around providing for us year after year. What could be better than plants that relentlessly provide food with minimal attention.
Like many members of the sunflower family, Jerusalem Artichokes reach up to a great height, often three metres. They are one of the crops that we grow on a farm scale. In other words, we grow loads. Three years on from when TB assigned an acre of the more of sandy land on the Banks’ family farm over to them and they’re still going strong. In late summer when the tiny yellow flowers have gone, the huge stalks and rough leaves resemble a young forest. It’s tempting to try digging some, but the tubers continue to swell and take from the stalks as they die down and it’s usually almost into December before they are really at their best.
A word of warning, J.chokes are so persistent, they’re actually hard to get rid of. Planting a new patch doesn’t mean the old one will stop producing. They tend to get settled in, so think twice about where you plant them.
So what’s the latest on artichokes?
Nick, our development chef, with his weird and wonderful genius thoughts, has been pursuing a different take on Panettone and merged the produce of The Black Swan garden into a traditional Christmas sweet bread…
Panettone with Clotted Cream
Diced Jerusalem Artichoke, Carrot and Beetroot cooked in syrup, dried and then soaked in rum. The Panettone is then cooked like French toast in milk, egg and Apricot Schnapps and served with Clotted Cream.
“The really pressing question here is ‘why weren’t we making panettone from candied beets, squashes and Jerusalem artichokes before..?’” – Nick Brown- Development Chef at The Black Swan Oldstead