Jerusalem artichokes — also known as “sunchokes” — seem to be the current “it vegetable”, and are popping up on all sorts of menus everywhere. (Seriously, I have seen them in some form at the last five restaurants I’ve been to.) They’re super tasty but, if the chef doesn’t know what they’re doing, they can cause you a lot of pain.
Photo by Rick & Brenda Beerhorst.
The problem is inulin, a carbohydrate found in Jerusalem artichokes that can cause quite a bit of tummy trouble. According to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, “inulin is not digestible, and so feeds bacteria in our large intestine and generates gas”. Inulin content varies from ‘choke to ‘choke, and sensitivity varies from person to person, so eating them is like a less fatal, very gassy game of Russian roulette with your guts. According to various chefs interviewed by Bon Appetit, how they’re prepared can make a big difference. Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions avoids whole, roasted artichokes, but has never had any issues with those that have been peeled, boiled and pureed, or those fried like chips.
My own dining experience substantiates the above, as I never had any issues with the little tubers until I ordered a root vegetable curry with huge chunks of roasted ‘chokes. Having only had them pureed or fried to death, I was not prepared for the pain that followed. (Nor was my dining companion, the poor man.) My point is, you should approach Jerusalem artichokes with caution, ask how they’re being prepared, and just avoid them altogether if you’re on a date, especially if it’s a first date.