How to solve the sunchokes or Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’ issue

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 19, 2021

Photos: Rashmee Roshan Lall

With the Jerusalem artichokes in my back yard growing to 15 feet, I knew the day was nearing when the knobbly tubers would need to be harvested — and cooked and eaten — with all the inherent implications for the digestive system. Then, on an especially blustery day, some of the stalks fell over and the grim expectations of flatulence hovered like a pall, more presciently by far. After all, it’s not for nothing that Jerusalem artichokes are known as “fartichokes”. These easy-growing vegetables, which are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem, contain inulin, an unusual type of carbohydrate. Inulin, apparently, has become something of a fad in the world of gut health and Jerusalem articholes have a higher percentage of inulin by weight than almost any other vegetable. It’s when the vegetable is eaten that it causes problems because inulin is indigestible to human beings.

Late autumn can be depressing enough without the dread of a big haul of Jerusalem artichokes, so I started to look for ways, if any, to cook and serve them sans the consequences.

If the blog is to be believed, a solution exists. And it is as follows:

“Indigestible polysaccharides such as inulin can be converted to digestible sugars by ‘acid hydrolysis’. In layman’s terms, that means bathing the inulin in something watery and acidic.”

The blogger then mentions a “centuries-old recipe for rendering Jerusalem artichokes fart-free…boiling them in lemon juice”. The blog goes on: “Modern science concurs — ‘Boiling Jerusalem artichokes in an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar will hydrolyze the inulin to fructose and small amounts of glucose’.” The blogger subsequently boiled “quarter-inch-thick sunchoke slices for 15 minutes in just enough lemon juice to cover them. They turned out amazingly sweet and still delicious, although…they’d lost some of their artichoke flavor. But the stove-top hydrolysis worked: Eating a heaping bowl of lemon-boiled sunchokes produced no intestinal after-effects whatsoever. Success! (Boiling them in vinegar also hydrolyzes the inulin, I discovered, but leaves them with a harsh, astringent taste.)”

Another suggested solution is the “traditional fermentation-style pickling”, which helps removes their “gaseous effects – while retaining their artichoke flavor”.

As a dedicated fermenter of vegetables, my sunchokes will be getting the briny treatment.