I’m not talking about the green, unopened flower buds of Cynara scolymus - ya know, the artichoke of famed artichoke dips. I’m talking about the brown, knobby tubers of Helianthus tuberosus –
Neat factoid: The main storage carbohydrate in Jerusalem artichokes is inulin rather than starch. Inulin is converted in the digestive tract to fructose rather than glucose, which can be tolerated by diabetics.When I was younger and lived in the South, Jerusalem artichokes appeared in the fall and winter at farm stands, marquees proudly posted their arrival. If you were lucky, a neighbor would bring over a jar of homemade artichoke relish as a Christmas gift.
I didn’t start eating
I looove artichoke relish. It's tangy and crunchy, as the artichokes retain their crunchy quality. It’s definitely a Southern thing, but I haven’t met a person that doesn’t like it - kinda like boiled peanuts. I couldn’t help but laugh at my boyfriend’s endorsement of, “Mmmm. Damn!” If you like relishes and chutneys, you’ll love this. I eat it on sandwiches, crackers, vegetables, and by the spoonful. It's spectacular on hot dogs.
It took all fall and winter to get around to visiting my friend who has a patch of
Dig the tubers when the plant is dormant and the soil is not frozen. It’s just like digging potatoes – stick a fork in the ground, and tons of tubers appear. You won’t get all the tubers, but that just ensures a crop for next year.
All the little knobs of the tuber make cleaning the dirt off difficult. Cut off the bad spots and pop the fingers off to make cleaning easier. I think we went through three stages of cleaning. Once clean, you’re ready to eat the tubers, or better yet…make relish!
Adapted from A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South
Makes 17 or 18 pints
5 quarts Jerusalem artichokes, chopped
2 gallons water
2 cups non-iodized salt
3 pounds green cabbage, chopped
1 ½ pounds onions, chopped
6 large green and red bell peppers, chopped
3/4 cup flour
1 (24-ounce) jar prepared mustard
2 quarts apple cider vinegar
3 pounds sugar
3 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce
- Soak artichokes overnight in 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of salt. In another container, soak the cabbage, onion, and bell peppers in the remaining 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of salt.
- The next day, drain the artichokes and vegetables. Spread the artichokes on one towel, and the vegetables on a separate towel.
- Combine the flour and prepared mustard in a bowl, avoiding lumps.
- In a 10-quart or larger pot, add the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then add the cabbage, onion, and bell peppers. Bring back to a boil and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Reduce heat to low. Add and mix about a cup of the cooking liquid to the flour and mustard mixture, then add the thinned mixture to the pot of cooking vegetables, and stir.
- Add the hot sauce and artichokes. Raise the heat and stir until almost boiling (about 5 minutes).
- Remove pot from heat, and ladle hot relish into sterilized jars, wipe rims of jars, apply sterilized lids and bands, and process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath.