The rediscovery of Jerusalem artichoke, a healthy and easy to cook tuber

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The Jerusalem artichoke it is a tuber obtained fromHelianthus tuberosus, herbaceous plant belonging to the sunflower family, native to Canada and North America, recognizable by the flower similar to a yellow daisy from which the nickname "Canadian sunflower" derives.

With an appearance similar to a potato, characterized by a brownish color tending towards reddish, it has an irregular and lumpy shape similar to that of ginger and a flavor very similar to the artichoke, a peculiarity for which it is also called “Jerusalem artichoke” (the reference to the city is probably due to a distortion of the word sunflower, later consolidated as an expression). Jerusalem artichoke is a food that should be consumed fresh as it has a short shelf life: maximum 10 days from harvest if kept wrapped in paper in a cool environment. AND an autumn tuber which can be harvested from the end of August, just before the plant flowers, until the arrival of the first winter frosts.

Introduced in Italy in the 17th century, it became an excellent substitute for the potato and was widely consumed by the population also due to its cheapness. Starting after the Second World War, the consumption of Jerusalem artichokes decreased considerably, replaced by more valuable foods. Today, this tuber has been rediscovered by local gastronomy and proposed again at the table in delicious and tasty recipes for appetizers, first courses and second courses, in which it can be found both raw and cooked. It is a particularly versatile tuber re-evaluated not only for its multiplicity of gastronomic combinations which it lends itself to, but also for important benefits of its nutritional properties.

Nutritional properties of Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke is a food light and low-calorie being made up of 80% of water and the remainder of carbohydrates and mineral salts. But the greatest quality of this tuber lies in one carbohydrate in particular, theinulin, a food substance that acts like fiber. It is, in fact, a water-soluble polysaccharide which is not completely absorbed by the intestine and favors the formation of bifidobacilli and lactobacilli, thus carrying out aprobiotic action which promotes the development of intestinal bacterial flora. This makes it particularly suitable for intestinal health and useful in combating pathologies related to the digestive tract, such as constipation. The low glycemic content of Jerusalem artichoke also makes it suitable for the diet of obese or diabetic people.

Between mineral salts, potassium is found in the highest concentration, but calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are also present. The presence of vitamin A, B and H, also resistant to cooking, makes the Jerusalem artichoke an ally to combat tiredness in particularly stressful and demanding periods.

Uses of Jerusalem artichoke in cooking

To taste the Jerusalem artichoke, simply remove the outer skin, even with the help of a potato peeler, and try its crunchiness, raw, flavoring it with a light seasoning based on oil, salt and lemon. It is also an excellent ingredient to add to fresh salads and in the preparation of detoxifying recipes due to the purifying action given by the conspicuous presence of water in the tuber.

It is also very good cooked: pan-fried, baked, fried or steamed, depending on the recipe you want to make. Among the best combinations we find other autumn season vegetables, such as fennel, mushrooms, beans, walnuts, pumpkin, artichokes, pomegranate and many others. It is also an excellent condiment for pasta, soups, and paired with meat or fish.

Beef fillet, Jerusalem artichoke cream and fried artichokes. A recipe from 'Gusto Osteria

In the center of Rome, al restaurant 'Gusto Osteria, in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, it is possible to savor the delicacy of Jerusalem artichoke cream, as an accompaniment to a tasty beef fillet and crunchy fried artichokes. A decidedly autumnal and warm dish, in which the succulence of the meat combines perfectly with the qualities of the Jerusalem artichoke and the character of the artichoke.