Sunchokes, a variety of reddish tubers, are part of the daisy family. They can be mistaken for ginger or galangal, due to their knobby looking appearance. The flavor and texture of a raw sunchoke can be compared to a water chesnut. Once cooked they have similar characteristics of potatoes without the starch and a taste slightly reminiscent to artichoke hearts.
Often called Jerusalem artichokes, they can be found locally at farmers' markets and on many San Francisco menus throughout the fall and winter months.
How do I buy them? Look for hard sunchokes with unwrinkled skin that are free of sprouts.
How do I eat them? Sunchokes lend well to purees and soups. They can also be roasted, used in gratins, vegetable pancakes, and most recipes you might use potatoes.
For a simple leek and sunchoke soup, peel 1 lb. of sunchokes and dice into 1-inch pieces. Finely chop the white part of 2 leeks (wash well) and saute in 2 Tbsp. butter or oil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they become translucent. Add sunchokes and 1 qt. chicken or vegetable broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Puree using blender until smooth and return to stove. Stir in 1 cup 2 percent milk,* and season with salt and pepper to taste.
*Replace with soy milk for a vegan version, or substitute half-and-half for a richer, more decadent soup.