Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Solitary Sunchoke

Rock Dove Farm




What is a sunchoke and why in my 31 years of life have I never come across one? I felt deceived by my local grocery store. Isn’t that where all food comes from? My quest to seek out this mysterious vegetable lead me 19 miles west of Columbus to Rock Dove Farm. There I met Todd Schriver, his wife Heather, and their two very energetic dogs. They purchased their farm, consisting of 27 acres, in April 2010. Although the fields were used to grow conventional grain before the Shrivers, Todd considers the farm to be “transitional organic”. One particular sustainable practice that needs to be mentioned are the rabbits raised at Rock Dove Farm. This rare species, known as the Silver Fox, originated in North Canton, Ohio (a local choice!). Todd breeds and raises them for their meat, but also puts them to work on the farm. They eat leftover veggie and herb scraps that consumers will not purchase. They then turn those scraps into nutrient rich manure, which is spread over the fields including on the amazing sunchoke plant.

Back to the sunchoke, a.k.a the Jerusalem artichoke, a name which is ridiculous because it is indigenous to North America and has nothing to do with an artichoke. The sunchoke is actually a root vegetable that grows from a specific sunflower species (Helianthus tuberosus). This is not the traditional sunflower that first pops into your head, but one with much a smaller seed head and petals (see image above). Sunchokes are so amazingly versatile that they can be planted in either the spring or the fall, just like most perennials. Depending on when the sunchokes are planted, they are either ready to harvest October through around Thanksgiving or March until April. They seem to be one of the few harvestable plants that love our cold Ohio winters and are very effective growers in our native climate. This tuber plants and grows just like a potato and can thrive in great soil, but also does well in poor soil. How does it taste? I would say somewhere between a potato and water chestnut but leaving a bit of a pleasant, sweet aftertaste. Sunchokes can be cooked many ways (see below) or even eaten raw. So why is this not at my local grocery store?

Sunchokes are just one local choice you can make when visiting Rock Dove Farm. Todd is gearing up for a busy year with over 90 varieties of vegetables and herbs planned. He remarked “it would be easier to list what I am not growing!” Where can you buy Todd’s menagerie of veggies and herbs? Well, he plans to be at just about every farmers market in the spring. Also, you can contact him directly to sign up for his sure to be plentiful CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Sunchokes




The sunchokes from Rock Dove Farm (pictured left) traveled approximately 19 miles to Columbus while the russet potatoes (pictured right) made a journey of close to 1,900 miles!! Even though they are not the same vegetable, they are often compared because of their taste and versatility when it comes to cooking. Both vegetables can boiled, roasted, mashed, or fried with amazing results. I recommend swapping out your everyday russet with local sunchokes when in season.

Benefits

  • Contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium
  • Very good source of iron and fiber
  • Fat free and low in sodium
  • Rich in inulin (carbohydrate linked with good intestinal health)

*Todd mentioned that eating large quantities of this vegetable could cause gastrointestinal issues because of the inulin. Upon learning this little fact, my husband jokingly referred to sunchokes as “the beer of the vegetable world – some is good; too much leaves you with regret the next morning.” As with all things in life, practice moderation.

References

Eat The Seasons

Roasted Sunchoke and Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Sunchokes from Rock Dove Farm (about 4 cups)
  • 1 lb Butternut Squash
  • ½ cup red onion, julienned
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • Rinse sunchokes in cold water using a vegetable scrubber to remove any dirt. Slice sunchokes and butternut squash into relatively uniform sized chunks
  • In large bowl toss sunchokes, butternut squash, and onion with the oil. Add garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste
  • Spread on a single layer on a baking sheet
  • Cook veggies for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown



5 Comments:

pamela said...

the sunchoke and butternut squash recipe looks delicious and i would love to try some when i visit...(hint hint...) perhaps we will have time to visit rock dove farm, sounds like a place i would like to explore.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing Nicole Pallante! Blogging!?!!!! I LOVE it.

Anna said...

I think I'm trying your recipe later this week...I was looking for a good recipe, now I have one! Thanks

Curry Spice said...

Do you know if you get sunchoke in India. Very curious if its locally grown. We grow many root veg. What is the texture of this? Nicely done.

Nicole Pallante said...

Curry Spice - if you can grow potatoes in India, I'm sure you can grow sunchokes. The exterior looks similar to ginger root and eaten raw it has a crunchy texture. After roasting it for 40+ minutes it still had a little bite to it, al dente I would say.

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