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Monday, April 29, 2013

Fennel, Sunchoke and Apple Salad

In case you don't know, Sunchoke is a fairly new name for a Jerusalem Artichoke which is a misleading term. The vegetable is not from Jerusalem nor really an artichoke. It is, however, related to the sunflower and is indigenous to North America. It is the tuber of a plant that looks like a sunflower with a much smaller bloom. This tuber grows all summer and is best harvested after a few freezes. Here in New Mexico, it can stay in the ground nearly all winter and once harvested can hang out in the refrigerator for months. When I first bought some from my local farmer's market, I was unaware of the sunchokes long storage potential so when I found one in my fridge several weeks later, I threw it into my vermicompost pit. Some months later, I noticed what I then considered an undomesticated sunflower growing near the pit. The next spring (a year after I'd tossed it) we decided to empty the compost pit and were surprised to discover we'd been growing sunchokes. We harvest a 5 gallon bucket full! I'd guess most Americans are unfamiliar with this American food and I'm surprised at how few of us grow them. In my garden, especially next to the compost, they grow unusually well.

Sunchokes can be eaten raw, roasted, sauteed, in soups, stews and as a side dish. They are a great substitute for a cucumber in a winter salad. Raw they have a nutty flavor and are crisp but not juicy. I wouldn't waste time peeling them, just give them a good scrub. Sunchokes oxidize quickly so either get it into the salad dressing immediately, or put it in water with a little lemon juice or vinegar.

These are the largest  sunchokes we've harvested.


Fennel, Sunchoke, and Apple Salad

Source: based on a recipe from Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table
Serves 6-8

For the dressing:

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T rice vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T chopped fresh chives
2 T chopped fennel fronds
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together to make a smooth vinaigrette.

For the salad:

8 radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced
10-12 oz sunchokes, scrubbed and very thinly sliced
2 gala or fuji apples, cored and very thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, and very thinly sliced

As you slice these, place in the bowl. Toss well, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Taste to check seasoning before serving.

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