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The best way to enjoy Jerusalem artichokes

This undated photo shows a plate of Jerusalem artichokes. The Jerusalem artichoke is neither an artichoke, nor is it from Jerusalem.

Lee Reich/The Canadian Press

What: Jerusalem artichokes actually have no connection to Jerusalem and are not artichokes. These starchy, bulb-like vegetables are the root tubers of the sunflower Helianthus tuberosus. Tubers, such as potatoes and yams, are nutrient storage organs that allow plants to perennialize. Also called sunchokes, sunroots, earth apples and Canada potatoes, they store large amounts of the carbohydrate inulin, a low-glycemic soluble fibre.

When: The plants bloom in late summer and the brownish red tubers, which grow in clusters underground, are ready for harvesting once the flower dies, through September and October.

Where: Native to eastern North America, they are now cultivated across the continent. An important crop for indigenous peoples and European settlers ("Jerusalem" is thought to be a bastardization of girasole [gee-rah-so-lay] Italian for sunflower), they were introduced to Europe by Samuel de Champlain in 1605. In Germany today they are used to make a liquor called Topinambur.

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How: We spoke to Karen Barnaby, executive chef at Vancouver's Fish House in Stanley Park, about cooking with Jerusalem artichokes.

"They range in size from walnuts in the shell to new potatoes," Ms. Barnaby says. "When raw they have a consistency like water chestnuts or jicama, and when cooked, the texture is soft with a very fine grain. The flavour is earthy."

Steam them: "To cook them, don't peel them, but scrub them well. Then steam them whole for about 15 minutes and refresh in cold water. They are best eaten at room temperature, and I'd serve them with a garlic mayonnaise. Take a half cup of mayonnaise, stir in a clove of minced garlic, about 2 teaspoons of honey and 2 teaspoons of whole capers. Cut the cooked Jerusalem artichokes in half-inch slices and serve them with a nice piece of roasted Pacific halibut, with the mayonnaise on the side."

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