What is it?
It's not from Jerusalem, and it's not an artichoke. It originated in North America, and it's the funny-looking, knobbly little tuber of a type of sunflower. In fact, it's thought the name came from the Italian word for sunflower ''girasole'', interpreted by the English as ''jerusalem''. Chefs leap on jerusalem artichokes from May until August, turning them into velvety-smooth soups and purees, roasting them until crisp, or frying them into crisp, golden chips.
Where is it?
At Canberra's cosy little Mocan and Green Grout, chef Diego Arata serves big, nuggety rounds of roasted jerusalem artichokes with slow-cooked ossobuco. "What I love is their natural sweetness and nuttiness," says Arata, who quickly blanches the tubers and roasts them with butter, sage and rosemary.
In Melbourne, chef Bryce Bernhardt, of North Fitzroy's Jorg restaurant, is teaming saffron-poached jerusalem artichokes with salt-crusted sardines in a warm salad with shaved fennel, pearl onions and radicchio. "People don't really know what they are," he says.
At Sydney's glamorous harbourside Flying Fish restaurant, executive chef Stephen Seckold was one of the first to list jerusalem artichokes on his late-autumn menu. "I can't wait for them to come into season each year," he says. "They taste like caramelised potatoes." Seckold finely shaves and fries them until crisp, serving them on a base of beetroot hummus with heirloom kale, aerated goat's cheese, and - cleverly - dehydrated sunflowers, leaves and roasted seeds. Why cleverly? Because it's a relly of the sunflower family, remember?
Why do I care?
Because jerusalem artichokes are so easy to roast until nuttily soft inside and crisp outside, or to slice and pan-fry into spectacular crisps.
Can I do it at home?
Yes, as long as you are aware of the possible consequence (flatulence).
HONEY-ROASTED JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES
Look for the least-knobbly tubers and give them a good scrub. Anyone who doesn't like eating the crisp, roasted skins can just spoon out the silky flesh inside.
500g jerusalem artichokes
1 lemon, halved
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
handful thyme sprigs
cracked black pepper
1. Heat the oven to 200C. Scrub the tubers well, but don't peel unless they're really gnarly. Cut in half lengthwise and immediately rub the cut surface with half a lemon to stop it browning.
2. Toss the jerusalem artichokes in olive oil with the herbs, sea salt and pepper, and arrange cut-side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Add the lemon wedges and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until soft.
3. Turn the jerusalem artichokes cut-side up, drizzle with honey, and bake for five minutes more. Scatter with sea salt and extra thyme and serve.
Serves 4 as a vegetable
Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, end of Jones Bay Wharf, 19-21 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, 9518 6677, flyingfish.com.au
Jorg, 203 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, 03 9482 3002, jorgrestaurant.com.au
Mocan and Green Grout, 19 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton, Canberra, 02 6162 2909, mocanandgreengrout.com