Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Potatoes, Garlic Soup

These knobby tubers, the Jerusalem Artichokes, otherwise known as sunchokes, aren't related to artichokes but rather to the sunflower/daisy family. This root vegetable is surprisingly not from Jerusalem but rather native to North America. Italian settlers in the US called the plant girasole, sunflower in Italian, which might explain how the name evolved overtime to Jerusalem. Jerusalem artichoke's flavor resembles the taste of a heart of an artichoke, only sweeter.

Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated and were a part of some Native American tribes' diet before this root vegetable arrived in Europe, by some accounts, in 1605, where they became a part of human consumption and animal feed. Germany and France are also known to make alcohol from them.
Unlike the carbs in potatoes, the carbs in the Jerusalem artichoke aren't starches but inulin that converts over time into fructose. The fructose explains the sweet undertones you get in dishes with Jerusalem artichokes in them. Fructose is better tolerated by diabetics, though in general the Jerusalem artichoke is believed to cause some gastrointestinal discomfort.

High in protein, dietary fiber, iron and potassium, among other nutrients, Jerusalem artichokes are often used as a substitute for potatoes. Slicing through it, the consistency of the Jerusalem artichoke, reminds me more of the flesh of radishes, that is a relative of the mustard and turnip. It might be just me though.
The acidic lemon bath I give it below is to avoid it from oxidizing. It might have been just fine covered with tap cold water though. Popular in soups, mashes, salads and many other dishes. I hope to share more recipes, original as this soup below, or not, in the future.

Regardless of the addition of potatoes and a bulb of garlic, the Jerusalem artichoke flavor notes come through vividly.

Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Potatoes, Garlic Soup

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), peeled and cut into large chunks
Juice of 1/2 of a small lemon
2 lb potatoes*, cubed large
1 small head of garlic (peeled cloves)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk of celery plus 1 small inner stalk with leaves on it, diced and chopped
1 large onion, diced
6 cups water or vegetarian stock**
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Sea salt to taste

Garlic, Thyme Croutons (recipe below)
Extra sprigs of thyme for garnish

Add the lemon to the 6 cups of water and stir. Keep peeled and cubed potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes in the lemony water until ready to be added to the sautéd onions and celery.

Add the oil to a deep soup pot and heat it up on low/medium heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes while mixing occasionally, until soft, but make sure they don't caramelize. Add the potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, lemony water and garlic cloves. Add salt and white pepper to taste, bring to a boil and immediately turn down to simmer. Cover with a lid and cook until vegetables are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour for a super soft consistency). Stir occasionally throughout the process. Adjust for salt, let cool a bit before pureeing with an immersions blender***. Reheat garnish with garlic thyme croutons (recipe below), thyme leaves and serve.

Garlic, Thyme Croutons

1/4-1/3 day old baguette or gluten free bread, cubed small
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Leaves of 1 thyme sprig

Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, toss the garlic in and let cook until soft. Make sure the garlic does not caramelize. Add the thyme leaves, cubed bread and salt, and toss well together, until all the bread crumbs are well coated with the olive oil. Stir occasionally until golden brown. Toss away the garlic scraps at the bottom of the skillet. For further assistance you can find Martha Stewart's Croutons directions here.

Cook's notes:
*I used gold potatoes which explains the yellow tinge. You can use baking potatoes if you wish for a whiter tone.
**I used water for lack of vegetarian stock in my pantry. You can use chicken stock as well but I wished to keep this soup vegetarian.
***If you do not have an immersion blender, mash with a potato masher or process in a food processor.
****A great make ahead soup. The sweet garlic punch comes through more the next day. Can be frozen.