January 22, 2011

I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere.

I love vegetables.  LOVE them.  I love vegetables of any color, shape, size, texture.  I love them whole, peeled, chopped, sliced, diced, grated, shredded, minced, mashed.  I love them raw, blanched, steamed, boiled, roasted, broiled, slow-cooked, glazed, baked, fried, juiced, puréed, stir-fried, sautéed.  In the 10 to 15 years since I outgrew my childhood aversions to raw tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms (now three of my favorites),  I have eaten and will eat any vegetable put in front of me.  I will eat them here or there.  I will eat them anywhere!

Part of our dinner last night was a new vegetable we had gotten at the farmers market: Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes), which are from a plant related to the sunflower.  (The theory is that Italian settlers called them girasole (gee-rah-soh-lay), meaning sunflower, which eventually turned into “Jerusalem.”)  DSC_0269

I was excited to try the sunchokes and prepared them according to a recipe from a trusted website:  oven-roasting them tossed with olive oil, fresh garlic, and salt. 


While roasting, they filled our kitchen with a really interesting smell – like a spicy potato or, as the name suggests, similar to an artichoke heart.  Once cooked, they looked delicious and had a perfect texture: crispy edges and soft in the center, just like a roasted potato.


Then the seemingly impossible happened.  I didn’t like them!  I could hardly believe it.  I really tried to give them a chance.  I am loathe to admit, however, that I didn’t clean my plate.  They were bitter and metallic tasting, even when I avoided the skin. 

I can see how they may be okay mixed with something else (for example, in a soup or root vegetable puree),   but alone they were unacceptable.  There seem to be plenty of people out there who like sunchokes.  Brian found them less offensive than I, but he certainly didn’t love them.  Give them a try if you have the chance, but be forewarned that in addition to their potentially off-putting flavor, they also contain the carbohydrate inulin (not to be confused with insulin), which is indigestible by many people and can wreak havoc on the system.  We were lucky that we only took a few bites each.

White potatoes have an almost identical nutritional content and texture, a much more pleasing flavor, and none of the negative side effects that sunchokes have.  I’ll take the potatoes, please.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love foods that are a challenge:  give me bitter, sharp, strong, acidic, clashing flavors.  Give me kale, dandelion greens, and the stinkiest cheese you can find.  But do not give me sunchokes.  

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