Have you ever heard of a sunchoke? Or a Jerusalem Artichoke? (which, by the way, is neither from Jerusalem nor is an artichoke) The sunchoke is the root of a species of sunflower plant that is native to eastern U.S. (like Massachusetts!!)
They look like tiny potatoes, or, if they are knobby, they might resemble ginger root. If you cut one open and eat it raw, it is white, crunchy, and a little sweet – sort of like a cross between a potato and a jicama. Any flavor that it might have is quite subtle when raw. Oh, but when these are baked into chips, they have a beautiful, slightly sweet, slightly nutty and earthy flavor that is oh-so-addictive.
Why This is Such a Good “Low Carb” Snack
One interesting note about this root. Unlike most roots, sunchokes do not store starch as their main carbohydrate. Instead, they store inulin, a carbohydrate that is a polymer consisting of fructose units instead of glucose units (in the case of starch). The benefit of inulin is that it does not impact the body’s blood sugar level, which is great for those on a low “carb” diet. Inulin is also associated with many other health benefits, such as increasing the absorption of calcium and promoting the growth of intestinal bacteria.
Because inulin cannot be broken down by our starch-busting enzymes, amylase and ptaylin, it actually passes through the digestive system relatively untouched until it reaches the colon, where bacteria break it down (similar to what happens to lactose intolerant people when they drink milk). People vary in how well they can tolerate and digest inulin. If you do try this vegetable, try in small doses at first! Otherwise you might be in for a rather, ahem, uncomfortable evening.
Do try, though. It’s totally worth it if you can take it. I tried just a few chips the first night, and then a whole batch the second night and had absolutely no problems. Same with Bryan. It’s a great snack and is so much healthier (from a starch standpoint) than potato chips, yet they taste just as good, if not better!
Wash and scrub sunchokes so that they are free of any dirt. Thinly slice up sunchokes into 1mm thick slices. Try to make them uniform in width, as that will aid in even browning. Toss with a small amount of olive oil (about 1 tsp for an entire mini toaster oven tray) and lay them in a single layer in the tray. Add salt (I just did a few “shakes” of a salt shaker) and bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until it starts to dry out and look golden brown. I did this in the toaster oven, and it worked great. I also tried it in the convection oven. It took a little longer (like 25 minutes!),but still turned out fine.
Just keep an eye on it because it’s easy to burn. Every oven is different, so you’ll have to play around with your oven to get the right time.
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