You would be forgiven for thinking that these bizarre-looking tubers are not the kind of thing you put in your mouth. That's certainly what we thought when we were digging through our former backyard in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, turning over the soil. We had had some egregiously tall sunflowers that year – I'm not kidding, around 14ft high – and just there where the sunflowers had grown we found some very strange lifeforms.
Michael started throwing these roots my way, covered in soil, exclaiming that the ground was full of these things. Stunned as I knew that only the sunflowers were in that patch, I poked at the nuggets with a stick. They looked completely alien.
Duh...sunflowers...sunchokes...Jerusalem artichokes. Why we didn't put two and two together, I'm not sure, considering that we were the people that planted them in the first place. But we were in the habit of just throwing things into the soil and seeing what took those days, and in our lives as container gardeners we don't have such luxury. The unexpected bounty of root vegetables meant that we were eating them for weeks, and that's no bad thing. The Jerusalem artichokes below were sublime roasted at 400°F for an hour with some garlic, rosemary and lemon zest, chucked raw and sliced into a salad like water chestnuts or, as I tried the other day, carpaccioed (can I use that as a verb?) with olive oil, lemon and thyme.