Sunchokes® have a rich history

Have you ever heard of Sunchokes®? You may know them better as Jerusalem Artichokes. They are one of the HOTTEST vegetables for 2013, according to those organizations who track food trends, like The New York Times’ Julia Moskin.

They are a knobby root vegetable that looks like fresh ginger root, but are crunchy with a nutty flavor, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Fresh Ginger Root

Sunchoke®

Jerusalem Artichokes were first discovered by my mom in 1965, as a man came walking down the Los Angeles produce market. He had this odd looking new vegetable, and no one on the produce market was interested…

Except for Frieda Caplan, of course!

My mom began selling them to her supermarket customers nationwide. Because they resemble ginger root, they were confusing to shoppers when displayed loose in produce departments, which lead to my mom’s first packaged product!

She put the Sunchokes® in a one-pound bag, stapled a recipe brochure on top, and they were an instant success. The sales of Jerusalem Artichokes increased six-fold once they were packaged! (I personally think they became easier to identify for both the consumer and the produce manager.)

But then we discovered the name was confusing. They were not from Jerusalem, and they were not related to the artichoke. We figured their French name “Girasole” was somehow converted to Jerusalem, and because their taste is reminiscent of artichoke hearts, they got their name.

Since they are actually the root of a sunflower-like plant, my mom coined the new name, Sunchoke®. She trademarked the name, and the rest is marketing history!

A few years ago, I was having dinner at Tom Colicchio’s Craft Los Angeles and noticed Sunchoke® purée on the menu. It made me nostalgic, as I have many memories of selling and eating Sunchokes®.

My most vivid memory is the hand written postcard we received from Julia Child…yes, THAT Julia Child!

The postcard read, “Dear Frieda – I just love those Jerusalem Artichokes. But is there anything you can do about the flatulence?”

Yes, the only problem with Sunchokes®…but, they are a nutritional powerhouse. Turns out Sunchokes® are a source of the carbohydrate Inulin, which is easily digested by diabetics, and is worth adding to a healthy diet.

Be on the look out! We have some exciting plans for Sunchokes® in 2013. Look for them in your local supermarket or on a restaurant menu!

Bon Appétit,

Karen

5 thoughts on “Sunchokes® have a rich history

  1. When and where? I have been trying to find them forever. I used yo be able to get them at Trader Joes years ago. But have not seen them since. They are soo good. Can’t wait.

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