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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Try Exotic Jerusalem Artichoke

Last week, my market offered the first of one of nature's more obscure vegetables, the Jerusalem artichoke. This small, knobby vegetable looks like a spherical piece of ginger, about the size of a small onion.

The Jerusalem artichoke, although of the family Asteraceae, is classified as Helianthus tuberosus. It is, however, a tuberous-rooted perennial sunflower, whose stems grow up to 3 meters tall.

The plant closely resembles the common sunflower, but, unlike the beautiful sunflower it is cultivated for its tubers. These are used as a table vegetable, as feed for livestock and as a source of inulin, which is used to produce fructose.

Originally from North America, where they were cultivated by Native Americans, these delicately flavored tubers were first brought to Europe in the 17th century.

The Jerusalem artichoke usually does not take center place at the dining table, but it is good eating, if carefully prepared.

It can be peeled like its tuberous kitchen mates, then sliced and lightly saut?ed in butter. It can be grated and mixed into pancake batter, served in a cream or bechamel sauce, roasted, baked, curried or even served as a souffle.

Jerusalem artichokes should be washed thoroughly using a light brush. It is not essential to peel them. Just clean the artichokes and steam them or boil them in just enough water to cover them.

The water can then be used as a basis for artichoke soup. An appetizing variant of this is made with chopped artichokes, an onion, a potato, butter, chicken stock, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, cream and chives. If you want to increase the zing of the traditional recipe, you can also add leek, garlic, ginger and marjoram.

All this can be pureed together to create an elegant dish.

So, head down to your local market -- or beat a path to the Danilovsky market, where I saw them -- and impress your friends with an unusual vegetable.

Danilovsky market, corner of Serpukhovsky Val and Mytnaya Ulitsa. Metro: Tulskaya.