This vegetable is not truly an artichoke but a variety of sunflower (Compositae), a hairy, tuber-bearing perennial native of North America, where it was cultivated by the Indians. Contrary to what the name implies, this vegetable has nothing also to do with Jerusalem. Because of its confusing moniker, modern-day growers have begun to call Jerusalem artichokes sunchokes , which is how they're often labeled in the produce section of many markets.
Jerusalem artichokes - those knotty, crunchy little balls that look like malformed potatoes or pieces of ginger root - are the unexpected base for this soup. These tubers have the refreshing flavor of water chestnuts, but are in fact the root of a plant of the sunflower family. Jerusalem artichoke season begins in late summer and lasts until mid-February, but they are often hard to find. If you can't get them, you could also make this soup with artichoke hearts, which are available starting in the spring.
To add extra crunch and flavor, I serve this soup with sautéed croutons with garlic and sage.
One more thing about the Jerusalem artichokes: you don't need to peel them in some recipes like my Jerusalem Artichoke Soup. Just scrub them well. Their skins add character to the soup.
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