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Green Tea Infused Sunroot Soup

Have you met the Jerusalem artichoke (also known as sunchoke or sunroot) before? It may look like a small dirty potato to you, but it is in fact a delicious little root, who despite its name not is related with Jerusalem nor with the Artichoke – but with the Sunflower. It is actually kind of a funny story:

As I mentioned, the Jerusalem artichoke is a root. Its flowers look kind of similar to sunflowers, which isn’t strange since they actually come from the same family. The Italian word for sunflower is Girasole, which literally means turn to the sun. And here comes the funny part. Somewhere along the line the name Girasole got misinterpreted for Jerusalem (when you come to think about it, they actually sound kind of similar). And to make things even more confusing, a French explorer that sent some samples back home, noted that its taste was similar to artichokes. And somehow, 400 years later, this root is still called Jerusalem Artichoke, a name that has little to do with its origin. The ironic thing is that the Native Americans – who first discovered this root – called it sunroot. The perfect name for a root from the sunflower family. So, what do you say, shouldn’t we do as the Native Americans and just call it Sunroot?

What is so great with sunroots is that they are very nutritious. They are a good source of iron and they don’t contain regular starch, like potatoes for example do. They dissolve easily when boiled and have a sweet and a nutty taste, which makes them the perfect soup vegetables. A lot of sunroot soup recipes call for heavy cream, we left it out to make it lighter, and also because the vegetables alone are enough to make this soup creamy.

What is not so great with the sunroots is that they often are pretty small and come in very strange shapes, which makes it a hassle peeling them. But believe me, they are worth it.

Green Tea Infused Sunroot Soup
Serves 4-6

We used green tea instead of broth in this soup. The flavors from the tea really works good together with the sunroot. Tea infusion is a fun way to experiment with new flavors in your standard soups. If you are in to it, you could also add some white wine to this recipe.

2 pounds (around 1 kg) sunroots, sunchoke or jerusalem artichoke
olive oil
1 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups of steeped green tea (we used sencha tea)
1 large lemon, juice
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Start by peeling the sunroots (or bribe someone to peal them for you). As soon as they are peeled, put them in a large bowl with cold water (and a squeeze of lemon in it), this prevents them to turn dark. Pick up the peeled sunroots from the water and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Put a big pot on medium heat on the stove. Saute the leek, garlic and the sunroots for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice, the chopped rosemary, salt and pepper and about two thirds of the green tea. As soon as it starts boiling, turn down the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the soup off the stove and blend it. If the soup feels too thick, add the rest of the green tea and let it simmer for two minutes more. Taste it, add more spices and lemon juice if needed. Serve with a dash of olive oil, fresh rosemary and some thin slices of fennel. Enjoy!

Photos by: Johanna Frenkel

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35 Comments

  1. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 18:43 | #

    Great story, I had no idea. With all the growing concern with agave syrup, I’ve been using Jeusalem artichoke, or sunroot syrup as my sweetener of choice lately. It’s very mild and provides a smooth sweetness.
    You’ve got a wonderful idea with using green tea instead of broth, very unique!

    • Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 09:06 | #

      Hi Golubka, we’ve never tried subtilt syrup before. I’m guessing that it might be a little difficult to find here, but I’ll keep my eye out for it.
      /David

  2. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 18:44 | #

    What a great way to use these mysterious little roots and thanks for all the extra facts too. I once received them in my local CSA box and roasted them in the oven like little chips or fries; next time I’ll make this soup!

    • Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 09:12 | #

      Hi Jacqui, when not using them in soup I also love roasting them. You could also try giving them just a quick roast, slicing them thin, and using them in a salad. It’s also delicious.

  3. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 18:58 | #

    I really love the earthy taste of jerusalem artichokes. Adding the green tea sounds really interesting – I will have to try this!

  4. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 19:14 | #

    I’m so embarrassed to say that I have yet to enjoy the wonderful flavor and, what looks to be, very creaminess of the Jerusalem artichoke.

    Can’t wait to give it a try!

  5. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 19:42 | #

    I always see “sunroots” at the the market, but I never thought to try them before. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 19:43 | #

    What an amazing combination; I’ve never seen this combo before but I’m intrigued! Must try soon!

  7. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 19:56 | #

    I love them! I discovered sunchokes two years ago…to find them here in Sardinia it’s not so easy but in Italy you can find them everywhere…we call them Topinambur…I usually prepare a pasta dish with them, flavored just with garlic and parsley, but I love the idea of the soup and I really love that you used green tea instead of broth…I have to try it… ^_^

  8. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 19:56 | #

    very interesting story, I have no idea that they are roots :) Nice recipe!

  9. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 20:38 | #

    Gorgeous recipe! I love the idea of using sencha, it would echo the earthy flavours beautifully!

  10. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 21:12 | #

    Beautiful :).. my boyfriend just planted sunchoke in his garden few days ago.. and I made the soup 2 weeks ago for the first time. Since I like the taste of artichoke, sunchoke soup was quite nice, only sunchoke has a stronger and bitter taste. I will have to try the addition of a tea, great combination.

  11. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 22:28 | #

    This is so unique. I’ve never had a similar soup. I would love to try this.

  12. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 22:41 | #

    Very interesting! Looking for the origin of the French word, I found a quite similar story: Carl von Linné (your neighbour ;-) thought the sunroot came from Brazil (since it arrived in Europe at the same time people from the Brazilian tribe Tupinamba were taken to France). Thus, it was mistakenly called “topinambour” in French.
    I usually prepare my sunroot soup with rice milk instead of broth. Not bad, either. I will try your combination next time!

  13. Posted 13 Apr ’11 at 23:39 | #

    What a delicious looking soup! I love that you’ve paired the Jerusalem artichoke with green tea, which I love. I’m embarrassed to say though, I’ve never cooked Jerusalem artichoke at home. I will have to try this.

    By the way, your photos are just gorgeous!

  14. Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 00:11 | #

    What an interesting way to use green tea! I’ve been a fan of sunchoke for a while but have never made a soup with it. I’ll have to give this a try.

  15. Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 03:49 | #

    I love learning about new veggies – I probably would have never tried this! Can’t wait to try it now.

  16. Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 07:03 | #

    In Hungary we call it “csicsóka” (something like “chechoka”), and it had been very popular until the ’50, and now it started being rediscovered. We have plenty in the garden, and we like it raw as well, just shredded with apple for example (for babies it’s great!). But be careful with planting because it’s impossible to stop it’s spreading. I love green tea, so I definitely will try your great recipe. Actually it’s better not peeling but brushing it. Easier and you don’t waste so much.

    • Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 23:57 | #

      Hi Norka, thank you for all your great tips! We (and Elsa) have to try it raw shredded with apple. And I realize now that I need to go and buy a vegetable brush right away. It will save me a lot of time and effort. Thanks!
      /David

  17. Patricia
    Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 10:17 | #

    Hi ! In France, we call it Topinambour.In our country Topinambour have bad reputation (as bad as rutabaga) because french people ate it a lot during WW2, when they had nothing to eat. You know you can eat sunroot with its skin ? I simply brush it under water, cut in thin slices, steam for 20 minutes, and serve with a pinch of salt, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil (or hazelnut oil). It’s delicious !
    P.S : You have a wonderful blog, very inspiring…

  18. Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 16:24 | #

    Wow, this sounds so interesting! Jerusalem artichoke is one of my favorite veggies. Here in the Netherlands it’s called aardpeer, “earth pear” (compare to potatoes being “earth apples” in some languages).

    It’s too bad I think they went out of season a few weeks ago and won’t be available until autumn (if I’m not mistaken). :-(

  19. Posted 14 Apr ’11 at 21:46 | #

    Maija, here n Hungary it’s available all year round, if we cover it during winter.

  20. Posted 16 Apr ’11 at 18:06 | #

    We still have sunchokes here in Scotland and I plan on getting some and trying this gorgeously presented soup; anyone who can make sunchokes attractive is very clever. A peeling tip: I use a teaspoon to peel not only sunchokes but also equally fiddly ginger root. It really works!

  21. Posted 18 Apr ’11 at 03:14 | #

    I’ve heard of Jerusalem artichokes, but I’ve never had them. Regardless, this soup sounds deliciously light. Perhaps I’ll make this if I can find some of the sunroots/sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes.

  22. Posted 21 Apr ’11 at 20:25 | #

    I absolutely love the idea of using tea as a broth substitute in soups!! I typically keep a huge batch of vegetable broth on hand to put in this or that, but I can’t wait to try using teas instead! Quick peeling tip for pesky things: flash boil and ice bath, which loosens the skin from the flesh and makes it much easier to peel. This works, obviously, if you intend to cook the sunchoke, but not if you intend to eat it raw.

  23. Posted 22 Apr ’11 at 06:31 | #

    Looks heavenly! I love Jerusalem artichokes, but I never knew of the history of their name. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to try this recipe as soon as I get my hands on some sunroots. The green tea infusion is so clever!

  24. Posted 29 Apr ’11 at 17:15 | #

    Sweet! I just got 1 kg of them. Straight from the soil at this time of year you can acctually eat them with their peel on even. :)

  25. Posted 6 May ’11 at 03:55 | #

    so creative and such a beautiful photo <3

  26. Inge
    Posted 18 May ’11 at 19:00 | #

    This looks like a delicious spring recipe! And it’s peeling, not pealing. Keep up the gorgeous cooking and photography

  27. Soupy
    Posted 16 Oct ’12 at 02:18 | #

    Yeah, if you don’t mind a little rustic look to the soup I recommend a quick wash and scrub rather than peel. Saves you a lot of time, because one should save the slavery until the dishes needs to be done.

    Have made variations of this soup in the past, but never crossed my mind to infuse it with tea, will try it next time.

    And first time I saw them I actually thougt they were in family with the ginger. Knobly and odd shaped.

  28. Claudio
    Posted 8 Aug ’13 at 01:00 | #

    Hi-I am trying to find a word(or words) in one of the many native American languages for the “sun root” tuber. I had always read that it was native primarily to the northeast (& was possibly a food consumed at the “first Thanksgiving” along with scallops, nuts, & mushrooms?). But since more research seems to suggest that the sun root may be native to more diverse parts of North, Central, & South America, I don’t know which language to search. I would love to find out what different native peoples called it in their own languages.

  29. Garry Furney
    Posted 30 Jun ’14 at 09:44 | #

    I discovered this interesting vegetable last year. Fortunately I decided to grow it in pots. Just as well as the first 40cm pot yielded 2kg! I scrub it and slice and enjoy it as a snack. We have also enjoyed as an additional baked veggie with a traditional roast. As you have suggested it also lends itself to soups. Looking forward to trying the green tea recipe.

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