Do Sunchokes Give You Gas? Meet the Fartichoke

Bon Appétit reported yesterday that sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes) have a very bad track record for digestibility. There’s even a nickname for them: fartichokes.

BA’s Andrew Knowlton says he learned of sunchokes’ noxious tendencies from chef René Redzepi. Redzepi thinks it’s irresponsible to serve fartichokes raw, when the inulin they contain (a type of dietary fiber with naturally sweet polysaccharides) is especially active in the human gut.

Is the fartichoke syndrome purely an English thing? The American chefs Knowlton asks don’t seem to know the word—possibly because of how sunchokes are grown in the U.S., or because of diners’ DNA. “The inulin content of a sunchoke might depend on its size,” Knowlton writes, “or how many shoots it puts out, and the effects of the carb (which breaks down to fructose in the gut) is a lot more noticeable if you're a person with genetic fructose issues.”

In Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book (first published in 1979), the late English food writer implied that only some of us have the gene that can’t digest sunchokes, the way only some of us are lactose intolerant. Grigson herself experienced no ill effects, but she quoted 17th-century English botanist John Goodyer—the guy who introduced sunchokes to England from France—noting that, “which way so ever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind.”

What about you? Have you experienced any “loathsome stinking winds” from sunchokes, raw or cooked? Let us know!

Photo by Flickr member {studiobeerhorst}-bbmarie under Creative Commons