A while back I convinced myself that roasted sunchokes would be a lovely thing to bring to winter dinner parties. They could become my signature cold weather dish, I thought, given the massive numbers of them growing wild at the pea patch and the fact that they’re as fun to dig as clams, almost. You just loosen the soil and reach in for the tubers, which cluster right beneath ground level.* In about five minutes I excavated two pounds from a 12-inch x 12-inch area along the north border of the patch.

Back home I threw a bunch into a hot oven, the way the Pilgrims did for dinner parties a thousand years ago, and awaited their transformation into hot, sweet, succulent nothings. Well. The small ones were mealy and overdone before the bigger ones had even warmed up, and the kicker is that I brought them to dinner anyway. Why? I have no answer for you. I stressed about it all through cocktails, watched as dinner plates were passed out, and generally felt helpless to stop what was going to take place. Not until the hostess picked up her fork did I get off an impromptu speech about sunchokes’ gas-inducing tendencies. Which isn’t really what worried me, of course.

They’re friends who love us, and I do think we’ll be invited back after a sufficient interval.

Anyhow I got right back on the horse, there being no shortage of free material to play with. I cut the ‘chokes into geometrically equal shapes and roasted them with parsnips and carrots and thyme. I shredded more for fried sunchoke cakes, blended with a bit of lemon, parsley, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Both formulations were easy hits. If you’re looking for a simple way to ease into their flavor, check out last year’s tried and true sunchoke bisque, with its subtle artichoke taste. And should sunchokes cause you the bloat or something equally unappealing, consider pickling like Hank does.

*When digging, it’s inevitable to bring up bitty ‘choke chunks too small or gnarled to eat. Be careful where you toss these as even the smallest of them becomes a new plant — and these babies are invasive. You might keep them away from the compost pile too, unless you’re very confident that everything decomposes.