The Lettuce Family: Sunchoke, Salsify, Scorzonera, Burdock

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Roots and tubers from northerly members of the lettuce family share three characteristics: an abundance of fructose-based carbohydrates, little starch, and a mild flavor reminiscent of the true artichoke (also a lettuce relative). The fructose carbohydrates (small-chain fructosans and starch-like inulin) provide both an energy store and an antifreeze mechanism for the overwintering plants. Humans don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest fructose chains, so beneficial bacteria in our intestines feed on them instead, in the process generating carbon dioxide and other gases that can cause abdominal discomfort if we’ve eaten a large portion of these vegetables.