I braved the ice & snow of a truly bitter January morning to share this little haul with you.
Just coz it’s bone chillin out doesn’t mean you can’t eat well in the 21st Century veg garden.
MY HARVEST ON 16TH JANUARY 2013
It might still be dull and grey outdoors, but just an inch or two below the frozen ground is a buried stash of all manner of weird and wonderful root veg – from florescent purple carrots to sugary skirret. Here’s just a small selection of the kinds of stuff I’ve been scoffing through January…
CARROT ‘DEEP PURPLE’
Purple carrots are becoming increasingly trendy these days in seed catalogues and farmers markets everywhere. Yet the single variety they all stock, ‘Purple Haze’, rather frustratingly only has a thin purple skin, being otherwise boring old orange at its core. What a swizz!
‘Deep Purple’ though (as the name suggests) is darkest burgundy right to its very heart, coming packed full of powerful antioxidants & with the most intensely sweet carroty flavour. These easily knock the socks of any of the ubiquitous supermarket types on every count, from flavour to nutrition.
Although sadly not (yet) stocked by any major catalogues on this side of the Atlantic, for just the cost of a pint or two the many Stateside suppliers will happily deliver the seeds to you anywhere in the world. I picked mine up from Tradewinds Fruit.
Intrigued? Look out for a post on making ‘Deep Purple’ carrot cake with these in a couple of weeks!
SKIRRET Sium sisarum
See these long white roots that look like stretched out parsnips? These are skirret: an ancient British crop cultivated on these islands long before its notoriously tricky-to-grow supermarket cousin (the parsnip) & with a infinitely more crisp, sugary bite. They are also perennial, meaning you will get years of harvests from a single 5-minute planting, just make sure to leave a couple in the ground (tasty as they may be) for next season.
Cook ‘em just like you would parsnips – roasted, mashed or boiled – with thier slightly higher starch content making them even more rich and comforting in the dark days of winter. You can even crunch into them raw like little white sugar sticks – in fact the word “skirret” comes from a corruption of its Dutch name meaning “sugar root”
PERUVIAN GROUND APPLE Smallanthus sonchifolius
The great white sweet potato look-a-likes in this picture are they fresh, crisp roots of the Peruvian Ground Apple – which taste somewhere like a cross between Asian pears and waterchestnuts. Probably the single most productive root veg you can grow in the UK (at least for me) capable of producing yields of up to 10kg per plant under ideal conditions.
Curious to know how to grow, cook & eat them? Watch this space for an imminent blog post on exactly how to do this in the next couple of weeks.
Vegetarian ‘witchetty grubs’ with a fresh, nutty crunch. Sadly the continuous driving rain last year didn’t agree with them at all, meaning that instead of being pure creamy white and semi translucent, this year’s tubers sadly aren’t the best quality. This is such a shame as my little clump have kicked out fistfuls of perfect specimens for the last 4 years without fail. Oh well, there’s always next year!
Hugely popular in Japanese, Chinese & French cuisine, they are lovely raw in salads, served as cruditee or briefly pan roasted with lardons and butter. However arguably the most popular way to serve them in Asia is lightly pickled in a sweet brine – often flavoured and coloured with the bright red leaves of Japanese Beefsteak plants (check the pic below, without a single e-number in sight). Truly amazing as part of an Eastern-inspired ploughman’s lunch. Yum!