The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.

Skirret Update 3

It’s my fifth year growing skirret and my second year trying to improve the stock by sowing seeds from the best plants.

Skirret plant
Skirret

I don’t have any stunning results to report this year but I did harvest plants with fairly fat roots grown from the seed collected last year.

One-year-old skirret plant
One-year-old skirret plant

The roots were a bit thinner and also shorter than in 2015, but I think the drier conditions this year at least partly account for this. Even the plants I dug out of the ‘bog garden’ were quite dry and this area had lots of added leaf mould and compost and lies over a buried plastic liner.

Last November I did a plant swap with the owner of Rowan Refuge, a beautiful organic and wildlife-friendly garden in Glasgow, and acquired a new skirret. I was curious to see if there might be some surviving good genetics in plants from Scotland (where it was often known as ‘crummock’) as it seems to have been popular as a vegetable there more recently than in England. I’d also discovered that Lawrence Hills had wondered the same thing in 1988 so I was in excellent company!

The Scottish skirret harvest wasn’t amazing but it has done better than my other two-year-old plants so it is a very welcome addition.

Skirret from Scotland
Skirret from Scotland
Another 2yr plant, 'Morning Star'
Another 2yr plant, ‘Morning Star’

All the plants I harvested this year had some degree of woody core (which can be quite a nuisance to the cook!)

Woody cores

My impression so far is that this tends to be particularly thick and fibrous in thinner roots. It does also seem to vary between plants but I still don’t know if the woodiness is genetic or cultural or both. It certainly doesn’t only occur in younger or older plants as is sometimes claimed.

I have kept seed from the best seedlings and from the Scottish skirret and from ‘Morning Star’ (whilst not performing exceptionally this year the latter has produced fat roots on another allotment and I think it still may hold potential for me).

Skirret seed
Skirret seed

Next year I’ll produce new plants from a mix of this seed and try in various ways to create better conditions for them to grow. This may ultimately be the wrong approach and I’ll need to just keep selecting for plants that do well in the soil I’ve got, but first I want to see how they do when they’re really happy. Besides, I want fat roots to eat!

So the plan is to further lighten the soil with sand and improve water retention with more incorporated compost and surface mulches (I might also see if planting in furrows between ridges keeps them more moist).

I’d also like to see if giving the plants some wind protection reduces the woody core.

Lastly I’ve been growing silverweed around the skirret and initially felt this was fine for the skirret. But after this dry year I’m going to move it (to around the globe artichokes and cardoons perhaps) in case it has been depriving the skirret of moisture.

Anyway having harvested lots of skirret….

……I had a chance to try out a recipe for skirret, apple and cheese tart from Just another Day on the Farm. Despite making this in a completely haphazard way with my mind on other things!….

….it was fine (and tasty with the skirret, cheese and apple combination. There was some onion and thyme in there too).

Skirret, Apple and Cheese Tart

Skirret, even skinny skirret, is a great (and forgiving) vegetable.

Skirret Update 2 here, 1 here and the first post about skirret here.

6 comments on “Skirret Update 3”

    I loved reading your overview and was startled and then laughed when I saw that you linked my blog and recipe.. I am glad you enjoyed the flavour combo and I will continue to read your adventures on this very interesting plant, so nice that you go different genetics and I would be very interested if reducing wind also reduces woody core, I had almost no core, only in maybe 2 percent, I know that where I got my plants from had worked away from it, but I also had them in a area that they would have been quite wind sheltered.. now I want to know if that made a difference..

    Reply

    Hi farmgal, so pleased you left a message. I noticed you are on Twitter and meant to say I'd appreciated your recipe – but hadn't got around to it yet! I hope people have been clicking the link to see how it ought to look!!
    I'm interested in where you did get your plants actually – perhaps from Aster Lane Edibles? Are they hard to come by in Canada? And do you mean there had been successful selection for non-woody plants?
    My allotment is quite windy, but I'm thinking I could put a wind-slowing barrier around the bed (or perhaps just half of it!) I'll be sure to report on the results.

    Reply

    hi, yes, I got them from telsing as plants not seeds, they are hard to come by in Canada. I know that telsing, aster lane had more woody core then I did, out of my whole harvest, I only had one in it.. I expect that will change on next years harvest? or maybe not.. I will share then but I was surprised in a good way

    Reply

    Thanks farmgal. Yes let's keep in touch to discuss our woody cores 🙂

    Reply

    I'll add skirret to my list of plants to try next year. I've got salsify in this year but I'm yet to harvest it.

    Reply

    It's a good one Ken – definitely worth a try! I've never tasted salsify although I have admired its impressive flowers.

    Reply

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