Category Archives: Root crops

Bitter baccalao: roots and greens

No, I’m not vegan and have never been, I’ve been lactovegetarian with the occasional wild fish over 40 years. We always have some Norwegian dried cod (baccalao) at the ready in our cool larder. The usual way to make the dish baccalao here is to hydrate the fish for a couple of days and then layer potatoes, bulb onions, fish,  tomatoes, garlic with olive oil, pepper and chili in large saucepan. I’ve always added seasonal greens too and often use green onions of various types instead of bulb onion.  
Last night, we used the last of the potatoes from the cellar and as there weren’t many also used root chicory (di Sancino: an edible rooted variety that produces well here) and the last yacon roots, all still in perfect condition kept in the cellar in dryish leaves all winter! We also used a good bunch of nettles, tops of giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia) and sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) tops including the flowers. For the onions, sand leek (Allium scorodoprasum) and victory onion (Allium victorialis) were in perfect condition (beginning to flower). 
The verdict on our first bitter baccalao? Delicious, but probably not for everyone!

Xmas day Rhizofantastigora dinner 2021

Xmas dinner in Malvik has been nut roast and roasted roots every year since 1984! This year there were 27 different roots: parsnip, 15 different varieties of potato, bulb onions, Tigridia (cacomitl), wapato (Sagittaria), carrot, beetroot, oca (red and yellow), Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia), yacon (Polymnia), garlic (Allium sativum), Dioscorea polystachya (Chinese yam) and chicory root (at the top).
The nut roast was made from ground walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds with grated carrots, onion and beetroot with garlic, golpar (Heracleum seed spice), egg, salt, pepper and chili, bedecked with buckwheat groats (home grown by a friend in Czechoslovakia), Himalayan balsam seed,  caraway, dill and alpine bistort bulbils (Polygonum viviparum).


Root Chicory Trials 2021 at Være

One of the experiments this year in the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) trial gardens at Væres Venner in Trondheim has been a comparison of different root chicories. These have 3 main uses:
Witloof (literally “white leaf”) or forcing chicories used for producing chicons, also known as Belgian or French endive (forced from the roots in the dark, usually in winter. to reduce the bitterness);
Root chicories where the root is used as a vegetable, popular in winter in Italy;
Coffee chicories are also in the group root chicories and sometimes the same varieties harvested more mature and used as coffee surrogate (ground and roasted).
There are hundreds of varieties of chicories with multiple other uses. Common for all here in the north is that they are relatively easy to grow with few pests and diseases, thus easier to grow organically than for example the cabbage family. However, they are almost never used here in Norway. In Norway’s largest FB group on vegetables “Grønnsaksdyrking i Hele Norge” with 36,000 members there is only one mention of chicory)(sikkori) and that more as a wild plant than something you would cultivate. 
This is partly because most have been selected for a very different (Mediterranean) climate and some go to seed (bolt) in the first year which significantly lowers yields. Witloof chicories have, however, largely been improved further north (Belgium and France) and my experience has shown that these varieties only occasionally bolt (out of several hundred plants grown this year, none bolted!).

The chicory bed just before harvest. There are 9 varieties along the 1.2m wide raised bed.

I sourced different varieties of root chicories from the German genebank IPK Gatersleben with the objective to select a good variety in the two main groups for my area (I had previously had reasonably good experience growing witloof chicories for forcing in winter; see the picture below). I wanted also to explore if it is possible to be self-sufficient in seed. As part of the seed saving process, roots need to be overwintered and grown to flowering in the second year. Hardiness of chicories varies a lot between varieties and I therefore overwinter roots in my cold cellar, but plan also later to test winter hardiness outside. Some chicories can also perennialize like the wild species and this is a secondary project to select high yielding perennial and hardy chicories. Another great characteristic of chicories and side-effect of seed saving is that the beautiful chicory flowers are very popular with pollinators and a number of selections with different flower colours are also available for growing as an ornamental. This is indeed a great combination plant that I term an edi-ento-mental (edible, good for the pollinators and ornamentally valuable too).
See the various flower variants I’ve grown in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18650

Winter forced Witloof chicons from my cold cellar in mid¨-February

Chicory in flower in my garden

I was pleased with the yield, which was better than I’ve experienced in my shady garden at home. The fact that the roots are irregular in size is probably at least in part due to the fact that the spacing between the roots was a little irregular (I will try for a more even spacing next year).

Witloof chicory Prezo RZ performed well
Witloof chicory Extra Vroege Mechelse had a lot of forking roots


We’ve grown 4 varieties of Witloof forcing chicories including Witloof Prezo RZ, Witloof Extra Vroege Mechelse (Early) and Witloof Dobbel Blank. In the video there are 9 varieties shown and the Witloofs are #2, 7, 8 and 9. There are some nice size roots and I plan to grown on the largest 20-25 or so roots for seed, which will then be made available to KVANN members.

Nice sized roots of the edible root variety Radici di Soncino

The root chicory Radici di Chiavara 

There were two varieties of root chicory and both gave good yields. I will probably grow again next year in larger quantity (the descriptions are taken from Stephen Facciola’s Cornucopia II)
Radici di Chiavara (Chiavari)
Grown primarily for its root, although the leaves are also used and have a good flavor. The root is thick-collared, creamy white and uniform. Grows over a long season, from early spring until late fall. To prepare, scrape and boil the root until tender. Slice thinly and serve with vinaigrette, or it can be rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried and served with lemon and parsley.
Radici di Soncino(Radison)
Long, narrow roots with creamy white skin and flesh; rather bitter. May be harvested anytime from autumn until the following spring. Popular in Italy where it is considered very healthful and is cooked and eaten in many ways.

Below is a video showing all the harvested roots:

A real Oca yield outside at 63.4N

Two days ago, the latest first frost date was registered in Trondheim for 130 years! This has allowed my oca (Oxalis tuberosa), one of the Lost Crops of the Incas, to develop properly for the first time! This is a short day plant, tuberising late in the season! These were grown in the World Garden at the community garden Væres Venner, one of the gardens in @kvann_norwegianseedsavers Schubelers Network.
An apparent new variety has also turned up and as far as I know no seed has been involved, so I guess it’s a genetic mutation, seemingly halfway between the other two varieties. Of course, I will be replanting this one next year (see the third picture)!
My other pot-grown ocas were moved into my porch extension just before the frost and will be grown on for Xmas harvest as usual.

Last or First?

A few days ago I harvested my yacon (Polymnia edulis). My season outside is a bit too short to get good yields outside, so I grow in large pots which I move in to the living room in autumn and grow on for 2-3 months. This year I was a bit late and one of the plants had been cut right down by an early frost and the other was badly damaged. Both sent up new shoots when they came into the house. 
The first harvest of 2021 or the last of 2020?

Tubers and roots; December 2020

A gallery of pictures of tubers and roots which were harvested in December when I had a blog-free month!

Malvik Jerusalem Artichokes

I harvested my little collection of Jerusalem artichokes (jordskokk) at home this week (the others I’ve posted about were grown at the community garden). All of these varieties I’ve been growing for a number of years:
Dave’s Shrine: purple skinned and long; a runner (jeg tror jeg fikk den fra Terry J. Klokeid for 20 år siden, see more om Terry below)
Urodny: From Danish Seed Savers about 5 years ago; it came to Denmark from the Czech Republic in 1969, early easier to clean variety, white skinned.
Bianka (From Swedish author Lena Israelsson in 2001; it seems to have originated in Sweden from gardening author and broadcaster Åke Truedsson who told me “All I know is that I found this variety everywhere in Russia and Siberia and it’s name was Bianka. I took it home to Sweden in 1989” 
Stampede: I had noticed that the description of Stampede in Cornucopia II -a special high-yielding, extra-early strain, was very similar to Bianka which also seemed to be identical to the best yielding Norwegian variety I’d tried – Dagnøytral (dayneutral). 
“Flowers in July and matures more than a month before common cultivars. White-skinned tubers are large, often weighing over 1/2 pound each. Relatively dwarf; height about 6 feet. Winter hardy in severe cold. Developed by Indians in northern Ontario who selected ; plants for earliness and tuber size”
I therefore set out to get hold of Stampede in order to compare all three varieties directly. Bunkie Weir on the Homegrown Goodness forum kindly  sent me tubers in December 2008. The four varieties including another variety Dwarf Sunray were all grown together and all flowered on more or less the same day, were the same height and had similarly shaped compact knobbly tubers. I concluded that they were all the same clone that had been spread around the world (my conclusion hasn’t been tested genetically).
Fuseau:  I think I got this one over 20 years ago from the UK (it was commercially available). This desciption is also from Cornucopia II: “Tapered, sweet potato-like tubers; 4 to 5 inches long, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter; skin tan-colored, very smooth and entirely free of the knobs that characterize the common types and makes cleaning difficult.”
This variety didn’t grow well for me with variable yields from year to year as early frost would stop the tuber growth, but I kept it due to its easy to clean quality. It never managed to flower until this year, but not until mid-November (Stampede / Bianca / Dagnøytral usually flower in late September):

Terry Klokeid
I first came in contact with Terry Klokeid of Amblewood Organic Farm on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada through the Edible Wild Onelist forum in 1999. He wrote:
“I have 16 varieties of sunroot, with (cooked) flavours ranging from sweet carrot and sweet walnut to globe artichoke flavour to bland and potato-like; sunroots for boiling and baking, and for salads. Container-grown varieties.  Varieties for rabbits and other animals. There must be lots more varieties of sunroot out there, and I aim to collect and conserve all of them”
My last contact with him was in 2007 when he wrote: “I have access to the Agriculture Canada collection of a couple hundred accessions, but they are too poorly maintained by them to tell them apart. I started to grow some out in order to size up the tubers, but deer got the entire crop and I have been too distracted to replace it.”

Horseradish harvest

Although perfectly hardy, once it gets colder I won’t be able to harvest the roots, so today I harvested the winter’s supply of horseradish, and at teh same time limiting the spread of my plant. Some roots were planted in soil with the green shoots cut back.  These will be forced in the dark for the delicious shoots later in the winter. The other roots will be stored in the cellar in damp leaves until I need them for making grated horseradish and/or horseradish sauce, Austrian apfelkren (grated with steamed apples) or grated cooked beetroot…or homemade wasabi sauce.

This one tried to run away…but I caught it!

Jerusalem Artichoke Harvest at Væres Venner

At the weekend I harvested all the Jerusalem Artichokes (jordskokk) at the Væres Venner Community Garden. This was two bike loads with a big rucksack to get home :)
This is a mix of experimental JAs from crosses made in Italy by Paolo Gaiardelli between our best variety Dagnøytral (which is probably identical to Stampede, Bianca and Dwarf Sunray) and other varieties (unfortunately I lost the label and am not sure of the details). You can see in the second picture which tubers I’ve selected for growing on!
I also completed bastard (double) digging a new bed at the back of the shed for various climbers including hardy kiwi Actinidia arguta!



Scorzonera harvest

This is the harvest of 6 varieties of Scorzonera at our community garden (Væres Venner) last week two years after I sowed seed (I was surprised by an early hard frost and didn’t get round to harvesting it). The following accessions 
Libochovicky (Czechoslovakia) (IPK Gatersleben SCOR5)
‘Peter Schwarzer’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR3 and SCOR 6)
‘Schwarzwurzel’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 7)
‘Einjaehrige ‘ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 8)
Wild accession 1653 from Bundesgarten Wien
(I had hoped to include other varieties from the Nordic gene bank in this trial but those were sadly not available)
Einjaehrige gave as expected the biggest yield (this is a variety selected to be grown in one year…traditionally it would take two years for roots to be big enough. I will grow this one on as a perennial for seed to supply seed as a root variety. The biggest roots of the other accessions apart from the wild accesion which gave as expected the smallest roots (planted now in the World Garden) will be grown on to investigate differences in production of Scorzonera lettuce (spring shoots) and Scorzonera scapes (the sweet flower stems).
Scorzonera is not only one of my favourite must have perennial vegetables but also a popular plant for pollinators flowering right up to the first frosts.