Category Archives: Root crops

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.


Nettle-leaved bellflower

Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium) has a more southwesterly distribution in Europe than my favourite giant bellflower C. latifolia and replaces the latter species in the south of England, France, Italy, Spain and North Africa and eastwards into West Asia. It has also widely naturalised in northeast North America. Like C. latifolia, it has edible sweetish tasting roots that contain the carbohydrate inulin like Jerusalem artichoke, good for diabetics, but can give flatulence. I suspect, however, that it takes several years to get to a usable size. I’ve been digging over an area of the garden into which Polygonum alpinum (Alpine knotweed) had invaded this week and there were also many self-seeded bellflowers with good sized roots, so I put them to one side to use in a delicious zucchini-bellflower curry which we ate last night!

Nettle-leaved bellflower has similar habitat requirements to the giant bellflower, inhabiting open woodlands and hedgerows and grows well in complete shade on the north side of my house amongst the Hostas. It has a preference for alkaline soils and grows well on clay. It is therefore an excellent plant for the forest garden, although given the choice I would prefer the giant bellflower as the spring leaves of trachelium are coarser and hairier and therefore less good in salads, but nevertheless fine finely chopped in mixed salads.  It has been used traditionally in Italy in mixed species spring soups such as minestrella (see page 59) and is one of the ingredients in pistic (boiled and fried, see page 59 of my book Around the World in 80 plants).

Campanula trachelium in the Jardin de Botanique, Paris at the best stage for harvesting tops and leaves
White flowered Campanula trachelium “Alba” has yellower spring leaves.
Campanula trachelium subsp aloha (in Kew Gardens)
Nettle-leaved bellflower thrives in shade together with Hostas

There are a number of ornamental forms available in the trade which you might like to try, including a single-flowered white form (var. alba), which has naturalized in my garden. The double white (‘Alba Flore Pleno’) form and “Snowball” (https://dorsetperennials.co.uk/product/campanula-trachelium-snowball) haven’t come true from seed for me. ‘Bernice’  is another deep purple-blue flowered cultivar.

Campanula trachelium in the background of emerging Allium wallichii flowers
Campanula trachelium flowers are edible and can be used to decorate salads
Naturalised blue and white forms in my garden
Nettle-leaved bellflower produces masses of seed

Hopniss at 63.4N

Hopniss (Apios americana), one of several plants known also as ground nut, is a clambering perennial legume and native american food plant of Eastern North America from Southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. For a good account of this as a food plant, look no further than Samuel Thayer’s book “The Forager’s Harvest”. Like many others I’ve tried and failed to grow this and no longer do so. However, it was fun trying and I did at least get  something to eat. 
I first planted this 20 years ago in my old unheated greenhouse in October 1999. Hillery Hanby who was a member of the Yahoo group Edible Wild kindly sent me a tuber. It grew weakly and didn’t produce anything. Then in early 2009, Hristo from Bulgaria, one of the active members of the Homegrown Goodness forum persuaded me to try again with his supposedly improved variety and I planted it in the greenhouse in spring 2009. This grew better and flowers were opening on 9th October 2011:

On 13th November 2011 I discovered I had a small yield (this is 3 year’s growth!). The tubers grow on a long string rhizome and Sam Thayer reports from 2 to up to 20 tubers on each.  He also reports that tubers (in the wild) can vary from size of a grape to a grapefruit and shape also varied considerably.

I also had a plant grown in two large pots which I also harvested and both had about 15 small tuberlets on the rhizome that was found winding aroud the base of the pots:

Then, a month later, disaster struck and the greenhouse look like this after  a major storm, Dagmar, devastated this area:

I had replanted some tubers which grew poorly under the new colder conditions without the greenhouse. I was therefore suprised to find my largest tuber “ever” two years later on 26th October 2013:

I suspect that I had missed this one in 2011 and this was one was therefore the result of 5 seasons of growth.    Then, in 2014, I took part in trials of new improved varieties.  Søren Holt in Denmark coordinated this trial of 4 varieties received from Gautam in New York. Both Søren, Åke Truedsson and myself participated.  Gautam wrote: “I have just received our latest batch of improved Apios americana, and am taking the liberty of sending you a very few tubers of our best “bunching” and “trailing” cultivars. Will send you the smallest sizes, for convenience in shipping, but not to worry. They come from excellent stock, with excellent size potential”. Here they are on arrival:

They were planted in a sheltered spot in the garden.  These improved varieties were far from improved enough for my climate and. despite having shoots ready on planting, two of the varieties didn’t even bother to grow and the second two grew so badly that I gave up the trial after a couple of years!
So that’s my experience of hopniss in Malvik. I guess I need to try at least one more time before saying it’s not worth it in my climate.
There is one other species, Apios priceana. This one produces one large tuber, but judging by its wild distribution it is unlikely to be more cold tolerant. I’ve only seen it once, at Joe Hollis’ Mountain Gardens in North Carolina last autumn.

 

 

 




Rice lily

Rice lily or riceroot (Fritillaria camschatensis) is a great hardy edimental, and exclusive root vegetable, although don’t expect large yields. The small (but many) sweet tasting tubers often lie right on the surface all winter! One of the hardiest plants found in Western North America from Oregon to Alaska, Northern Japan and the Russian Far East…and quite a common ornamental, grown for its almost black flowers (I’m still trying to establish the yellow flowered variant shown here in Gothenburg Botanical Gardens).  See also my blog post Riceroot and Hog Peanuts (http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=480).
It’s currently in full flower, so here’s a few pictures of my biggest expanding patch!