Category Archives: Tubers

Long circular Yam

Two years after receiving bulbils of Chinese yam or cinnamon vine (Dioscorea polystachya) from my friend Søren Holt, I was able to harvest this curious tuber! I grew it as an “auedible” house plant….yes, it even makes a noise…as the numerous bulbils fall reverberating on my wooden floor in autumn! The bulbils are the reason it has become an invasive species in North America, the vines swamping native vegetation! The first picture below shows the tuber after its first season….I was quite pleased and was about to eat it when someone encouraged me to wait a year…I’m glad I did!
Although Chinese Yam has been grown in Europe since the middle of the 19th century, it never became popular as the  tubers bury themselves very deep (up to one metre) as in my pot where it went as far down as it could! According to Vilmorin (1920) (see pictures), there were successful attempts to breed varieties that didn’t bury themselves so deep…with round tubers clustering near the surface, but these varieties were not so productive.
Any suggestions for good recipes?

Chinese arrowhead: chestnut and artichoke in one vegetable!

Nothing like the promised “giant” 5-10 cm tubers, I was nevertheless surprised to get maybe 3 times the yield of what I planted of chinese arrowhead tubers – Sagittaria trifolia subsp. leucopeta (syn. S. trifolia var. edulis)…a much bigger yield than when I tried North American wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).
211018: I finally got round to trying some. I didn’t peel them and dedn’t trim away the edible shoots and started steaming them (as I usually cook potatoes).  Then halfway through I remembered a post by Alison Tindale (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/2017/11/ducks-eat-duck-potatoes )  where she mentions that they were slightly bitter after boiling,  I therefore boiled then (to reduce bitterness for the second half).  The verdict: one of the tastiest tubers I’ve ever eaten…the texture is like floury potato, but the taste not unlike chestnuts and yes a slight bitterness of the good sort, adding to the overall taste experience…and to cap it, the shoots taste like artichoke hearts!!
I think I will just steam them the next time!
I hope I will manage to overwinter them as I really need to grow more next year! I’m trying to overwinter in the cellar (about 3C and dark), on a window sill in a cool room and in my pond about 10 cm deep to protect  from the worst frost…maybe also covered with spruce branches!

Potato harvest at Væres Venner

The first small potato harvest in KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) vegetable sanctuary at Væres Venner Community garden.
I planted 10 varieties of potatoes in the spring…these were virus-free mini-seed potatoes offered to members. They were planted close at about 15 cm apart to produce full size seed potatoes for the 2019 season!
The varieties were a mixture of old Norwegian heirlooms and modern day varieties. The following Norwegian page gives the background for all the varieties seen here: http://www.norwegianseedsavers.no/potet-bestilling/

Kurrajong: a house tree with edible roots!

Kurrajong is an Australian tree, Brachychiton populneus, which along with other species of the genus make interesting house plants due to their interesting leaves. Kurrajong leaves resemble poplar leaves as the epithet populneus suggests. It’s a common tree of sandy plains in Eastern Australia. The seeds are remarkably nutritious and were popular Aborigine tucker (wild gathered food).  It is unlikely I will ever be able to harvest seed of this tree in the Malvaceae (mallow family), but Rowan White on the Radix Root Crops FB group reminded me that the swollen roots of young trees could also be eaten.  My tree wasn’t exactly young at 9 years (seed propagated along with Brachychiton acerifolius),  when I first decided to have a go in 2012, at the same time as I moved it to a bigger pot…

There were 3 young roots worth trying so I harvested them and baked them in their skins together with potatoes. They seem to need a bit longer than potatoes. The skins peeled easily off after baking and they were crispy with a good mild taste. If you have a ready supply of seed, they can be grown and harvested a bit like carrots when quite young!

This spring the tree died (at 15 years old) with no sign of life in the above ground parts, but when disposing of the plant I noticed that the young roots looked healthy, so I harvested them and repotted the remainder of the root to see if it might resprout and after several weeks in the window sill it now has fresh leaves, so not dead after all!

I didn’t get round to eat the young roots…they were left inside for a month and looked withered and inedible, but cutting in to one it looked good inside and indeed it was tasty and almost free from fibre….so we ate it in a stir-fry dish last night!

Monster spring beauty tuber!

I was transplanting some Allium canadense bulbs today and disturbed this large spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) tuber only just below the surface! I’ve tried growing this species from different sources and in different parts of the garden, but it’s only in this shady place has it grown well, sourced from a woman in Marathon, Wisconsin in 2004! It has been spreading slowly in recent years and is totally hardy! So this tuber could have taken 14 years growing to this size! Must have a taste this autumn!

Harerug bread

Harerug? Literally meaning “Hare rye” is a plant found in Norway from the outermost coast to the high mountains and is also one of the few edible plants of Svalbard in the high arctic! It’s Polygonum viviparum (Persicaria vivipara) or alpine bistort in English, in the Knotweed family or Polygonaceae along with many other edible plants such as giant rhubarb and Japanese knotweed and the sorrels and docks. Despite its small size, it has been an important survival food for arctic peoples including in some Norwegian mountain villages in the past as plants have comparatively large nutritious and tasty tubers! I’ve been using the bulbils (hence the latin viviparum meaning living birth as these fall off and form roots giving plants that are genetically identical to the mother plant). They have a delicious nutty taste, something my kids loved as a trail snack in the mountains. Indeed this is a plant one should learn if one is in the mountains as in the event of getting lost, one will still be able to find food. It is a particularly common plant above the tree line here!
It’s also circumpolar as the map in the album shows, even found in the alps and Himalayas.  I have a number of different forms in my garden and there are also closely related species which are larger that I believe could have an even bigger potential as a cultivated mountain / arctic crop. There’s a robust subspecies in North America I’d love to get hold of…(Flora of North America: “… with large leaves, compact spikes, and persistent bulblets…. named subsp. macounii”).  It’s also one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants!

 

Last harvest of 2017 and the most colourful!

I harvested Ulluco and Oca tubers which I grow on indoors from the first frost to the end of the year!This is probably the last time I grow Ulluco for a while due to the UK advice to destroy all Ulluco currently being grown due to the danger of non-native viruses hopping over to other more important crops!

Happy New Edimental Year

Wishing all my friends, family and all the amazing folk I’ve met live and online this year a very happy green year in which things WILL begin to change for the better for our wonderful planet earth!
However, things are not changing for the better for ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus) in the bottom row in this animation as this is the last year I’m growing this wonderfully colourful root crop which I’ve been growing now since 2007 (see the comments below for the reason for this!)
The top two rows are oca (Oxalis tuberosus). Both are from the Andes and were harvested yesterday indoors (grown in large pots brought inside before the first frostsin October).
Animation by my daughter Avellana Hazel 

Ulluco

An album of potato diversity in my garden

Below are a series of pictures of my favourite potatoes which I grew until 2012-2013 when blight made it difficult to grow varieties with little resistence: