Skirret Crowns – back in stock APRIL 2019
Our skirrets were featured on BBC Two’s Gardeners’ world with Monty Don planting out some of our crowns in his Tudor vegetable garden.
Skirret, latin name Sium Sisarum is a perennial root vegetable part of the family Apiaceae, that produces a cluster of sweet tasting slender roots. Skirrets date back centuries, pre-dating the potato, and were one of the main root crops eaten across Europe before potatoes were introduced. They fell out of favour because potatoes were easier to prepare, not because of the taste. Skirrets actually taste somewhere between a Parsnip and a Carrot with a hint of pepper. In the 16th and 17th century they were used in sweet & savoury dishes and such things as ‘Skirret Pye’.
A Skirret crown is a cluster of small skirret roots with a growing tips which has been made as a division from a mature skirret plant. The crowns come from sections of our 3 year old plants. The crown is ready to plant out right away and gives you a head start in setting up your own perennial skirret patch. They are a great substitute for annual parsnips without having to sow seed every year.
Skirret – How to grow
When your skirret crown arrives you can plant it out making sure the roots are below ground and the growing tip is at surface level. Plant in a sunny position leaving about 30cm between crowns. In spring you will see the first little green shoots emerging and over the summer the plants will reach about 4-6ft tall producing umbels of lacy white flowers. In the Autumn the foliage dies back and you can check to see what the roots are doing and harvest some for eating and divide the rest to make new plants. Choose large straight roots without a woody core to propagate new stock from.
Once established, you can also pinch off some of the offsets in the spring ( these are growing shoots with a little bit of root attached) to make new plants, skirret will self seed as well. Once you have a colony growing it is worth experimenting by leaving some plants to grow for 2 to 3 years before harvesting/dividing to develop better sized eating roots.
Skirrets like rich deep soil with lots of organic matter, but soil that is friable. They need to be well watered to stop the roots from becoming woody and enjoy some liquid feed. The flowers attract beneficial insects.
Skirret – How to eat
No need to peel, just give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Use Skirrets raw as a munchable snack, or parboil and deep fry, or roast in the oven with olive oil. Sauteed in a pan with butter and parsley is another delicious way of serving them. They also make a lovely soup.