Skirret offsets – back in stock April 2020
Our skirrets were featured on BBC Two’s Gardeners’ world with Monty Don planting out some of our plants in his Tudor vegetable garden.
Skirret, latin name Sium Sisarum is a hardy 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’.
Skirret offsets are growing tips with a small amount of white delicate roots which have been divided from a mature skirret plant. The offsets naturally cluster around the top of a skirret plant and provide a very fast and easy way of propagating as each one will form a new plant. Offsets give you a head start in setting up your own perennial skirret patch and they mature much faster than growing skirret from seed. They are a great substitute for annual parsnips without having to sow seed every year.
Skirret – How to grow and propagate more plants
When your skirret offsets arrive you need to pop them into pots of compost and let them develop for a little while before planting them out in their final position. They do much better being started off in pots, rather than planting an offset direct. Once they have a bit of foliage, plant in a sunny position leaving about 30cm between plants. 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 for your propagation material.
Once your plants are established, you can also pinch off further 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.