Skirret – About
Skirret – Sium Sisarum is a hardy herbaceous 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 roots which have been divided from a mature skirret plant. Offsets 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
Skirret offsets – when they arrive you can plant direct, or you can pop them into pots of compost over winter and plant them out in the spring. Plant in a sunny position leaving about 30cm between plants. Over the summer the plants will reach about 1-1.5m tall producing umbels of lacy white flowers and in the autumn the foliage will die right back. For a decent yield it is best to wait until the autumn of their second year before harvesting. Main harvesting period is between November and March while plants are dormant. You can also divide the plants using some roots for eating and some for re-planting.
When your plants are established, you can pinch off further offsets and growing shoots in the spring to make new plants, skirret will self sow 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 tasty 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. Early shoots can be forced by covering with a bucket and eaten as a sweet spring green vegetable.