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Skirret: a forgotten Tudor vegetable (telegraph.co.uk)
88 points by pepys on March 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments

Cited as "silum" in capitulare de Villis (8th century).


And here's the article on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sium_sisarum

There are loads of interesting fruit and veg not available in most supermarkets. I'm growing: medlars, perilla, quince, kohlrabi, sloes, rosehips, wasabi, horseradish, kinkan, yuzu, naranjilla, damsons ... In fact the reason to have a veg patch is to be able to source these ingredients.


I have a quince tree I planted. They used to be very common in New England because they contain a lot of pectin. So, prior to the availability of commercial pectin, people mixed them with other fruits to make jams and jellies.

They're hard to do a lot with though outside of whatever you can separate using a food mill. You can make quince "applesauce", butter, jelly, and paste pretty straightforwardly. But because they're so hard and tend to have a lot of scattered seeds (probably depends on the variety), it's a lot of work to cut clean fruit that you can use for poached slices or preserves.

Something my dad taught me is to bake them. Slice a cross in the top, add some brown sugar, wrap in foil, bake for a while until they're caramelly and softened.

You just eat around any seeds.

That's a good idea. That's basically an apple recipe. And pretty easy to deal with the seeds that way.

I love quinces. The best way is to cook them very slowly in sugar syrup (slower the better - at least 6 hours). You end up with an amazingly fragrant dark red syrup.

I don't care for the texture of quinces (too gritty), so what I do is add halved pears to the quinces about 2 hours from the end. This way you get quince flavoured pears - fantastic warm with vanilla ice cream.

I grew up around some quince trees, and my mother made a lot of jelly. It's great, although she did complain that segmenting them prior to the boil was a bit like trying to chop up billiard balls.

(The thing I really miss, though, is wild raspberry or bramble jam. Mmm...)

Yes they are certainly hard to cut up. My wife can't do it.

I used to have a raspberry patch - nothing nicer than wandering out on a warm morning and gorging fresh raspberries - certainly more fun than getting caught up in a bramble.

If you want to make jelly (or quince butter), just boil them until they're soft and process them through a food mill. No peeling or cutting up of hard fruit needed.

I have never actually made quince jelly - to me quince is a stew fruit cooked in chunks the same way baked stone fruit are eaten. A big sharp knife and some strength will get you there :)

Slice in half and bake with pork.

How is the growing of hips separate from the cultivation of the flower? I usually deadhead my roses so the energy goes towards more blooms instead of hips, am curious what you do to cultivate the hips specifically. Do you use neem oil or other methods to keep the aphids at bay?

A good question! The rosehip tree (or rose tree, I suppose) was planted by a previous owner of the house. It has small pink flowers in spring and massive red hips in autumn, so it's quite unlike a cultivated rose. I have no idea what variety it is, but it makes plentiful rosehip syrup. It has no pests at all, indeed no kind of maintenance has been required except to cut it back when it got too large.

> medlars

I love those, too bad they are rarely available in Germany. It's one of the fruits I always show other people if I can.

Have you found any useful guides for how to grow these? I'd love to mimic what you're doing when I have space to set up a garden next year but I honestly haven't even heard of half of those plants! I really enjoyed my failed attempts at growing amaranth and Nicotiana rusticum when I lived in Austin...

> wasabi

I thought that was supposed to be pretty difficult to grow.


I recall reading about some company trying to do so in Oregon and failing at it, despite the climate being pretty good.

I've seen US-grown wasabi at some specialty stores in San Francisco.

It looks like there's actually a farm in Half Moon Bay producing it: http://www.foodgal.com/2014/04/californias-only-grower-of-re...

First year, so I'll let you know. We've grown horseradish for years, and that grows like a weed - it's almost invasive.

There is a UK company which grows Wasabi - https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2012/10/fresh-wasabi-in-the-uk/ - absolutely delicious. Bit of a pain to ship and keep fresh, but well worth it.

I've also found a place which imports it from Japan and the USA - https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2012/12/more-fresh-wasabi-in-the-uk... - which may be closer to where you are in the world.

My reading of that link is it's difficult to grow commercially, which is a long way away from difficult to grow in your own garden.

Could be. Here's one thing in Oregon, not sure if it's what I remember, but I don't think so because it appears to be a going concern: http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2011/10/real_was...

"Mountain streambeds are the plant's natural habitat. Though some Japanese wasabi is cultivated in soil, the highest quality product is water-grown, with plants sprouting from gravel-laced terraces through which streams are diverted."

Still sounds tricky compared to a lot of stuff.

Makes it sound perfect for aquaponics.

This is a good book for people in the UK (or similar climates) that fancy growing something other than carrots, potatoes, runner beans etc:


Instead he lists mini kiwis, cucumelons, New Zealand Yams etc etc

I should do a veggie dive at a local market here in southwest China and show you guys what you are missing variety wise. There are so many awesome ingredients here it's ridiculous! All the stuff everyone else has mentioned plus seaweed, ferns, rhizomes, various gingers, dried and fresh persimmons, pomegranate, Buddha's hand, fresh spices you can have ground on the spot, loads of tofus, many different types of eggs, greens and melons you've never seen, huge amounts of fresh nuts, adzuki beans (wild here for 1000s of years), marijuana seeds (wild here also), dozens of types of fresh rice and wheat-based noodles, at least a handful of types of mushrooms year-round and tens more in wild 'shroom season, fresh bamboo shoots, various bean pastes and sauces, etc. Mmm. Hungry. Must go eat.

> I should do a veggie dive at a local market here in southwest China and show you guys what you are missing variety wise.

I'd love to see that if you have the time to take a few pics!

I used to live near a big open air market, and in the last few years I've noticed a revival of old root vegetables; some local producers managed to make a living selling only that kind of food.

The usual explanation for their disappearance was that during the second world war, people had to eat a lot of them, and without any special cooking (they'd only boiled them in water.) So after that eating this kind of roots vegetables reminded people of war and they were avoided.

There are over 2000 known edible land plants.

So everyone is missing out everywhere

A meaningless statement. Obviously we are dealing with relative diversity, not absolute. Western supermarkets in my experience (US, UK, continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand) are all very poor in diversity compared to markets in this particular area of China. Also, mushrooms are not classed as plants and this area has the largest diversity globally.

The power of the supermarkets seems to have been the main driver of this. Unless it's available globally in enough bulk to have permanent stock they just won't carry something any more.

Most of my favourite varieties of fruit and veg from less than 20 years ago are simply not available any more in supermarkets. I can remember regional variations and seasonality, even in Tesco. Now for apples it's Golden Tasteless, Braeburn and a few Gala and Cox if you're lucky.

We all lost something significant (taste) when they started caring more for supply chains than customers. Of course it's our own fault for preferring to get all groceries in one store.

Red "Delicious" if you're unlucky. Chosen for their shelf life, thick skin, and red color, and by the marketing spend of the organizations behind it. Chosen lastly (if at all) for their taste.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08... http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/the-evil-r...

...paid Hiatt for the rights, and then renamed the seedling the Delicious as a marketing ploy.

Says it all really.

If you have to tell us it's delicious, it isn't. Much like the GDR and democratic.

Meanwhile hundreds of regional varieties are being pushed to extinction.

Interesting article on this point by Simran Sethi on how the diversity of food we eat has dwindled just in the last century:


I haven't had much trouble growing skirret. It sprouts well from seed with a little bottom heat. I haven't tasted the roots yet. I'm hoping they're as good as I've read about

look a bit fiddly to prepare to me - try to peel them like a parsnip and there wouldn't be much left.

I have cooked salsify which looks similar. It is a bit annoying to prep.

This reminds me of the paw paw. Apparently they grow wild near where I live. I keep telling myself that this will be the year I go find some.


I can definitely recommend the pawpaw. It's like pudding in a fruit. I've harvested from a remotely-located patch for years, but getting to that patch in late August/early September has been a challenge the last couple of years. I try to tell myself that it's okay to leave them for the bears, but no, screw the bears; they can eat grass or roots or something.

Pawpaw with lime juice is amazingly tasty and very good for your liver, apparently.

We're talking about the temperate fruit pawpaw, not the tropical fruit papaya which is commonly called "paw-paw".

Woah, America has its own pawpaw, that's nuts :)

I think the global use for the other fruit is far more dominant, you guys should consider switching to using the term 'Asimina'. Wikipedia says some people call it 'prairie banana', too. I've eaten that somewhere but can't remember where. Not bad, but not as nice as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annona_squamosa which we get here also.

I haven't heard "paw-paw" in place of "papaya" outside of Asia, so I wouldn't call that global. We're not going to change the lyrics of all our old pawpaw-celebrating folk songs just to accommodate someone else's regional dialect. b^)

It's like metric vs. imperial. I think you'll find that Asia, Australia, New Zealand, UK all use pawpaw for one fruit.

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