Are you talking to me? No, we're talking to you. About an unusual veggie with an odd name and an amazing taste. A bit like a foreign film director hence the tennuous joke...
A few weeks ago we had a veg that sounded like a trash metal band (Claytonia) – this week we have a veg that sounds like an Oscar-winning Italian director. Ah yes, as we get closer to the end of our trawl through 52 weeks of vegetables, we’re getting to the lesser known, quirky veg.
Scorzonera is relatively unknown in Ireland, but it is one that is well worth growing as it is delicious, trouble free and doesn’t need to be included in your crop rotation. It is grown for it’s long brown/black slender roots which are similar in taste to artichokes, and (to a lesser extent) for its spring shoots which are like asparagus.
Sowing Scorzonera needs a light, sandy soil to grow well – it should never be grown in manured soil as (like carrots) it will fork. It’s best to dig the soil before sowing (ideally a month or so before) so that the soil is good and friable. It is sown direct in the soil in late April or May in a well-prepared seed bed in rows 30cm apart and about 5cm deep in a drill. The seeds are large and easy to handle – you can sow two or three seeds every 10cm, and then remove the weaker seedlings leaving one at each 10cm interval.
Growing Once they have germinated there is very little work required – keep the bed weed free and water in very dry weather. Be careful if hoeing around the crown so as not to damage it.
Harvesting The roots can be harvested from October but allow them to experience a frost or two to sweeten them up. The roots can be left in the soil all winter. The roots (particularly the longer ones) are notoriously difficult to harvest without snapping them, so be careful. Some roots can be left to overwinter (with foliage removed) – the new spring growth the following year is asparagus-like in taste.
Recommended Varieties Scorzonera Maxima
Problems Scorzonera is a relatively trouble free vegetable to grow and does not need to be included in your crop rotation.
1. Scorzonera can be baked or fried, but probably the easiest approach is to boil for 20 minutes unpeeled – the skins should rub off easily once cooked, and the delicate flavour is maintained. Toss in a little melted butter. The flowers of the scorzonera plant are also edible.
2. Try growing scorzonera in pots or containers with a sandy soil mix – harvesting the roots is much easier this way as the pot can be turned over to access them.