Skirret harvest, dividing welsh onions and runner beans as a nitrogen fixer


Skirret harvest, dividing welsh onions and runner beans as a nitrogen fixer

IMAG0081I’ve been looking at my skirret for some time now and it is starting to look bedraggled. Soon all its top growth will die back (it is a herbaceous perennial) and it will overwinter if left alone. But I grow it to eat its roots, which taste somewhere between a carrot and a potato with the texture of parsnip. I like this root vegetable, it is an Olde English veg that it seems only Americans eat.

Instead of having one tap root like all the rest of your root veg it has a nest of roots all radiating out from the crown. The one I harvested a month ago had all thin roots that weren’t worth the bother but the one I dug today had much thicker roots and though fiddly make good eating. I shall wait until the foliage dies back before harvesting the other four, figuring that the plant is racing to pack away as much reserves now before winter sets in.

I cut off the offsets (there were three on this plant) which look like little garlic cloves stuck to the stalks where the stalk meets the ground. I make sure there are a few of the (tiny) hair like roots attached so that I can be sure the offset will grow on without the mother plant. I then bunged them in a pot of compost and put them next to the wall of the house where they will be sheltered. The big (non hair like) roots I cut off, washed, scraped off the hair like roots and fried for a few minutes with garlic and ate with bread. It was really good. I am always surprised by this as most perennial vegetables (garlic, shallots, artichokes, asparagus and potatoes notwithstanding) are pretty disgusting to eat. I’m slowly weaning myself off the worst (being salad burnett).

Another perennial vegetable or salad leaf that tastes surprisingly nice is the Japanese Parsley, the leaves and stalk of which, like skirret, taste like carrots. It also forms offset and these I dig up and plant elsewhere.


The runner bean is of course a perennial too, but not in this country (England). I have yet to succeed at storing the roots in sand indoors and replanting them the year after, but this does not stop me trying and I have again attempted it this year. I am told this works, and I have no reason to disbelieve anyone on the matter and I would really like to believe it does work so that I can continue my quasi-perennial gardening style. It is worth noting that my runner beans (variety: ‘Enorma’) had huge numbers of nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots which cheered me up, though it could indicate that my soil in that area was low in nitrogen (which would make me sad). I am told that legumes only really go for it with nodulation if the nitrogen levels are low, otherwise making conventional use of well manured ground by sucking the nutrients up normally with their roots. I brushed off the nodules (which were pink on the inside) onto the ground where I hope it will benefit the lettuce I bunged in the area for the winter.

Very large cream coloured nitrogen fixing nodules on a runner bean root

More nodules on another runner bean root

My welsh onions have been dividing themselves. I can’t tell if it is just normal for them to divide at this time of year or it is just that when they get big (which they are now) they divide. I always make sure there is at least 5 onions in each bunch and as they have been dividing so much (some into as many as 4 more onions) I have been pulling them out and eating them.

I have also been down the allotment today and yesterday. I don’t know what it is about summer that puts me off gardening but this time of year I am keen again and preparing carefully for next year. This year I have had really good shallots on the allotment: very big and many of them; good broad beans; really well yielding potatoes; never ending runner beans (they are still going now); loads of delicious strawberries. Unfortunately I have also felt the misery of: almost non-existent squashes; sweet corn with patchy or non pollinated cobs; disappearing spring onions and a really, really bad infestation of mares tail. Repeated digging out means I am slowly defeating the latter. Fingers crossed anyway.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.


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2 Comments so far

Helen HaranPosted on12:30 pm - Feb 6, 2016

Congratulations on your efforts – you are leadig the way.

I am looking for multiplier leeks. These divide at the base plate and numerous others form around the first one. I have seen them on an Australian video.
(I hope this link will work for you)

Please do you have any, or know where I can get them?
Many thanks


    adminPosted on9:16 pm - Feb 21, 2016

    Hi Helen, sorry I didn’t spot your comment. If you are in Europe or the UK you can get them sent over from France. Search for poireau perpetuel and get google to translate the french ecommerce sites. Things have moved on since i had to get a french friend to translate for me. If you are in the states then try

    Sorry the rest of the world, though I would be interested in an egyptian leek if I could only find it.

    Perennial leeks are no way as big as our standard biennial leeks but they are a bit of fun and they do divide very freely.

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