If you think you’ve grown most vegetables and experienced most tastes, maybe we have found something a little different. Try these gourmet root vegetables to tantilize your taste buds. They are varieties I have not grown before due to their rarity in the UK so it will be a new experience for us all.
Jerusalem Artichoke Gourmet Roots – Papas
Also known as ‘Sunchoke’. Easy to grow tubers which can be left in the ground over winter and harvested as wanted. Rich, nutty flavour, good to roast, sauté, bake or turn into soup. Tall plants, ideal to screen an unsightly area or compost heap. Plants sometimes produce attractive mini ‘sunflower’ blooms. Popular with diabetics.
Plants are best left until the foliage dies back, then cut the stalks and lay them over the area where the roots are in the soil, this will protect them from hard frosts. Tubers can be harvested as you need them as they keep better in the ground. Unless you want the plants to re-grow the next year, make sure to remove all the tubers from the bed before spring.
A little tip I would add myself is, when cooking with Jerusalem artichokes, add a little winter savory to the dish as it is reputed to relieve the effect that earns them their other name of fartichokes! I will say no more.
Oca Giggles Gourmet Roots
Also known as ‘Peruvian Wood Sorrel’ from the Andes. Tangy flavoured leaves are good to add to salads. The tubers can be grated into salads or steamed, cooked or fried. Forms red/yellow tubers in the autumn. Ideal to grow in pots or containers as well as in the ground.
Plants can be earthed up like potatoes, but this is not necessary. Oca only produces its tubers late in the season as the daylight hours get less, therefore it is best to wait until the foliage has been frosted and died back before harvesting the tubers, this is normally late November and December.
Yacon Gourmet Roots – Inka Red
Yacon means ‘water root’ in the Aztec language. The largest tuber you can grow in the UK, producing very crisp and juicy red roots. Sweet tasting due to the amount of inulin present, which is good for diabetics as its not sugar. Tall plants which produce sunflower-like blooms. Can be eaten raw or cooked, tastes like fresh pear/water-chestnut.
Yacon tubers are very juicy and sweet so can be eaten fresh like fruit or cooked like a potato, try adding a little chopped up to a fruit salad or roast them, add them to soups and casserole or coleslaw.
Chinese Artichoke Gourmet Roots – Conito
Rarely seen vegetable and very easy to grow. Prolific and delicious, producing lots of knobbly roots. Crunchy and nutty in taste, they can be used instead of water chestnuts in stir-fries or raw in salads. No need to peel, just wash and enjoy. Leave tubers in the ground until needed.
When plants get to 30cm tall, earth them up as you would potatoes and as plants begin to flower remove the flower spikes to concentrate the plants energy on producing tubers. In late autumn cut plants down to just above ground level and lay the foliage over the bed to protect the tubers from hard frost. Tubers can be harvested as you like and keep better in the ground.
To view these plug plants at Suttons both singularly and as a collection click here
Images copyright Suttons
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