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Perennial root crops - some plants to try

 
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Eino Kenttä wrote:Found this article (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303743938_Wild_food_plants_and_fungi_used_in_the_mycophilous_Tibetan_community_of_Zhagana_Tewo_County_Gansu_China) where there is a picture of a Tibetan dish made from silverweed. The tubers look rather small, but still, if one found a good patch on soil that was easy to dig, it might make a good addition to the diet. Sadly, around here I've mostly seen it on quite compacted soil by roadsides and such, and on rocky seashores. Not very digging-friendly.



Great link, thanks! Very interesting for me. The photo on p10, labelled "Potentilla anserina tubers," does not look like the ones I've seen, which are paler and long and skinny. I googled "potentilla anserina tubers images" and found several that looked like what I've seen though I've seen them bigger than the first few images that come up.
 
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Thanks Rebecca! It's nice to know that silverweed isn't one of those "Oh, I read in this blog quoting this disreputable publication referring to obscure ethnobotanical research indicating that some people somewhere might possibly have used this for famine food a long time ago, so we should all plant an acre each!" but rather actually useful. I first read about it in a British wild food book (don't remember the name) that largely wrote it off as a waste of time harvesting it for food. I wonder if the author had the same first experience of it that I did, digging and not finding any tubers, just thin roots. A quick search online yields some info about it having been cultivated in the Scottish highlands at some point, so it wouldn't be strange if the Tibetans do the same. Otherwise: Is the Tibetan variety of the same subspecies as the Ladakh one? There seems to be considerable genetic difference in the species, or species complex (https://www.jstor.org/stable/23724290?seq=1) with some populations even being tetra- or hexaploid. Tetraploidy sometimes makes for more viable crop plants, right? Might be worth trying to get some of those Tibetan ones...
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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The Tibetan and Ladakhi ones could certainly be separate sub-species or varieties. The climate described in the article above is obviously very different from (much moister than) the climate here in Ladakh.
 
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I posted here in the summer that I was growing mashua this year. So here is an update on the harvest, which was pretty good. Quite a few fist sized tubers. Sadly, though himself and I tried several different ways of cooking, we decided in the end we really didn’t like the taste! So not recommended as a root crop, but it’s a handsome plant, the bees love it and the new leaves and flowers add variety to a salad. I am going to find a sunny spot where it can be at home and look after itself, and I will enjoy the above ground plant. Win some, lose some!

By contrast I also tried some oca, which was really quite pleasant. The downside is that every little creature in the soil seemed to like it as well, so very little worth harvesting. Jury is out on whether to try again.
 
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Silverweed is the "seventh bread of the Gaels", however the roots are pretty thin and brittle.  I thought they were very tasty though!  They have a sustantial taste/texture like daal when cooked. Although they are thin, they are smooth, so quite easy to wash.  They spready pretty easily by runners, but I haven't managed to collect seed.  I thought that might be because they are self infertile, so have collected plants from a few different areas of Skye.  The main difference in the root size however seems to be in where they are growing.
My soil is light, but almost always wet, so I've gone off root crops a bit.  They are usually harvested in winter and digging in wet soil is not my favourite task, especially given the limited hours of daylight at this time of year.  The exception is crops grown in the polytunnel (indoor gardening is more fun in a wet climate!)  I grow Yacon, Mashua, Apios americana, Dioscorea Japonica in the tunnel.  They all ought to grow outside, but our summers really aren't hot enough.  I'm thinking that the Apios and Dioscorea need more than one year to reach a reasonable crop, so am developing a rotation whereby the 'permanent' root crops will be dug up at the same time as the replant perennials: Yacon and Mashua.
Skirret seems to do pretty well here, is tasty, but is difficult to wash the dirt off.  I'm growing a few other root crops outside (and inside) but haven't had a chance to try them yet. These include:
Fritillaria camschatcensis (finally got seed this year)
Camassia sp. Growing well outside, pretty flowers!
Canna edulis: my one seedling disapoeared over winter last year
Dahlia: growing well, various varieties, not tried yet, I gather the palatability can be borderline
Erythronium revolutum: grows well here, pretty spring flowers
Cyperus esculentus sativa: even in the polytunnel didn't seem to grow well.
Sagitaria latifolia, tasty: only grown in polytunnel so far, but should be OK outside.
Colocasia: surviving in polytunnel pond but I'm not sure what variety it is.
Various Campanula sp.: growing rather better than I expected given my slug population.  Pretty flowers!
 
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