Monday, February 22, 2010

Harvest Monday - Forcing Roots

Tips of hamburg rooted parsley show their greens.

-- edited to include a new link - check it out.--

If you don't want to set a coldframe or polytunnel to winter greens, you can set up a cellar. Still sound like work? Okay, lots of roots store for quite some time at the back of the fridge. When you are ready to eat some fresh leaves, take out these roots, put them in a pot of moist sand and stick them some place warm. You can even eat part of the root and still get a harvest. These 'carrot' rooted parsley sprouts are coming out of about a quarter inch of crown at the top of the root that is placed in a shallow dish of water. That's enough parsley for most recipes - not tabouleh; I would have had to save a couple inches more root for that.

Greens of certain plants are bitter such as chicory. To make sweeter, more tender shoots, force in darkness. Chicons, sold in supermarkets as Belgian Endive are made from varieties of chicory such as Witloof de Brussels.

Here some roots to force for edible greens:

1. Beets
2. Hamburg Parsley
3. Celariac - strongly flavoured, try dark forcing or use sparingly
4. Carrot - never tried them though there are many references to eating the greens*.
5. Dandelion - I like dark forcing this one
6. Chicory - dark forcing produces tender, pale shoots that are less bitter
7. Scorzonera and probably Salsify
8. Turnip
9. Raddish
10. Horseradish - young shoots have a strong, interesting flavour.
11. Sweet Potatoes** (Ipomoea batatas)- tips of shoots are edible, store cured roots in a warm location.
12. Onions and garlic

Other good candidates may be found in plants with edible greens / shoots that have roots that can be lifted and stored with relative ease. If you have a suggestion, add it in the comments. I'd love to try it.

* My research leads me to believe that eating carrot greens is good for you but they are a bit fiborous so there are various mentions of 'juicing' them. With new or marginal food, always do lots of triple checking and start with a small amount first.
** Don't eat regular potato Solanum tuberosum greens as they contain poisonous alkaloids which is why your mom always told you to cut the green parts off.

Harvest Day Roots of Fall

Eliot Coleman author of books about season extension and organic market gardening. Most libraries carry various titles.

High Desert Garden has a lovely post with great pictures of growing garlic shoots.


Thomas said...

I really want to try next winter. Thanks for the info!

Question though - I thought carrot greens were poisonous???

Ottawa Gardener said...

The vast majority of experts say they are not but I was very hesitant about them at first too. Check out the link to the carrot museum. They are also mentioned in 4 season gardening by Coleman and others. I think the problem comes from the fact that many members of the 'carrot' family do have poisonous foliage but many others, parsley for example, do not.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Maybe a useful link on the contraversy over carrot greens:

I don't eat them myself but if you do have a sun sensitive reaction to other members of the carrot family, I'd avoid them.

Daphne Gould said...

I always think about growing a pot of greens on the windowsill over the winter, but never do. Doing it with roots seems like an interesting idea.

Daphne Gould said...

I was wondering if anyone has tried to do this with mizuna? It has a really big root and I love mizuna greens. It might be interesting to experiment with it.

miss m said...

Great idea !

mac said...

When we were kids, every time we have fever my mother made a vegetable broth consisted of carrots, carrot greens, water chestnuts, and sugar cane, it was supposed to help "cool" the "qi" inside the body, one of those "ying" and "yang" folk remedies. The broth was pleasant to drink, not bad at all.
I serve the same broth to my daughters when they were toddlers without ill effects, I guess it's OK in small amount.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Daphne, I haven't but it sounds like something to try. Other mustards have very large swollen stem/roots too - lots of possibilities. I have thought of doing it with florence fennel that has a carrot like root.