Permaculture Success: Skirret

The Sweet Taste of Skirret

skirret-2.1 (1)

If there were ever a contest for best permaculture plant ever, I’d nominate skirret. So would our permaculture classes, where, as part of the food sampling Elsa and I offer, students chase after the last bits. Skirret is strange-looking white root best harvested during in February or March thaws and then roasted in olive oil.

The plant is native to China. However, via the Silk Road, it made its way early on to the West, most notably to the table of Emperor Tiberius, for whom skirret was a particular favorite.  It later became a standard root vegetable throughout Europe, but was (surprisingly) displaced by the New World’s potato and is (also surprisingly, given its great, distinctive flavor) little known today.

It actually tastes more like a parsnip with a sweetness that caused the Germans to call it Zuckerwurzel or “sugar root.”

Why is it such a great permaculture plant?

It renews itself: after cutting off the Medusa-like rootlets; after eating the latter you can replant the base and wait for future harvests.  Moreover, the base multiplies itself, much like an unfolding paper doll, into several separate roots that can easily be replanted, so you can gradually spread plantings and increase quantities throughout your garden.

Its umbel of small white summer flowers (resembling Queen Ann’s lace) attracts parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects.

skirret in flower

It has no pest enemies and requires no more care than harvesting and replanting.

What more could a permaculturist ask for?

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