< Vegetables



Sium sisarum

These thumb shaped tubers originated in China, but because of their tolerance to cold, their resistance to insect infestation, and their crisp texture, spread throughout the ancient world. In Scotland its name was crummack, in Frace, gyrole. A perennial that can be propagated from seed, once established in a garden, It spreads most readily by root division.[1] Planted in light moist soil, spaced over a foot apart, several finger like roots grow unevenly from a common crown, attaining four or five inches in length. If a season is rainy, the tubers will grow larger. The roots have a woody pith that must be removed as part of the processing for consumption. The roots’ rough russet bark is also removed. Their flavour when cooked seems a mixture of parsnip and celery, “but a great deal more palatable” than parsnip.”[2] It is, however, “so tender that it will scarcely admit of being boiled; for which reason it is frequently eaten as fruit, in a raw state; when stewed, however, it forms an excellent ingrediant in soups.”[3] Tastes changed in regard to the vegetable over the centuries. John Worlidge, author of A Compleat System of Husbandry, thought it the “sweetest, whitest, and most pleasant of roots” at the end of the 17th century. By the end of the 19th century it was considered inferior to both salsify and parsnip in taste. It is markedly sweet in taste.

Seed is secured from plants during their second season of growth. This plant, smaller than carrot and parsnip, has pinnated leaves, consisting of two or three pair of long dentated leaflets, and terminated by an odd one. The flower-stalk rises to the height of about two feet, breaking out at top into branches, each terminating in an umbel of small white flowers. Stalks and leaves were not consumed. The roots remained wholesome in the ground over winter after the leaves decayed in autumn, so they were often left in ground until needed for consumption.

Cooking references that noticed the skirret frequently observed that one should prepare the roots exactly as one did salsify.

1. Eugene Sebastian Delamer, The Kitchen Garden (London: Routledge, 1855), p. 33.
2. Thomas Birdgeman, The Young Gardener’s Assistant (1837), p. 77.
3. Anthony F. M. Willich, The Domestic Encyclopedia (London: Murray & Highley, 1802), p. 76.

Skirrit variety    History



In 1863, horticulturist Fearing Burr, Jr., declared “There are no varieties.”

Skirret (The Vegetable Kingdom 1843)    History

When washed, boiled, drained, dipped in butter, fried brown and served with melted butter &c., they form an excellent dish. They may be stewed, or when boiled, eaten cold, with oil and vinegar. L. D. Chapin, The Vegetable Kingdom (New York, 1843), p. 142.

Skirret Pie    History

Take a quarter of a peck of skirrets blanched and sliced, season them with three nutmegs and an ounce of cinnamon, and three ounces of sugar, and ten quartered dates, and the marrow of three bones routed in yolks of eggs, and one quarter of a pound of ringo roots, and preserved lettuce, sliced lemon, four blades of mace, three or four branches of preserved barberries, and half a pound of butter . then let it stand one hour in the oven ; then put a caudle made of white wine, verjuice, butter and sugar ; put it into the pie when it comes out of the oven.

Boiled Skirrets (The Professed Cook 1812)    History

Skirrets are scraped as carrots, and boiled in water, with a little butter and salt; they require only about a quarter of an hour's boiling; drain them to fry, being first dipped in pretty thick wine batter. B. Clermont, The Professed Cook (London, 1812), p.