Skirret: the forgotten Tudor vegetable

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 - 3:24pm

Skirret: the forgotten Tudor vegetable

This was a new perennial vegetable to me, yet another casualty of us wanting "pretty" fruits and vegetables that can handle being taken to market. From Wikipedia:

Sium sisarum (skirret, crummock) is a perennial plant of the family Apiaceae sometimes grown as a root vegetable. It has a cluster of sweet, bright white roots which are similar to sweet potatoes, but longer (15-20 cm). Skirrets may be boiled, stewed, or roasted. The woody core is inedible, and should be removed before cooking because it is difficult to remove after.

The skirret is of Chinese origin, but may have arrived in Europe in early times: it is presumed to be the siser mentioned by Pliny the Elder as a favourite of the Emperor Tiberius (Natural History, 19.27.90), and was also grown by the Picts.

The plant grows about 1 m high and is very resistant to cold, as well as pests and diseases. It is usually grown from seeds, but may also be started from root divisions. Lack of moisture makes the root more fibrous.

For all of you wanting to do some edible landscaping, the plant is pretty enough for a border:

photo: Amisland Seeds

"Native to China, skirret arrived in Europe during classical times, probably brought to the British Isles by the Romans. It featured in monastic gardens but became popular in medieval times and was used a lot in Tudor cookery." (Telegraph, linked article above.) Pliny the Elder was said to enjoy it. It's as sweet as carrots with a slight peppery aftertaste.


Tall's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
I have one!

Thanks for posting this Wendy. Someone gave me a root and I planted it, but forgot the name. It is in heavy soil, and after reading this blog about it:

I will lift it, divide it and give it a more welcoming soil 'home'.

I have never tasted the root, but look forward to doing so.

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 500

Thanks for posting this Wendy.  I'm ordering seeds and am going to try them.  Not sure how they will fare in Alaska but will experiment with them. 

Could be a great addition to a food forest.  Also some interesting recipes for Skirret on the Internet.

AK GrannyWGrit

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