This oddly named vegetable is relatively unknown in Ireland, but it is one that is well worth growing as it is delicious, trouble free and doesn’t need to be included in your crop rotation. It is grown for it’s long brown/black slender roots which are similar in taste to artichokes, and (to a lesser extent) for its spring shoots which are like asparagus.
Scorzonera needs a light, sandy soil to grow well – it should never be grown in manured soil as (like carrots) it will fork. It’s best to dig the soil before sowing (ideally a month or so before) so that the soil is good and friable. It is sown direct in the soil in late April or May in a well-prepared seed bed in rows 30cm apart and about 5cm deep in a drill. The seeds are large and easy to handle – you can sow two or three seeds every 10cm, and then remove the weaker seedlings leaving one at each 10cm interval.
Once they have germinated there is very little work required – keep the bed weed free and water in very dry weather. Be careful if hoeing around the crown so as not to damage it.
The roots can be harvested from October but allow them to experience a frost or two to sweeten them up. The roots can be left in the soil all winter. The roots (particularly the longer ones) are notoriously difficult to harvest without snapping them, so be careful. Some roots can be left to overwinter (with foliage removed) – the new spring growth the following year is asparagus-like in taste.
Scorzonera is a relatively trouble free vegetable to grow and does not need to be included in your crop rotation.