Growing scorzonera in Southern Australia
Posted on March 23, 2016
I have to admit – I love scorzonera. It might look like old sticks but it is delicious, tasting like artichoke heart. If you didn’t know what it was you would never realise it is edible but once you try it you will want to grow it in your own garden.
This vegetable is a perennial and the great thing about it is that it doesn’t go woody with age so you can spread your harvest over a couple of years if you wish. Also, when you cut the tops off the roots you can replant them and they will produce more small roots, or you can plant the tops and let them flower and collect your own seed.
I grow scorzonera in Southern Victoria, Australia and the climate here is great for it. I sow the seed in early Autumn in sandy soil. Your soil needs to be soft as the roots are so fragile that they will break while digging if you are not careful. You are likely to break the roots anyway as they can get to 80 cm long but if you dig down with your spade as far as you can beside the plants before pulling you should get most of the root. They are ready to start digging from six months old. They may die down if the weather is not to their liking (mostly in the heat of summer) but they will reshoot later so don’t worry.
They will need water if your summer is dry, and they will not need any fertiliser if you originally start them in soil with aged manure added.
I like to keep the plants in the soil and dig them as needed as they don’t store well but you can keep them in the fridge crisper for a week if you wrap the roots in damp paper. Most sources will tell you to rub off the skin or peel them before or after cooking but you will probably break them so I don’t bother. The skin is thin and easy to eat and you quickly get used to the black colour.
I usually steam them and serve with melted butter or white sauce but you can roast or braise them. They cook quickly so keep an eye on them.