First frost and a different root crop

snow s
Skye Snow

Two nights running we have had a real frost.  This came together with snow, which is a little less usual for us.  So far the Yacon has sagged, the leaves on the sharks fin melon have flopped and the Achocha has had it!  The mashua doesn’t look too bad so far, although some bits are quite sad.  I have cleared out the last of the courgettes from the polytunnel.  I think the plants had died back some time ago.  One of the courgettes has a little frost damage, but the others should be alright.  One of them should be classified as a marrow rather than a courgette, but that’s fine – I love stuffed marrow!  The snow has mostly all cleared now, but the damage is done.

floppy Yacon
Floppy Yacon 😦
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Cleared bed where polytunnel pond will be.

It’s been a bit cold and wet to work down by the river, so I have made a start clearing the bed that will become my pond/bog garden in the polytunnel.  This was much to the dogs’ disgust, since, as I have to tell Dyson quite frequently, ‘dogs aren’t allowed in the polytunnel’ and they do want to help!  The soil from this bed was covered in home made compost in the spring, and although I never got round to setting up an irrigation hose for it, it did grow a lovely crop of self seeded poppies, kale, fat hen and honesty.  The little row of lettuce leaves I sowed got swamped by everything else.  The poppies have probably self seeded again, the fat hen seed I have collected, and the honesty (Lunaria annua) dug up.  I was very surprised to see the size of the roots, up to 18 inches long and quite tender, despite having virtually no water.

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Lunaria annua roots

Intrigued, I did a little research and convinced myself they were edible.  Honesty is in the brassica family which includes turnip and swede as well as cabbage and broccoli.  A tiny taste raw was quite horrid – really pungent.  I’ve not tried horse radish, but I expect that is what it tastes like, several of the references suggested it was a substitute.  However I took a few roots anyway and washed them.  I found that the skin scraped off easily with a knife like a new potato.  Cut into short lengths, I boiled the roots in water for a short time till they became tender.  I wondered a bit if I was going to regret it as I added them to my dinner of sausage casserole, but no.  Much to my surprise the roots are really quite nice with a mild turnip-like taste.  Unfortunately some of the roots are a bit stringy.  Either a core, or a skin within the root.  I guess if one was interested in this one could try and select for plants with less fibre, but I expect there are already root crops enough.  Normally honesty is grown for the flowers, not dug up after six months like these have been.  I’m really glad I tried them though, and still have plenty of roots to experiment with.

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Honesty roots and sausage casserole

15 thoughts on “First frost and a different root crop

    1. A non-permanent alternative to horseradish if you like that, or a mild root veg if you cook them. I loosened the soil with a fork before I put the compost on the top, but the roots certainly seem to be quite long.


      1. Having discovered that nasturtium seeds also taste like horseradish, I think I’ll give cooked honesty roots a try instead. That is of course if they can grow well enough. But if not this time, I’ll hold the thought for a future date.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. looks like you had more snow than here on the west side of Lewis, I went into town Thursday and there was snow like you show in the photo on the moor and on the east side, Stornoway was slushy, then there was hail, Friday was worse,

    damage to your veg, are they evergreen? the oca foliage has gone but that, apparently, doesn’t matter the tubers go on growing under ground, I think you are quite daring/brave eating roots when you are not sure if they are safe, I couldn’t, glad it was a success, Frances


    1. There was more snow on the East side of Skye as well, and further south from Struan they still had some roadside today, so presumably had more there too.
      the veg. that have been affected will die back over winter anyway – only evergreen in warm temperate climates. I’ll leave them a bit longer, as hopefully, as you say, they will put the last effort into the tubers. The mashua outside probably will need lifting first, since that has no protection.
      I was pretty sure the honesty roots were safe – most brassicas are edible if not palatable I think, and I did an online search first (although the internet of course is not infallable!) Still living to tell the tale so far however.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I lived on Skye from August 1999 to February 2000, I would have stayed but simply could not afford any of the properties available at the time, I was staying part of the time in Satran, I noticed the snow seemed to be thicker the closer to the mainland, when I had a car I used to enjoy going through Skye when going south, a much nicer route than the A9,
        I thought the veg were probably perennial and so the foliage would die down, I leave potatoes in the ground too and dig them as I need them, though we didn’t used to get the frost we have already had this year, so I might have to rethink or cover them with something for protection, Frances


  2. The Hablitzia will probably have died back now but there should be a tight little cluster of leaves ready to sprout come spring. I still have spare plants needing homes, so I can send you some more if necessary. It’s possible it would do better in the ground so that the roots can get established before the temperatures start getting warmer.


  3. I had wondered about the top parts of honesty but not the roots! Will try some next year. I let it self seed as a green manure that is great for early bees as well. Have come to really appreciate honesty over the years.


    1. Hi Anni, I was surprised how tasty it was cooked, although as I said some was a bit stringy. If you’re weeding it out after flowering, rather than letting it set its pretty seedheads, eating it is certainly an option!


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