Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Posted by Kate at 5:42 PM
Okay, gardening folk, got a question for you all. What the heck is this vegetable?
These things came from a trade arranged via GardenWeb. Someone asked for some of my seeds and offered parsnip seeds. I'd never grown parsnips before, so I had no idea what the seeds were supposed to look like. I didn't bat an eye when they looked like little mustard seeds. (For the record, I now know what real parsnip seeds look like: nothing like mustard seeds.) I duly planted them in good loose soil and watched them grow. After a few frosts I harvested some roots. They tapered very smoothly and were bone white, not quite like the yellow-white, irregular parsnips I was familiar with. But I peeled them and tried adding them to a stew. Big shock when I tasted them. They weren't at all sweet, and the overpowering, mustardy taste alarmed my mouth. I fished every piece of this faux parsnip out of the stew and added them to the compost bucket.
I'm as close to 100% certain that this plant is in the brassica family as I can be. The leaves look brassicky, and when they set seed last spring, they did so in typically prolific brassica style, with little yellow flowers followed by small pods. Our laying hens positively went bonkers over any of the leaves I was willing to cut for them last spring.
These chance seedlings popped up last year and are growing quickly already this spring. They have much lumpier roots. They're not in well worked ground, so the roots are encountering much more resistance. I think you can see why the person who sent the seeds to me might have believed that these were parsnips. I'm assuming good faith here. After the inescapable conclusion that these were not parsnips, I suspected that they might be the European root crop, the rampion. But since the rampion is not a brassica, I now have my doubts. Besides, rampions are said to have sweet roots with a nutty flavor. So I'm stumped.
I'm willing to let these mystery plants hang around and grow where they may, since my hens seem to love the leaves so very, very much. But if there's some part of it that we could be eating, I'd sure like to know.