Saturday, 7 November 2015

Pulling the Parsnip

Over a few days at the end of October, beginning of November we had some remarkable weather, with the maximum temperatures getting up to 20°C, mild nights and sunny days. I took the opportunity to prepare the potager for onions and garlic.

Wild Parsnip pulled from the potager.
Our potager has a tendency to get over-run with certain native plants which are a nuisance in the garden so I consider to be weeds. These include Bristly Oxtongue Picris echioides, Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Dandelion Taraxacum agg, Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis, Wild Carrot Daucus carota and Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa. Of that list the two that annoy me the most are the first and last. As friends and regular readers will know, I am extremely tolerant of weeds, but Bristly Oxtongue and Wild Parsnip are vigorous, tall, stiff, deep rooted and self-seed enthusiastically. They are a complete pain in a working garden. I'm also sensitive to Wild Parsnip, which leaves me with phyto-photodermatitis (burns caused by skin contact with compounds in the plant that then react to the UV in sunlight to redden and blister).

Often I deal with weeds in a quick and dirty manner, by chopping them off at ground level. This gets them out of my way and prevents them seeding if I time it right, but doesn't kill the plant. When I eventually get round to pulling them out entirely they can put up quite a fight. The one in the photo above was right on the edge of a fallow row, so had been chopped off several times and lived through several seasons because I hadn't needed to remove it. Now the row is back in service and planted with onions, that parsnip had to go. 

Looking at that impressive tap root you can see why some enterprising Roman gardener looked at Wild Parsnip and started cultivating it deliberately for the table though. Even on a wild plant there is obviously considerable carbohydrate potential.

4 comments:

  1. Susan...
    you didn't get all the root....
    you must have all the root!!

    Record length parsnips are a UK veg show standard...
    often grown in specially made tubes....
    two lengths of plastic gutter strapped tightly together is the favourite.
    So I looked the current record up...
    and found this...
    "An amateur gardener from Newark in Notts. has grown the world's longest parsnip.
    Peter Glazebrook's super-sized parsnip measures in at 18.5ft - or 5.607 metres...
    36 times the length of a normal variety.
    "
    This was on display at Harrogate at the National Giant Vegetable Show...
    part of the Harrogate Autumn Flower and Vegetable Show...
    an event that Pauline and I always used to go to....
    the flower part I hasten to add!

    But this area of the show was strange...
    a world of mainly retired gentlemen-gardeners with a penchant for huge veg...
    could it be compensating for something lost??

    A world apart...
    longest beetroot, heaviest beetroot...
    longest carrot, heaviest carrot...
    and the same two classes for parsnips!
    As well as a world of Giant Cabbages, Huge Marrows and Vast Pumpkins...

    It is a world of giant onions...
    the aforementioned Peter Glazebrook lost out last year when his 2012 world record 18lb onion was topped by an 18lb 1.5oz monster...

    A world of giant leeks...
    two classes... pot and blanch...
    the former are the size of small car engines and around a foot in diameter...
    and you have to show three that match! PERFECTLY!!!
    The usual variety grown are from Yorkshire bred seed... surprise, surprise...
    the latter, of which you need five to exhibit, are yet more gutter-grown creatures...
    grown for length of the useable bit... as well as diameter...
    nurseryman Medwyn Williams from Anglesey, Welsh Wales is one of the masters of this dark art...
    as was Joe Maiden from Yorkshire and the BBC Radio Yorkshire gardening expert...
    sadly, Joe died this year... so any of his tips...
    like how to extend an expensive packet of eight tomato seeds...
    so that you get twelve plants from one seed....
    that might have been left unsaid, will have passed with him.
    But his picture lives on...
    gracing the pages of the Bamaux Seed Catalogue...
    He's holding some offspring of his Yorkshire bred strain of....
    giant leek... seed obtainable here, in France!!!!

    It is an odd, gargantuan world inhabited....
    by strangely obsessed men!

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    1. I think I did get all the root, just didn't rummage it out of the weed bucket to photograph it.

      As a former member of the RHS who worked close enough to Lindley Hall I have seen my fair share of fruit and veg shows, and seen the work of the great Medwyn Williams.

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  2. I planted Rainbow carrots this year and wondered why one of them was so tough. It was a white one. It looked just like the other white carrots in the row, but it was a wild daucus carota

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    Replies
    1. It's true. It was that stringiness they had to breed out of them, not any issue of size.

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