BEETROOT (Beta vulgaris)

Beetroot are great pickled, grated raw, or just boiled and skinned and sliced when cold. You can have Borscht soup personally, but some people rave about it. Eat the young early sown ones in summer, or keep them in store (see below) for the winter months.


Beetroots can come in different shapes and colours.

Bulls Blood: If you want a traditional dark red round beetroot this is as good as any.

Chioggia: is originally from Italy has rings of red and white when cut open and is very sweet.

Cylindra: is long and cylindrical with most of the root growing above ground, which is said to make this beet exceptionally sweet.

Soil & Feeding:

Beetroot likes a deep rich soil and you can fork in one bucket of garden compost per square metre, but I have never done this because I grow them in the last year of the six course rotation I use, which has had plenty of compost and green manures over the previous six years, including a green manure of lupins or tic-beans growing in the previous winter and so they seem to always grow well.


Beetroot seeds last 4 years

Sow them outside in spring for summer eating and late spring, early summer for your winter supplies.

Draw out furrows 2cm (¾in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart, placing 2 seeds every 10-15cm (4-6in), pulling out the weakest if two come up.


Pull up the beetroot by the stem and leaves. Rub off the soil from the root and twist off the stems and leaves whilst holding the neck with the other hand, so as to leave about 2cm (¾in) of stems. Do not cut the stems. This will ensure minimum loss of juices if you want to boil or pickle them. Personally I prefer to grate them raw with carrots for use in a salad. Don’t throw the leaves away, as they make great tasty spinach cooked, or use the leaves in salads.


In colder climates, with hard winters, harvest in the autumn and check that each beetroot is clean, dry and has no damage. The best storage medium is dry baled peat, or better still, vermiculite, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir, which are more ecologically sound.

Spread a 5cm layer of peat, or alternative, on the bottom of a wooden box. Set out the beets in rows not touching each other. Fill in the gaps with more peat, then add another 5cm layer and repeat as before until the entire crop is cosy in its winter box. Store the box indoors somewhere cool and dry where it will not get frosted. Use as and when needed throughout the winter, getting rid of any that are showing signs of rotting.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The beet family is amazingly free of pests and diseases, however they can get mildew on the leaves if the soil and plants are not healthy enough. If they have signs of mildew, spray with a solution of Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate), or spray with Trichoderma viride – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ - HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES and THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS for details). 

CARROT (Daucus carota var sativa)

What would we do without carrots? They are definitely one of our ‘staple’ foods. We grow both orange and red carrots, the orange ones because we have always grown them, but we have found in the last two years that the red ones (with orange flesh) are one of the best for sweetness and taste.

If you have heavy soil it is probably best to grow short stumpy varieties, but if you have lose loam or sandy deep topsoil you can grow the more traditional longer ones.

Soil & Feeding:

Carrots need little feeding. The best place to grow them is a plot, which was composted or manured the previous year, because fresh manure will encourage the carrots to fork. I have also found that growing them in a plot that has had green manure recently dug in will also make them fork.

Well rotted compost or leaf mould dug in is excellent, especially if you added wood ashes, seaweed or comfrey to the compost when you were making it, because carrots enjoy a little extra potassium, which these additives are rich in. The tradition was to rake in a good scattering of wood ashes when preparing a carrot bed, but wood ash is almost like chemical fertiliser made of an assorted batch of potassium carbonate molecules of which only a few are usable. By putting wood ash through a compost heap the potassium and calcium and other nutrients are converted into more useful and available bio-chemicals attached to humus particles which are released as and when the plants need them. However, if there is no alternative, use wood ash from untreated wood, along with several spays of liquid seaweed during the growing season - (see: LIQUID MANURES in the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’).


Berlicum: is a good all round variety, very sweet, medium-long stumpy variety, which is good young and mature. It is resistant to Alternaria blight and splitting. This variety we use as our main crop as it does very well and produces heavy crops.

Purple Dragon

Purple Dragon

Purple Dragon: is another variety we grow that comes from a very ancient line, going back several thousand years (see left). They are medium length and have the traditional broad shoulders and a fine taper. The colours range from dark violet to reddish purple, with a sweet orange centre – great for grating and eating raw. For those with a heavy clay soil, or shallow topsoil that has not yet been improved by the methods I describe, there are two varieties that might suit you in the mean time:

Mini Sweet: is a cylindrical variety that is suitable on heavier soils where growing long varieties is problematic. It is only 10 cm long and very sweet.

Paris Market: is a 19th century French heirloom variety, which completely spherical, and especially good for growing on very heavy clay soils. These round carrots are 2.5-4 cm (1-1½in) in diameter.


Carrot seeds last 3 years

Carrots do not like being transplanted, so sow out in a bed that has been prepared by raking any trash and larger stones off and raking it flat.

I am now going to tell you the best way to sow carrots that my father taught me, which he learnt from his father who was a professional horticulturist – thank you granddad.

Carrot seed is very fine. It needs a warm soil to germinate and needs to be kept moist until it has properly started to grow. If the small seeds start to germinate and then dry out, they will easily desiccate and die. It is essential therefore, to make sure you wait in the spring until the soil where you live has warmed up. Be patient. Test it with your hand – does it feel comfortable? If so you can proceed as follows:

Take out 1cm (⅜in) deep drills with a stick, or better still, your finger or the side of your hand, with the rows 20cm (8in) apart; then gently dribble some water from a watering can, without the rose on, down the drills, this will wash a little of the soil into the drill which should end up about 5mm (3/16in) deep and damp. Then take some of the seeds between your thumb and first finger and move your hand steadily down each drill whilst rubbing your thumb and finger together, this will allow the fine seeds to drop reasonably spaced apart. Aim for 3cm (1in) between seeds. It will be inevitable that it will not be that accurate. An easier way is to mix the seed with 8 times the amount of either dry sand, or better still, bone meal flour, sprinkling this mix down the rows.

Now cover the seeds lightly, about 4mm (⅛in) with sieved garden compost, leaf mould, or peat. Then water gently, but thoroughly, with the rose on the watering can, to finish. Unless it is raining, water each day to ensure the seeds stay moist until the little seedlings are definitely showing.

In milder areas you can sow carrots several times in the year, including a late sowing in early autumn for the seedlings to overwinter and provide an early crop in late spring.


Carrots take around 2½ to 3½ months to grow to full size. When they about 3 or 4 cm high, carefully weed between the rows with a Japanese Niwashi small hand hoe or old knife, and then carefully place 2cm (¾in) grass clippings in the rows as a mulch, always remembering to make sure the soil is moist first before applying the mulch. This will help to control weeds and keep in moisture and may also help to reduce carrot fly damage (see: Possible Pests & Diseases, below). Water and add more grass clippings as the carrots grow. Wait until the leaves are about 10-15cm (4-6in) high before thinning them out and eating the baby carrots raw – yum.


You can pull some when they are young, but remember to leave the majority in until autumn for winter use. In warmer parts of the world with milder winters, you may be able to leave them in all winter, unless slugs are a problem. Here in Nelson this is usually possible. If you live somewhere where the winters are cold and the ground regularly freezes in winter, you will need to dig them up and store them.

Harvest on a dry day. You can try pulling the carrots out, but if this is difficult to do without breaking them, then you will need to dig them out. Be careful! Work a garden fork or spade strait down between the rows as deep as you can and leaver out the carrots without breaking or damaging them. The ones that get damaged need to be eaten within a few weeks, or blanched and frozen.


Cut the foliage off 2½ cm (1in) from the roots and leave the carrots on the soil to dry in the sun for the soil to flake off without washing. Store the undamaged ones in boxes. Add 3cm (1in) peat, peat substitute or leaf mould to the bottom of your box and place a layer of carrots on the peat not touching each other. This is to ensure that if one rots it will not rot its neighbour. Then add another 3cm (1in) of peat and continue the layers finishing with a final layer of peat. Store in a frost proof, but cool building or room. We have kept carrots like this through hard winters before with this method when we lived in the UK.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Carrot Fly: The most obvious pest is the carrot root fly grub that makes the carrots unstorable, because the grubs will continue to eat away your carrot in store and allow rot to enter. Crop rotation will ensure that there is less likelihood of the flies emerging from the soil where they are growing, but that won’t stop them from coming from next door or even from kilometres away for that matter.

The traditional answer is to sow onions next to the carrots so that the foliage scent baffles the pest, but this is effective only for the distant flies. Incredible as it may seem, these greenish-black flies, less than ½cm (3/16in) long, will travel up to 12 kilometres in quest of carrots, and though the onion scent will mask the foliage, it is not effective at point blank range of a kilometre (½ mile); or if there are pupae in the soil of the garden next door! The creatures have only to use their eyes. Grass-clippings spread between the rows and renewed after every mowing, provide a cheap and constant scent barrage.

However, if these precautions have all failed and you still have a serious problem with carrot fly, then the only method that has been shown to work effectively, for those who do not wish to use poisons, is the barrier method. It has been found that when searching for carrots the carrot flies will cruise low to the ground. Using this knowledge, someone came up with the idea of erecting a barrier around the carrot bed – and it worked! The barrier has to be 60cm (2ft) high to be effective and it can be made of fine cloth, clear plastic, corrugated tin sheet etc., as long as there are no holes for the little flies to climb through. Also you need to make sure the barrier is touching the ground all round. You will need to bang in stakes or bamboos every metre or so to fix the barrier to, so it is secure enough to withstand winds. The barrier also helps to create a warmer semi shaded area for the carrots, which benefits them.


This is one of my favourite ways of cooking carrots:

Brazed Carrots & Ginger

This recipe is not to use on its own, but as a veg dish to accompany meat and rice or other dishes.


• 2 large carrots thinly diced

• 4cm (1½in) long fresh ginger root julienned

• 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup

• A large knob of butter


1. Wash and peel the carrots and thinly slice

2. Peel and cut ginger into very thin slices, then cut the slices into fine strips (julienne)

3. Add the butter to a pan and heat on medium until melted

4. Throw in the carrot slices and julienned ginger root and braze for 4 minutes

5. Turn the heat down and add the honey and cook until carrots and ginger are tender

Golden Slice 

serves 4

This is Rose Elliot’s ever-popular recipe.


• 185g (6½oz) cheddar cheese

• 185g (6½oz) grated carrots

• 155g (5½oz) rolled oats

• A sprig of fresh rosemary stripped and chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 60g (2oz) butter

• White sauce


1. Grate the cheese and carrots

2. Mix together with oats, the chopped rosemary, and season with salt and pepper

3. Melt the butter in a pan and pour into the oats and mix in

4. Press the ingredients into a 20cm buttered flan dish

5. Bake ½ hour at 1900C (3740F)

6. It should be slightly crisp and lightly browned

7. Serve with a white sauce

CELERIAC (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum)

This is a great winter vegetable. It is a form of celery, which grows a large bulbous root, swollen stem base, which grows just above the ground and is the bit that is eaten.

It does however grow a bit like an octopus with lots of smaller roots growing off the main bulb, but they are not difficult to cut off when harvesting and anyway the modern varieties are more round and less octopus like than the older varieties.

Soil & Feeding:

Celeriac prefers a water retentive soil rich in organic matter, so dig in 2 buckets of well-rotted compost or manure per square metre (yard). They also like Phosphorus, so adding bone meal at ½ kg (1 pound) per square metre (yard) is also helpful. It likes a pH of 6.5, which is what you should be aiming for, for all your soil. 


Sedano di Verona: is one modern variety we have done very well with and has produced some heavy round stems each year.


Celeriac seeds last 3 years

Sow the very fine celeriac seeds in seed compost in seed boxes around late winter, early spring – (see: the section ‘Propagation Techniques’GROWING FROM SEED – Seed Compost – for homemade seed compost recipes).

Because the seeds are so fine, extra care is necessary when sowing. All small seeds have little food and water supplies, so they need to be kept warm and damp until they have germinated and are at least 2cm (¾in) high. Celeriac seeds can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

Celeriac and celery seeds need light to germinate, so sow them on the surface of the seed compost and don’t cover them, just gently press them level with the surface with a board or hand. You can sprinkle some fine vermiculite over the seeds in a single layer to maintain moisture, but still allow light through. They need a temperature of around 18C (64F) to germinate.

Pick up a few of the fine seeds between your thumb and forefinger, then as you move your fingers up the rows, 2cm (¾in) apart. Wriggle your finger against your thumb allowing the seeds to drop bit by bit. Try to aim for the seeds to land about 1cm (⅜in) apart – but don’t be too fussy if they are not that even. If you are using weed-free seed compost, you can carefully sprinkle the seeds over the surface, aiming at 1cm (⅜in) apart.

Water the seed box from below by placing in a tray of water ½ the depth of the box. If you water from above you could dislodge the seeds. Cover the box or pot with clear plastic, polythene or glass to retain moisture until the seeds have germinated. Keep the seed box in a warm place, glasshouse, cold frame, inside in a window etc. You might need to take the plastic or glass off every few days to spray lightly with water from a hand held spray bottle with the nozzle set on fine. The little bright green leaves will eventually appear.


For Biodynamic practice – plant out in a ‘Descending Moon’ when in an earth sign (Capricorn or Taurus).

Plant out in mid-spring 30cm (1ft) apart in rows 35cm (14in) apart, or plant in blocks 30cm (1ft) apart. As soon as you can handle them (I use a pair of tweezers to pick out the unwanted ones) thin them out to 1½-2cm (½-¾in) apart – then let them grow on until about 5cm (2in) high. Place a handful of worm compost (or well rotted garden compost) in a little hole you have scooped out where they are to be planted and plant the little plants directly into the compost and water in. This will both feed them and retain moisture while they get established.

Mulch with grass-clippings or other fine mulch when they are about 7cm (3in) high after you have weeded and watered them first. Two or three times through the growing season, water with diluted liquid manure and they will also enjoy some liquid seaweed.


Here in Nelson we are able to leave them in the ground most of the winter to harvest as and when we need them. Mulching around the roots with dry straw also helps to protect them against mild frost damage and rot, especially if the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing, but if your winters are hard then you will need to harvest and store them.


Harvest between mid to late autumn in colder areas and store in boxes of moist peat, vermiculite, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir. Cut off the stems and clean the soil off the roots before storing.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

We get, both celery fly and celery leaf spot on both our celery and celeriac, although the celeriac is less affected. Celery fly grubs tunnel up the stems, which can make celery inedible, but is not so important to the eating qualities of celeriac. However it is best to control it by pulling off affected stems and burning or placing in the refuse bin, this will prevent a second-generation attack in mid spring. We have also had a little leaf spot, which can also be controlled by removing the effected leaves that have brown spots.

Celery Fly: For celery fly, remove the leaves and stems affected regularly and spray every 2 weeks with Neem oil.

Celery Leaf Spot: Remove the leaves and stems affected regularly. Leaf spot is a bacterial disease and so I have been using a strong garlic spray, by mashing up cloves of garlic, pouring boiling water over, letting it cool, then sieving and adding a few drops of Eco liquid washing soap, then spraying once a week. You can also try the Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’HOMEMADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES.

Celeriac can also get slug or frost damage to the roots, which can cause rot to start on the outside of the root. Keep an eye open and harvest immediately. Cut off the effected parts and use as soon as possible.


Celeriac can be roasted with other root vegetables, made into wonderful winter soup, grated for salad and grated and pickled using lacto-acid fermentation (same as sauerkraut).

Celeriac & Mung Dahl Soup

Feeds 4 or 5


• 1 medium onion, peeled

• 1 teaspoon ghee or butter

• 1 teaspoon olive oil

• 450g (1 pound) celeriac chopped into cubes

• 200g (7oz) mung dhal

• 1½ litres (50floz) filtered water

• 2 bay leaves

• Celery salt and freshly milled black pepper


1. On medium heat add ghee and olive oil in pan

2. Coarsely chop onion and fry in ghee and olive oil until transparent

3. Add chopped celeriac, mung dhal, water, bay leaves and bring to boil, then simmer until the dhal has disintegrated, about ½ hour.

4. Take out bay leaves and liquidise with a stick blender or liquidiser and add celery

5. Salt and pepper to taste

Fermented Celeriac & Carrot

I have been making sauerkraut and other fermented pickles for a while now. One of my favourites is this one. This recipe comes from ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon – as far as I am concerned a ‘must have’ book on traditional ways of preserving and increasing the digestibility and nutrition of food, as well as challenging many of the dietary myths that abound today.

‘Nourishing Traditions’ is published by New Trends Publishing, Inc – ISBN 0-96708973-5.


• 3 cups grated celeriac, tightly packed

• 1 cup grated carrots, tightly packed

• 1 tablespoon sea salt

• 4 tablespoons whey (if not available use a additional 1 tablespoon salt)

Whey can be extracted from thick full cream organic yogurt by hanging it in a muslin cloth, tied and hung for 12 hours over a bowl to collect the whey. The waste product, the thickened yogurt, can then be used as ‘cheese’, or for making smoothies. 


1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices.

2. Place in a 1 litre wide mouth mason jar and press down the contents firmly with the pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the grated celeriac and carrots

3. The top of the mixture should be at least 3cm (1in) below the rim of the jar

4. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage or the fridge

5. Use from a week onwards as a condiment

DAIKON (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus)

There are many varieties of oriental winter white radish, but Daikon usually refers to the large long white Japanese radish. Also known as white radish, mooli or Oriental radish, daikon radishes can grow well over 30cm (1ft) long. They have a crispy texture, mild flavour and are delicious cooked or eaten raw. I have also had great results from pickling them the same way as sauerkraut with whey and salt (see below).

Soil & Feeding:

Plant daikon radishes in loose, easily draining soil that has been enriched with mature compost. Daikon radishes should not need much feeding if planted in fertile soil. If the soil is poor, incorporate 1-2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard). They will also benefit from a spray of compost tea a couple of times throughout the growing season. Avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, because this produces lush leaves but poor roots.


Tokinashi: is very slow to bolt, with a pure white root 25-30cm (10-12in) long and 5cm (2in) in diameter, tapering to a sharp tip. The roots are tender, crisp and rather pungent.


Diakon seeds last 5 years.

Unlike most varieties of radish, which grow very quickly, Daikon radishes take 60-70 days to fully mature. They also prefer cool temperatures. For this reason, they are best if sown in late summer, about 2 months before the first frosts, so they can mature during the cooling weather of autumn. They can also be sown in the spring, particularly in more mild climates, once the soil has started to warm up. Daikon radishes can also be grown over winter in warmer climates.

Sow daikon radish seeds about 1cm (⅜in) deep and 5cm (2in) apart in a freshly prepared garden bed, thinning seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart once they are 5cm (2in) tall. Space rows about 60cm (2ft) apart, or for deep beds space plants 20cm (8in) apart on diagonal planting.


Water your daikon radishes regularly during dry weather. Try to keep the soil moist. Give them a good long soak as soon as the top of the soil dries out, but avoid overwatering; the soil should never be soggy, because if roots are left to sit in too much water they are prone to rot. Hand weed carefully and regularly.


Daikon radishes should be harvested before the first hard frost of autumn or after about 60-70 days. Try to loosen the soil around each radish without damaging the vegetables, because they break very easily. Pull them out of the ground by their cluster of leaves.


In this part of the world (central New Zealand) the Daikon can be left in over winter and harvested as and when necessary. If you live where winters are harder the Daikon needs carefully harvesting, the leaves trimmed off and the roots stored in peat, or preferably homemade leaf mould or untreated sawdust in boxes, making sure the Daikon roots don’t touch each other. The boxes should be stored in a cool, dry, frost-free room or shed.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests: As a member of the crucifer family, radishes are attacked by the same pests that attack cabbages and cauliflowers – see Broccoli.

Diseases: Because of the short growing period, Daikon has few diseases.

Black Rot: This is the most common disease caused by a soil-borne fungus. Dark irregular patches develop on the radish root and eventually give the entire root a black colour. Long-rooted cultivars can be severely attacked. The disease is controlled by good soil drainage and good soil structure and crop rotations where Daikon or other brassicas are not growing more often than every 3-4 years. If the disease persists, sprinkle Trichoderma viride powder or granules onto the soil and water in, where you are going to sow the seeds.


Pickled Daikon Radish

Makes 1 litre

This is my favourite way of using Daikon, however grated fresh in salad is also good.


• 1 - 1½ kg (2-3 pounds) daikon radish, peeled and grated

• 1 tablespoon sea salt

• 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional tablespoon of salt)

To make whey see Celeriac above. 


1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and pound with wooden pounder or meat hammer to release juices

2. Place radish mixture in a litre-sized masonry jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the radish mixture. The top of the radish mixture should be at least 2½ cm (1in) below the top of the jar

3. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage

4. You can use at 3 days old, but it the flavour increases the longer you keep it. Traditional sauerkraut was kept 6 months before eating

Watercress, Bell Pepper, and Daikon Radish Salad

Serves 8


• 1½ tablespoons white-wine vinegar

• ½ tablespoon olive oil

• 3 bunches of watercress, coarse stems discarded, rinsed well and spun dry (about 12 cups)

• 2 red bell peppers, cut into julienne strips

• 230g (½ pound) daikon radish, peeled and cut into julienne strips


1. In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste 2. Add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified.

3. Add the watercress, the bell peppers, and the daikon and toss the salad well. 

Jicama Roots

Jicama Roots

JICAMA (Pachyrhizus erosus)

Jicama, or Mexican Water Chestnut, is a leguminous Mexican vine, which can reach a height of 4-5 metres (13-16ft), given suitable support. It has purple flowers and a large heart shaped root (the edible bit), which varies from 15-30cm (6-12in) across and 10-15cm (4-6in) deep.

Jicama Vine

Jicama Vine

The smooth light brown skin holds a crisp firm flesh that tastes rather like water chestnuts.

Jicama is frost tender and requires 9 months without frost for a good harvest of large tubers. However, it is worth growing in cooler areas that have at least five months without frost, as it will still produce tubers, but they will be smaller.

Soil & Feeding:

As a legume, Jicama does not need high Nitrogen feeds, but it will benefit from 1 or 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard). The addition of bone meal at 6 handfuls per square metre, or 2 handfuls per plant will supply both the Phosphorus and Calcium that the plants enjoy.


Jicama seed lasts 3-4 years.

Warm, temperate areas with at least five months without frost can start seed 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. Bottom heat is recommended, as the seeds require warm temperatures to germinate – so the pots will need to be kept in a warm place. Jicama is unsuitable for colder areas with a short growing season unless cultured in a greenhouse. Tropical areas can sow seed anytime of the year. Subtropical areas should sow seed once the soil has warmed in the spring.


Remember that the plant is a prolific climber that can reach 4-5 metres (13-16ft), so they are best grown against the sunny wall of a house with some way of fixing the growth to either a trellis or wires. It is possible to let them clamber a round on the ground, but the yield will be less. Plant them out after the last frosts 15cm (6in) apart.

Frequent watering is required when rapid growth begins.

Seeds can be saved if the plant is not harvested for tubers until the seeds are dry, but the seeds contain natural rotenone, which is poisonous, so don’t eat them!


Harvest when the foliage has died down.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

The foliage and seeds contain rotenone, a natural pesticide. For this reason, Jicama suffers from few pests.


Jicama Salad


• 1 large jicama, about 570g (20oz)

• Seeds from 1 pomegranate Coriander lime dressing:

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon flax seed oil

• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

• ¼ teaspoon dried oregano (or ½ teaspoon chopped fresh)

• A dash of cayenne pepper

• ½ teaspoon honey


1. Peel and grate jicama

2. Mix immediately with dressing and chill well

3. Add pomegranate seeds and serve

KOHLRABI (Brassica oleracea gongylodes)

This brassica has a round swollen stem base. The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Except for the ‘Gigante’ cultivar, spring-grown kohlrabi much over 6cm (2in) in size tend to be woody, with the exception of the Gigante cultivar, which can achieve great size while remaining of good eating quality. 

The plant matures in 55-60 days after sowing. Approximate weight is 150g (5oz) and has good standing ability for up to 30 days after maturity. The leafy greens can also be eaten. In this part of the world, it can be left outside over winter to pick when needed.

Soil & Feeding:

Kohlrabi likes a rich soil. If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the seedlings out next to the old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans. 

If you are starting from scratch add two buckets of garden compost + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard). If the soil pH is less than 6.5 add the recommended amount of garden lime to correct it to 6.5. If it is ideal add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre (yard). Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the brassicas will benefit from.


Early Purple Vienna: is an heirloom variety, which is tasty and not tough if not allowed to grow bigger than 6cm (2in) in diameter. It will mature in 55-60 days - so sow 2 months before late autumn.

Noriko: is one of the large light green ones, but the bulbs are tender if they are not allowed to get too big. Allow 25cm (10in) between plants, instead of the usual 10cm (4in) + an extra two weeks to mature, 70-75 days.


You can sow them mid-spring if you want them in summer, but I think their real value is for autumn production. In either case sow the seed in shallow drills and transplant 23cm (9in) apart, or 25cm (10in) for Noriko, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or 23-25cm (9-10in) diagonally between them if planting in deep beds. If the weather is hot and dry when you plant the seedlings in their growing area, a good way to help them is to place a good handful of worm compost in the planting hole, around the roots. I have found that the sticky rich nature of the worm compost holds moisture well, so they are less likely to flag, as well as giving the young plants a good feed.


As brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of annual Crimson Clover will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop.


It is possible to lift and store them for a short while in damp peat, or better still homemade leaf mould, or coconut coir somewhere cool and frost free, otherwise leave them in through the winter in warmer areas, or if your winters are harsh eat them before the colder weather comes.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

Cabbage White Butterflies:

The caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spray with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects only the caterpillars, and only when they take a bite out of your plants.


Of course kohlrabi can be peeled and thinly sliced or grated and added to salad mix. It can also be traditionally pickled like sauerkraut – see pickled Celeriac recipe for method.

Kohlrabi O-Gratin


• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 knob butter, plus a little more for greasing the dish

• 2 medium onions (about 600g), halved and finely sliced

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 500g (1 pound) kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 3mm thick rounds

• 250g (9oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 3mm rounds

• 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

• 200ml (6¾floz) cream

• 200ml (6¾floz) water (or chicken or vegetable stock)

• 1 big handful baby spinach, or chopped spinach beet leaves

• 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

For the topping:

• 30g (1oz) fresh breadcrumbs

• 30g (1oz) ground cashews

• 25g (¾oz) butter, melted

• 45g (1½oz) cheddar or hard goat's cheese, grated


1. Preheat the oven to 1900C (3740F). Place a medium-sized frying pan over a medium heat. Add the oil and butter, wait until it foams, then add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 12 minutes, until soft and starting to take on a little colour.

2. Throw in the kohlrabi, potatoes and thyme, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing the mixture occasionally, for another five minutes.

3. Pour over the cream and stock, simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half, stir in the spinach and parsley, then place in a lightly buttered gratin dish, about 30cm x 20cm x 7cm (12 x 18 x 2¾in) size, levelling it out with a spatula as you go. Place the gratin dish on a baking tray.

4. Blitz together the breadcrumbs, ground cashew nuts, butter and cheese in a blender, and sprinkle over the top of the filling. Bake the gratin in a hot oven for about 35-40 minutes, until all golden and bubbling.

Kohlrabi Carpaccio

Serves 4


• 1 medium (or 2 small) kohlrabi

• 4-6 anchovy fillets cut into thin strips

• 50g (1¾oz) hard goat's cheese

• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

• Juice of 1 lemon

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Peel the kohlrabi, slice it into thin slivers with a vegetable peeler and divide these between four plates (or even one larger platter).

2. Scatter the strips of anchovy fillet on top of the kohlrabi, and then shave the goat's cheese over, again using a vegetable peeler.

3. Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, squeeze over a spritz of lemon juice and trickle on a little olive oil.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve at once.

Newly Harvested Parsnips

Newly Harvested Parsnips

PARSNIP (Pastinaca sativa)

Parsnips are another staple winter root crop, along with carrots, turnips, swedes, celeriac etc.

Soil & Feeding:

Parsnips are tolerant of fairly poor conditions, but will do best when one bucket of garden compost is incorporated into the top 6cm (2½in) of soil for better drainage and water retention.

As it is best to aim at a pH of 6.4 this is ideal for parsnips (and most crops), so add garden lime if the pH is lower, following the instructions on the packet.


Avon Resister: As the name implies, this parsnip is resistant to canker. It is easy to grow and tastes good.

Guernsey: is a pre 1826 French Heirloom cultivated in Europe for over 500 years.

Hollow Crown: was developed in England in the 1820’s. Known for its white flesh and mild flavour.


The seeds germinate very slowly, or not at all, if the soil temperature is below 120C (530F), so there is little point in sowing too early. Also, if you sow too early you are likely to get over large parsnips. Sow two or three seeds at 15cm (6in) intervals in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart in mid to late spring. As you can for Carrots, you can sow a few radishes in the same row to show you where the rows are and to eat long before the parsnips get too big. For deep beds sow two or three seeds in blocks 15cm (6in) apart each way, reducing to one when the seedlings are still small.

If you have very stony ground then you can make holes with a crowbar at 15cm (6in) intervals about 45cm (18in) deep and 8cm (3in) in diameter at the top. Fill these with good soil or organic matter, and then sow two or three seeds in each hole, later thinning to one.


Keep the crop weed free and water on a regular basis to stop the roots from cracking.


The chances are you will not be able to pull them up without breaking them – so push down a garden fork vertically by the side of the root and loosen them before lifting. Lift the roots after the first frost, as the frost will improve the flavour making them sweeter. The tops will have died off by then. In warmer areas, such as here in mid New Zealand, they can be left in and dug when needed. In colder areas, dig them up, rub off the soil, twist off the tops and loosely pack in boxes, between layers of moist peat, or better still homemade leaf mould or vermiculite. Store in a cool, frost-free shed, or cellar.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Good healthy friable soil conditions with good drainage will help to keep the roots healthy.

Canker: You may get carrot root fly grubs, but the most common problem is canker. This fungus disease causes reddish brown marks on the shoulder of the root and these will often spread further into the root, causing it to rot. There is no cure, but having healthy soil conditions producing fast growth and using resistant varieties such as ‘Avon Resister’, will help.


Roasted Parsnips with Grain Mustard & Maple Syrup

Feeds 4


• 6 parsnips, peeled and cut into long wedges

• 3 tablespoons maple syrup

• 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


1. Heat oven to 200oC (392oF)

2. Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil. Tip in the roots, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes.

3. Drain well, then dry on paper towel

4. Whisk together the syrup, mustard and oil with some seasoning, then gently toss with the parsnip wedges and ideally leave to marinate for an hour.

5. Coat a baking pan with olive oil 6. Lay out the marinated wedges in the baking pan, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes

Parsnip & Walnut Fritters

Feeds 6


• 1 kg (2 pounds) parsnips

• 125g (4½oz) shelled walnuts

• 2 large eggs

• 75g (2½oz) melted butter

• 2 heaped teaspoons flour

• 145ml (5floz) milk

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Clean the parsnips, then cut into four lengthwise. You can then cut off most of the fibrous cores which will be fairly obvious

2. Boil the parsnip wedges until tender

3. Put them through a mouli-légumes, discarding any tough bits, or liquidize in a food processor, then pass through a sieve

4. Mix to a smooth paste with the eggs, flour, butter and milk + salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the walnuts

5. Heat a deep pan of oil to between 175oC-190oC (347-374oF)

6. Slip in spoonfuls of the mixture, making sure you include a piece of walnut with each spoonful

7. Remove with a slotted spoon when they are deep golden brown

8. Serve as a course on their own with vegetables, or with baked fish

ROOT PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum) 

This is a parsley that has leaves like Italian flat leaved parsley, but which is grown for the root which looks like a slim parsnip, but with a nutty parsley taste. If you like your winter roots then this is one you should definitely try, especially if you don’t particularly like the taste of parsnips.

Soil & Feeding:

Root parsley is tolerant of fairly poor conditions, but will do best when one bucket of garden compost is incorporated into the top 6cm (2½in) of soil, for better water retention and better drainage. 

As it is best to aim at a pH of 6.4 this is ideal for parsnips, so add garden lime if the pH is lower, following the instructions on the packet.


I know two names for Root Parsley

Hamburg or Bartowich Long. They may be the same or different. In either case they will do the job.


As with parsnips, the seeds germinate very slowly, if at all if the soil temperature is below 120C (53½0F), so there is little point in sowing too early.

Sow two or three seeds at 15 cm intervals in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart, and as you can for Carrots you can sow a few radishes in the same row to show you where the rows are and to eat long before the root parsley gets too big. For deep beds sow two or three seeds in blocks 15cm (6in) apart each way.

If you have very stony ground then you can make holes with a crowbar at 15cm intervals about 45cm (18in) deep and 8cm (3in) in diameter at the top. Fill these with good soil or organic matter, then sow two or three seeds in each hole and later thin to one.


Keep the crop weed free and water on a regular basis to stop the roots from cracking.


The chances are you will not be able to pull them up without breaking them; so push down a garden fork vertically by the side of the Parsley Root and loosen them before lifting. Lift the roots after the first frost, as the frost will improve the flavour making them sweeter. The tops will have died off by then. In warmer areas with mild winters, the roots can be left in and dug when needed. In colder areas, dig them up, rub off the soil and loosely pack in boxes, between layers of moist peat or vermiculite. Store in a cool, frost-free shed, or cellar.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Good healthy friable soil conditions with good drainage will help to keep the roots healthy. You may get carrot root fly grubs, but the most common problem is canker. This disease causes reddish brown marks on the shoulder of the root and these will often spread further into the root, causing it to rot. There is no cure, but having healthy soil conditions and producing fast growth helps.


You can substitute Root Parsley for any recipe using either parsnips or celeriac. Added to other roots and roasted is the way I prefer them. For a great way to roast Root Parsley see: Roasted Parsnips with Grain Mustard & Maple Syrup



SALSIFY (Tragopogon porrifolius) & SCORZONERA (Scorzonera hispanica)

We first came across Salsify and Scorzonera in the UK when we were farming and thought we would give them a try to add to the list of winter root crops we were growing. They both have strap like leaves, which can be used for salad. They are both bi-annuals that form edible roots in the first season and flowers the following spring. Salsify has beautiful daisy-like purple flowers and Scorzonera has yellow flowers.

The seeds are large and easy to save if you leave some roots in to flower the next year. Scorzonera has a particularly deep root. Salsify has a white root and Scorzonera a black root with white flesh. Both have a flavour that is very similar to Jerusalem artichokes. Both have edible flowers. Some say Scorzonera has a better taste than Salsify, but try both.

It is said that if you mix their seed with carrot seed they keep carrot fly away from carrots – hmm I have heard all these tricks before, but read about how to truly keep off carrot fly, see CARROTS! Cook with skins on, then after cooking you can slip the skins off.

Soil & Feeding:

As with carrots, the soil should be loose and deep. If you have had preceding crops that had plenty of compost or well rotted manure, this should be enough for them, but if not then you can add compost, but it needs to be very well rotted, otherwise the roots will fork, just like carrots. Never use fresh manure for this reason.


Most catalogues just sell them as Salsify and Scorzonera, but there are a few cultivars:

Salsify: White French and Mammoth Sandwich Island

Scorzonera: Russian Giant


As with carrots they don’t like being transplanted, so sow them direct, outside in 2cm (¾in) deep drills 30cm (1ft) apart, thinning the seedlings to 15cm (18in) apart.


Keep the beds weed free and when the plants are about 5cm high, mulch with 2cm of lawn clippings.


In late autumn on a dry day, carefully dig up the roots, cut the leaves off just above the crown and let them dry on the soil for a few hours. Then gently rub off any excess soil and place in a box with moist peat, homemade leaf mould or coconut coir, in layers with the roots not touching, storing in a frost-free shed, unless you live in an area with mild winters.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Salsify and Scorzonera are both generally trouble free.


Cook both with skins on, then after cooking you can slip the skins off.

Salsify Fritters


• 300g (10½oz) salsify

• 45g (1½oz) unsalted butter

• 1 garlic clove, minced

• 1 small red chilli, finely diced

• 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

• 1 tablespoon flour

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Peel and coarsely grate the salsify.

2. Warm 20g (¾oz) of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the salsify until softened.

3. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chilli, coriander, egg and flour.

4. Season generously, then form into six fritters.

5. Warm the remaining butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side.

Scozonera & Leak au Gratin

Feeds 4


• 10 Scorzonera roots

• 10 small leaks

For the sauce

• 2 Tbs. butter

• 2 Tbs. flour

• 1 cup milk

• ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For the topping

• ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

• ½ cup finally chopped raw cashew nuts

• A good knob of butter


1. Place a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Scrub the Scorzonera roots under the tap (do not peel) and cut to fit an earthenware oven dish

3. Add the Scorzonera roots to the pan of boiling water, about 15-20 minutes depending upon the thickness.

4. Wash and clean the leeks then add them to the pan. They take a little less time to cook than the Scorzonera

5. Once the Scorzonera and leeks are tender drain them and lay them out lengthways in the oven dish

6. In the mean time melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then add flour and stir for a 2-3 minutes, then slowly pour in the milk stirring all the time, continuing to stir for 3-5 minutes until thickened, then stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.

7. Pour evenly over the Scorzonera and leaks

8. Process the cashews and parmesan cheese in a processor until crumbly but not too fine, then add a good knob of butter and pulse until like breadcrumbs

9. Sprinkle the topping over the Scorzonera, leaks and sauce and place under a grill until golden brown

SWEDE Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica)

The name Swede comes from Swedish turnip, however it is not a true turnip, it is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It is often considered to have originated in Scandinavia or Russia as a wild cross in the middle ages.

If you’re not a great fan of turnips, then give Swede a try, they are definitely much more tasty and great mashed 50/50 with potatoes as the Scots like them – which they call ‘tatties and neap’s’. 

They are also good in stews, or just mashed on their own with lots of butter, pepper and salt and some good pinches of ground nutmeg.

They are very hardy; in fact they only start to taste best when they have been through a few frosts.

Soil & Feeding:

They like a well-drained soil with a minimum pH of 6.5 to help combat club root, which they are prone to, so add lime if needed at the recommended rate. Like all root crops they don’t like overfeeding, but they do like a free draining soil with a high organic matter, so they will need 2 bucketfuls of compost per square metre (yard). As a brassica, they should be grown in the brassica bed, not the root bed, along with turnips.

A lack of trace elements results in a tasteless bitter harvest, so adding seaweed meal or watering and spraying regularly with liquid seaweed during the growing season will not only help to counteract mildew but produce great tasting Swedes.


Champion Purple Top: is an Heirloom variety with a pleasing rich flavour.

Lawes American Purple Top: is another Heirloom similar to the above.

Marian: has a good flavour and has been bred for its resistance to club root and mildew.


Sow outside in late spring or early summer. Sow seeds in shallow drills 45cm (18in) apart, thinning the seedlings to 30cm (1ft) in the rows.


Keep free of weeds and water as necessary. When the plants are 5-6cm (2-2½in) high you can mulch with 3-4cm (1-1½in) of grass clippings.


Apart from areas, which have very hard winters, leave them in and harvest throughout the winter as needed.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Mildew is the main problem we have encountered. Prevent it by spraying regularly through the growing season with seaweed spray. Also milk watered down 50/50 with water has had good results as a preventative, or spraying with Trichoderma bio-fungicide.


One of the best ways to cook Swedes is to peel them and chop them into chunks and boil them until tender. In another pan boil the same amount of potatoes peeled and cut into chunks. The Potatoes will cook faster than the Swede. When both are soft, drain both and add together in one pan with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, plus a good dollop of butter and a good couple of pinches of ground nutmeg. Mash together well, and serve as part of a main meal.

Swedes are also good chopped up in stews or soups with other vegetables, beans, meats etc.

TURNIP (Brassica rapa var. rapa)

Turnips are one of the easiest of root crops to grow. They can be grown from spring to autumn with the final crop pulled and stored for the winter. 

Soil & Feeding:  

The earliest varieties need well-manured soil for fast growth, so 1 bucket of compost and 1 handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser should be incorporated into each square metre (yard). The main crop should be grown in the brassica bed with the other brassicas. 


Milan Red Top: is a quick growing variety for spring and summer growing. They have a red top and white bottom. Best eaten when 5-7cm (2-3in) across.

Golden Ball: is an old Heirloom variety first recorded in France as early as 1854. This is a good main crop variety, which is quite hardy, with yellow flesh and excellent flavour. The tops can also be eaten as greens.


You can start early turnips in a seed box or tray in a greenhouse or on a windowsill and then plant out when it is a bit warmer in the spring. Sow outside in spring when it is starting to warm up in shallow drills 30cm (1ft) apart, thinning the seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart in the rows.


Keep the rows well weeded by hoeing or hand pulling, and water as necessary, mulching between the rows with 2-3cm (¾-1in) grass clippings to help retain moisture and to prevent the roots becoming tough and stringy.


You can start to pull the first roots when they are about golf-ball size. In mid autumn in colder areas, you can lift the main crop, twisting the tops off and store in a box of moist peat in a cool, frost-free shed or store.

Possible Pests and Diseases:

As with other brassicas they can get clubroot and they can get dry rot, both of which are largely avoided if you stick to strict rotations, always growing them in the brassica bed with other members of the cabbage family, and never grow brassicas in the same plot more often than three years in-between.


For mash, peel the turnips and chop them into chunks and boil them until tender. When soft, drain and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, plus a good dollop of butter and a good couple of pinches of ground nutmeg. Mash well, and serve as part of a main meal. Turnips are also good chopped up in stews or soups with other vegetables, beans, meats etc. However if you want a posh way to cook them, here it is:

Baked Turnips with Onions & Sour Cream

Feeds 6


• 375g (13oz) turnips

• ¾ cup sour cream

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 375g (13oz) onions

• 2 cups chicken stock

For Garnish:

• Chopped parsley


1. Peel and slice the onions and turnips into rounds, no more than 6mm (2in) thick.

2. Layer into a heavily greased baking dish, seasoning each layer.

3. Pour over boiling stock then cover and place in the oven for 40 minutes at 200oC (392oF).

4. Drain stock and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes or until the turnips are tender.

5. Just before serving spread the sour cream over the top and place under the grill for 5 minutes.

6. Garnish with chopped parsley.