Celeriac (knob celery) and Parsley Root 塊根芹與荷蘭芹根

Welcome to Tendrils, my weekly round-up of interesting plant-related things I have found on my travels through the internet. There’s a bit of a foodie theme to Tendrils this week, exploring some plants you may not have had the chance to sample (yet). You never know, it may even inspire you to grow something different!

MAD have been exploring the taste of bitter melon: “Bitter melon, a food prized for its pronounced bitterness, as well as its myriad of medicinal properties, exemplifies the love-hate relationship Westerners have with bitterness in general.”

If you fancy trying that one (which is Momordica charantia) in the garden this year then seeds aren’t widely available in the UK, but you can buy them from (e.g.) Nicky’s Nursery and Jungle Seeds. Fusian Living offers some growing, harvesting and cooking advice in Should I grow bitter melon? Surely, for any dedicated plantoholic, the answer has to be yes? 🙂

Something more familiar, at least to those of you with an allotment, is celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum. During the course of my research I have found that the common names for it include knob celery, which I shall use from now on, simply because it is hilarious. So, knob celery has never been one of my favourite vegetables, and I’m told it can be tricky to grow. My dad occasionally cooks it in some kind of white sauce, I think, and my mum admits to being happy to eat it once or twice a year. So, not really glowing praise…. But Cultivate Oxford have a recipe for Crispy Leek and Celeriac Fritters, which sound almost edible. Unless you call them Crispy Leek and Knob Celery Fritters, in which case I think you’d find it hard to get anyone to eat them. The RHS have got you covered if you want advice on growing knob celery – although they have tastefully titled their article how to grow celeriac. Apparently the Germans have a history of using celeriac as an aphrodisiac. Who knew?

If you’d like to make the most of the wild foods that are emerging with the approach of spring (or you have to make up for feeding someone Crispy Leek and Knob Celery Fritters), Gather Victoria have two lovely and decadent-looking recipes to tempt your tastebuds out of hearty-winter-food mode. The first is Mason Jar Grand Fir Pots de Creme (and, if you haven’t worked it out by now, I have a bit of a thing for eating pines, although I haven’t really done it myself yet); the second was a special for Valentine’s day, but if love is still in the air then serve Wild Violet Ardor: Whipped Honey Butter.

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs: Grow Something Different

It’s probably worth stopping at this point to ponder Why we consume only a tiny fraction of the world’s edible plants. There have been many theories over the years, I suspect. John Warren may be the first person to suggest that the crops we have chosen to domesticate are the ones with kinky sex lives. You’ll never look at a humble salad quite the same way again.

Perhaps it would be safest now to retreat to plants we haven’t domesticated. Greek pensioners may have to forage to survive, according to the BBC, but at least they make it look tasty: “In February he digs up the golden thistle, askolimbi, whose scrubbed roots – said to be an aphrodisiac – taste like artichoke and are served with octopus and lamb.”

If anything was going to be tagged as an aphrodisiac in that list, you’d think it would be the octopus – all those tentacles….

Quick, let’s get back to knobbly root vegetables. Get Badly Behaved is encouraging us to grow oca and get involved in a citizen science project, which sounds like a great way to make your garden multitask 😉 Oca probably isn’t that unfamiliar to regular readers of this blog, but if it’s new to you then we have advice on how to grow oca and how to eat oca 🙂

(Actually, it seems as though we’re still on sticky ground, as apparently the Inca considered oca an aphrodisiac. Maybe every plant is an aphrodisiac. Has anyone investigated that theory?)

We must be safe with seaweed, let’s stick to seaweed. The Fore Adventure blog encourages a Friday forage, and has an interesting recipe for seaweed saag aloo and reminds us that:”There are over six hundred different sea vegetables or seaweeds growing on the coast of the British Isles. Most seaweed is edible but some taste a lot better than others.”

I daren’t Google to see whether any of the seaweeds are considered aphrodisiacs. Is it getting hot in here?