Sugar carrot, a delicious, unjustly forgotten vegetable

Sugar carrot is one of the forgotten vegetables. It was eaten regularly until the 18th century; it was once a popular vegetable that also served as a sweetener in baked goods such as cookies and cakes. Nowadays this vegetable is forgotten by supermarket buyers, but you can grow this perennial plant relatively easily in a vegetable garden. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of sugar root / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)

Contents:

  • What is sugar root?
  • History of sugar root
  • Naming sugar root
  • Medicinal effect of sugar root
  • Sugar carrot eating tips
  • Grow your own sugar carrot

 

What is sugar root?

Sugar carrot is a food crop and tastes very sweet; the taste is a combination of parsnip, sweet potato and salsify. The sugar root itself grows 15 to 20 centimeters long. It is ready for harvest in autumn and winter. The above-ground plant is very nice to see. It has many white lacecap flowers.

History of sugar root

The sugar root originates from China and grew throughout the area between the Caucasus and Siberia. At least that is what science now states; some say the root only came from China. The fact is that sugar root has traditionally been picked as a wild vegetable in Russia; it must therefore also occur in the wild there. Sugar root is a root vegetable that can grow to a height of one and a half meters. The ancient Romans knew sugar root because it was mentioned by Pliny the elder: the Roman emperor Tiberius had it included in the imperial kitchen; he really appreciated the taste. The Picts, a Scottish people during the Romans and the Middle Ages, also ate sugar root. It is not known what happened to the sugar root in the Netherlands between Roman times and the Middle Ages; you can assume that he became increasingly sporadic. In any case, it is certain that the sugar root was reintroduced to Europe in 1546. Sugar was an expensive luxury at that time. From the 18th century onwards, the history of sugar as a luxury item changed; A lot of cane sugar was planted and industrial processing methods made sugar increasingly cheaper. The sugar root became less important as a sweetener. Potato, the vegetable brought by settlers from South America, has also replaced sugar carrot. It has almost ended up in oblivion, but is still kept alive by enthusiastic vegetable gardeners.

Naming sugar root

Another name for sugar root is gilt root or skirret. The official Latin name is sium sisarum . In science we always use Latin names so that there can be no misunderstanding about which plant it is. The prefix sugar may be clear; it is a sweet root that was already cultivated when sugar was still an extremely expensive luxury item.

Medicinal effect of sugar root

In the past, medicinal properties were attributed to vegetables. Because sugar root was rarely eaten, it is not known whether these effects are actually true. What we do know is that sugar carrot contains a lot of sucrose and that it contains vitamin C and other vitamins. According to Nicholas Culpeper, an English physician from the 17th century, sugar root, like parsnips and common carrots, is an aphrodisiac and is good for the liver. Leonhart Fuchs wrote in the 16th century that the seeds could be added to wine. It would counteract sadness. It was also good for the heart; a broken heart could be healed by this sweet, sweet vegetable.

Sugar carrot eating tips

You can eat sugar carrots raw, but you can also boil, fry or bake them. It is also delicious to make a puree from sugar carrot. Pureed sugar carrot can serve as a basis for a sweet soup. If you add sugar carrot to cake dough or cake flour, it is a sugar substitute; you then need less sugar. It is an ideal carrot for baking your own cookies with less or no sugar. Sugar carrot can be added grated to a salad or even stir-fry mix. Furthermore, the sugar root can be roasted. The young leaves are perfectly edible in the spring; these have a nice taste. You could use them as alternative lettuce leaves for an original salad.

Grow your own sugar carrot

Sugar carrot is rarely available in stores; you’ll have to grow it yourself if you want to eat it. Seeds are available via the internet and are not expensive. You can get 30 seeds for a few euros, the price of a cauliflower, say. You can sow it from September to November or in the spring. Sugar carrot needs fertilized soil. Sugar roots grow with multiple roots on the plant. You can dig them up and put just a few smaller roots back in the ground; the plant then continues to grow. Sugar root is a perennial plant. It is a relatively easy plant to grow in the vegetable garden; you can decide when you harvest it. Two plants contain enough roots for a meal for four people. The sugar root can be harvested from 13 months after sowing. The plant grows to a height of one and a half meters.

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