This hardy perennial grows to 2-4 feet the first two years, after that it can reach a height of up to six feet. Skirret does best in rich, well drained, alkaline loam, and prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade. Seed should be sown in the spring, after the last frost. Once seedlings emerge, plants should be thinned to twelve inches. Skirret is not suited for indoor growing. The plant is extremely hardy, easily withstanding temperature extremes such as heat and excessive frost. Diseases and common garden pests do this plant little harm. To harvest, gather young shoots in the spring. Fall is the best time to dig up roots. Roots should be left in the ground until needed, however if they are removed, tubers can be frozen. By itself, skirret is an attractive border plant which boasts small clusters of fragrant white flowers from late spring to early autumn. However, its true potential is found within the roots. These tubers are versatile and can be consumed in many ways. The shoots can be steamed or stir-fried much like bamboo shoots, while the root is treated in the same manner as asparagus. Lightly boil or steam the roots, and serve with butter and salt, or with white sauce. It can be added to various meat dishes, stews, vegetable pies, and traditional Chinese stir-fry. Tubers can be pickled, and taste good served alongside cold meats and salads. The root can be compared to a sweet potato, which does well baked, stewed, boiled, or roasted. Skirret is a versatile tuber which complements many dishes, and livens up tired meals. It has a woody core which is inedible, and should be removed before cooking. I skipped this step the first time I ‘attempted’ to consume the plant; removing this part afterwards is a chore! While skirret does not have any dependable medicinal qualities, if larger amounts are consumed, it can act as a mild diuretic. This tuber is a healthy addition to any well balanced diet.
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