Skirret – Sium sisarum

Skirret – Sium sisarum – is an interesting ‘old’ vegetable that was apparently grown and eaten throughout europe before the potato took over as a staple in the 1500-1600’s. Pliny the Elder even mentions it in writings as ‘Siser’.

It’s in the Apia (carrot & parsnip etc) family and a perennial. It is similar to Salsify and Scorzornera in soil requirements and is better if it’s grown in a loose tilth but kept moist.

It is a hardy reliable crop if grown with plenty of moisture and a fairly deep soil. They will even grow ok in a large pot if it’s deep enough. If it’s given a year or more it’s root system will get quite complex in shape so for root harvesting it’s better to have a dedicated plot and treat it as an annual.

I usually keep a pot going that is handy just for leaf. This what it looks like in summer at its growth peak just before flowering.


The leaves can be eaten as well as the roots. The roots when cooked taste like a sweet potato with a hint of parsnip, celery or parsley depending on the cultivar/variety. They can be eaten either raw or cooked. I think they taste best in Autumn just as the the shoots start to regrow in my climate. Older roots will start to develop a hard core.

They tend to die back in late summer after flowering and then taper back to the ground with no leaf until new growth starts in late autumn.

They go to seed easily in summer and the flowers are hermaphrodite and self fertile.