Strange fruit (38 weeks to go…)

by Max Akroyd

Someone once told me that rare breed pigs were rare for a reason. Meaning, I think, that they weren’t very good. He was wrong – they’re just not very good in an industrial system. So it is with vegetables. As the summer softies start to moulder in the autumnal dankness, the weirdos of the kitchen garden come to the fore.

Some, like the cardoons, are too much fuss to be economically viable in a big way. Others, like salsify, are probably impossible to harvest mechanically. And it would take a marketing genius to flog a fruit best eaten half-rotten:

Like with the pigs, I’m always inclined to champion the edible underdog. But with my latest eccentric offering, even I concede it’s probably a lost cause. It’s called cerfeuil tubéreux around here, bulbous-rooted chervil in English. When it comes to cultivation, though, it’s all Dutch:

“Bulbous-rooted chervil achenes do not show any inhibition of tegumentry nature; their dormancy is of an embryonary type. It sets up at the time of dessication and disappears only under the effect of wet cold (at least 8 weeks at 5°C). The numerous trials : anoxy, various regulators have not provoked any breaking of dormancy.”

Hope that’s clearer to you than it is to me! Upshot is: the seed requires vernalisation – a period sub-zero before it’ll germinate. The text book says sow in the open ground and it’ll appear in spring. I’m unconvinced (see previous post). So I’ll be sowing mine in big pots and crossing my fingers something happens next year. Well, if nothing else, it fills the time before the autumn-planting onions and garlic come along…