Tuesday, 25 November 2008

What's up with the parsnips?

I sat at breakfast in a hotel in London once with a European plant disease specialist. It was really entertaining (told you I was geeky).

This guy takes no chances on his own allotment: 'Let me tell you - all sorts of things spread easily on your wellingtons, you know'.

Instead of one central compost heap, our friend has dozens of them - all dotted about on the plot - carefully arranged so that he doesn't need to make unnecessary journeys and carry vegetation across his patch - instead it goes straight into the nearest hot compost heap.

After this encounter I got quite paranoid for a while and spent a lot of time thinking about plant diseases. Every time I came home from the lottie my boots went straight in the hot wash. I'm better now...

Here is a problem parsnip. As you can see

a) It is a funny mangled shape and
b) It has some small orange specks on it

The troubled vegetable in question is lying on the carrot family page of Pauline Pears' excellent and useful publication: 'The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening' - for more about this book click the link:


It turns out that back in February when I planted the blighter I should have avoided a spot which had been recently manured. That explains the forking.

According to the parsnips, pests and diseases section in the back of the book, the small orange spots are canker (a fungal disease). There are three different colours of this. Bet you didn't know that.

The good news is that apart from fine tuning my crop rotation (I'll come back to that one too) - it won't affect my kitchen gardener plans for crispy little parsnip chips. They take a little bit longer to peel but the orange bits come off and don't affect the quality of the dish.

Hot tip: if you feel inspired and want to see the orange canker close up - just enlarge the photo

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