04 January 2011

M is for Mangelwurzel

Mangelwurzel! Sugar-beet to some, pig-fodder to many...common in the  Northern Hemisphere and unusual in Australia. Apparently an old staple-vegetable in early 20th century American and European gardens, but not mentioned in any of my old Aussie gardening books.

In 2009 Jeremy Colby did an 'ancient vegetables' segment on ABC TV's Gardening Australia.  I had to get Mangelwurzel for the strange name if nothing else.  Apparently, so did most other people watching the show because seed was sold out the next day at Cornucopia Seeds, the only place in Australia to stock it.  After a short wait while they re-stocked, I grew some seeds in the greenhouse at Burnley and transplanted the seedlings in November 2009.  I had no luck with them but a friend grew huge Mangels from the same seedlings (granted, he has a much sunnier veggie patch and lives on a chicken farm with plenty of manure in the soil!). I tried direct seeding in May last year, they germinated in a week and slowly grew over our cold winter.  They were finally popping out of the soil and ready to pick a couple of weeks ago -

I mashed one with potatoes on Christmas day and it was tasty. Last week I picked a few, peeled them and cooked them on their own and they were not very exciting! Kind of like a flavorless turnip.  The greens, however, are delicious.  They are closely related to Silverbeet/Swiss Chard and taste like a sweeter, more tender version of their sibling (they share the botanic name Beta vulgaris with Silverbeet and Beetroot).  This is what they looked like just picked and washed:

and after cleaning them up before peeling and cooking:
The verdict: I'll keep some in the ground to keep cutting and eating the yummy greens, and mash the mangels with potatoes and lots of butter next time!  Apparently, they can take over your garden in the tropics but that hasn't been a problem here.

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