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ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q Several years ago, while living in another state, we had a neighbor who grew an array of vegetables such as I had never seen before, and have not seen since. He grew blue potatoes, and always gave us some of them. I have no idea where he got them from originally. He saved his own tubers. Would you know of a source? As I recall, they were more purple than blue.


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Madison, Wis.

There may be other sources. The two that come to mind are Gurney Seed and Nursery Company, Yankton, SD 57079, and Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Hwy., Albany, OR 97321. Gurney's is called All-Blue, and Nichols has a new introduction called Improved Peruvian Purple, described as a rich violet. Both state that the color goes all the way through the flesh, and is not just skin color.

Q Have you ever heard of skirret? I came across references to this vegetable in some recipes which have been passed down in my family for several generations. It appears to have been prepared like parsnips. It might be interesting to grow if seeds were available.


Hartford, Conn.

Your letter prompted a vague recollection that we had seen reference to this plant in a useful volume called ``Unusual Vegetables,'' by the editors of Organic Gardening magazine, published by Rodale Press (Emmaus, PA 18049). They tell us: ``The roots have a sweet, tender white flesh which when cooked like salsify or parsnips are highly esteemed in Oriental countries.''

Although it was a major vegetable in English, European, and American gardens until the late 18th century, skirret faded from favor in Western countries. We found one source for plants. Well-Sweep Herb Farm, 317 Mt. Bethel Rd., Port Murray, NJ 07865, sells a catalog offering many unusual herbs and hard-to-find items that would appeal to adventuresome gardeners.

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