The long lost 'Aztec sweet potato'
Part of the James Wong Homegrown Revolution Range.
A much loved ornamental UK bedding plant with a secret double life! Originally domesticated by the Aztecs (the same people who brought us sweet corn and pumpkins) for their tasty sweet potato-like roots, dahlias first came to our shores not as a flowery bedding plant but as a promising root veg. Delicious, versatile and totally immune to blight. Who could ask for more? Origin: Mexico. Latin name: Dahlia spp. Believe it or not, the runner beans we all know and love were actually originally introduced to UK gardens as an ornamental plant for their pretty flowers, whilst conversely dahlias were brought to our shores as a prized edible crop! Cultivated for hundreds of years by the Aztecs, these sweet, starchy tubers were scoffed in huge quantities alongside such supermarket staples as avocados, chillies and maize. In fact, the 18th century botanist Anders Dahl (which the species is named after) was utterly convinced that these would soon supersede the potato in popularity, which actually came close to happening when they were tried out as a blight resistant spud-substitute during the Irish potato famine. Today, they are still a popular food in their native mountains of Southern Mexico. Sow: February-April. Harvest: October-December.
One of James' favourites! James says - 'The ultimate multi-tasking garden plant, kicking out a harvest of sweet, nutty tubers after a summer of dazzling flowers - and 100% blight resistant too!
Resistance to Disease:False
Aftercare - Easy:True
Aftercare - Moderate:False
Aftercare - High:False
Good For Dried Flowers:False
RHS Award of Garden Merit:False
Vegetables recommended by the NIAB:False
Award Winners in Fleuroselect Trials:False
Beds & Borders:True
Greenhouse, Glass House or Home:True
Prefers Full Sun:True
Grows in Sun or Shade:False
Partial or Full Shade:False
Half Hardy Annual:False
Half Hardy Perennial:False
Full growing instructions given on seed packet.
Sow your seeds in a propagator (or pot covered with a piece of glass) using good quality, moist compost and place on a light, warm windowsill. Keep the compost moist but be careful not to over water. In only a couple of weeks you will start to see small shoots appear - remove glass or vent your propagator to encourage growth. Once your seedlings are 3cm (1¼") high they are ready to be potted on. Transfer the seedlings to larger individual pots of approximately 9cm (3") and continue to grow on the windowsill. When your plants are approximately 10cm (4") high they can be planted in their final growing position after all risk of frost has passed around May. Pick a bright sunny site and dig in plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or blood, fish and bone. Plant your dahlias 35cm (14") apart and water in well. Stake with bamboo canes to support the plants as they get larger. Keep on top of the watering, spoiling your plants with regular applications of fertiliser to ensure the largest, most fibre-free roots. To get the very best tuber harvest you should also pick off all the flowers as they emerge, to direct the plant’s energies into root production. The tubers will be ready to harvest when the first frosts blacken the leaves, at which point the plants should be cut down to leave just 10cm (4") of stem and carefully forked out of the ground.
EATING: - Dahlia 'yams' are delicious roasted like parsnips with a little brown sugar scattered over them on for the last 10 minutes as a glaze. They are fantastic made into rosti, or better yet the Eastern European equivalent ‘latkes’, served with slices of smoked salmon and a generous dollop of sour cream.
The roots can even be eaten raw, simply grated, sprinkled with lemon juice (to stop them browning) and tossed into salads - lovely with slivers of runner beans, black olives and roasted red peppers in a honey mustard dressing.
Like aubergines, dahlia tubers benefit immensely from having their flavour concentrated by a quick salting, to draw out excess water. This involves simply slicing or grating the peeled tubers as per your recipe, tossing them in a tablespoon of ordinary table salt and leaving them to drain through a colander or sieve for 30 minutes or so. Give them a really good rinse to wash off all the salt, squeeze out the remaining water and you’re ready to go. Do not eat tubers bought straight from the garden centre though as these will almost certainly have been chemically treated.
Creamy dahlia, yam & nutmeg Soup - Sauté diced, pre-salted dahlia 'yams' with loads of onions and chopped garlic in a little butter until tender, before simmering the whole lot in chicken stock and milk. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, nutmeg and a good glug of double cream for the last ten minutes of cooking, blitz until smooth and serve drizzled with homegrown saffron oil (olive oil bubbled with powdered saffron threads for a minute or two).
Roast Dahlia ice cream - Roast the pre-salted, rinsed and drained tubers in plenty of butter and brown sugar as you would parsnips. Then separate the sticky golden result in two, chopping one half into small cubes and blitzing the other half in a food processor with a little milk to form a fine paste. Fold the creamy puree into a tub of softened, good quality vanilla ice cream until thoroughly combined and finally stir in the
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