Well the Mystery Plant is no more. No tragedy befell it, but instead I decided that it had lived long enough. Since most plants of this type tend to get a bit woody and unpleasant if they get too big, and I was curious as to what it might be, I pulled it up a couple days ago and went about the business of trying to figure out what it was. Unfortunately the jury is still out.
As you can see here it’s continued to get bigger and lighter colored. Also, there’s been more of those nasty little green caterpillars gnawing on it, but it’s just too vigorous a plant for them to accomplish much.
The foliage it sports is classic rutabaga, perhaps turnip. The stalks of the leaves and the major vein undersides are bristling with sharp spines hefty enough to be almost thorny.
An unpleasant plant to handle bare-handed for sure.
It wasn’t very difficult to uproot since there was very little root mass below the dirt compared to the total size of the plant.
Also worth noting is a neighborhood bunny rabbit has been spotted in the vicinity of this plant on several occasions, but the rabbit doesn’t seem to consider it worth eating.
Can’t really say as I blame him.
Here we have the washed root posing next to an ordinary clothespin for size comparison. Note the smaller “hairy” bits at the top. These are incredibly thick fibers that extend into the larger leaf stalks which made them very difficult to remove. The rest of the stalk would easily break off clean, but those fibers would hold fast and require a lot of effort to finally snap off.
The widest point of the root was at ground level, so you can see the vast majority of it was above ground.
Most of the upper part (darker color) was tough, woody, and inedible.
Still, I have to look for them every day or two and squish all that I find or they’ll soon get out of hand.
This guy was hiding in the foliage I got off the Mystery Plant and was washed down the drain shortly after this photograph. Evolution has failed to properly adapt this insect to cope with a 1/3rd horsepower home garbage disposal, but this is not surprising as it can’t even cope with my thumb.
The greener parts (upper right, left side picture) are just below the foliage in the neck. This were presumed inedible. The smaller pieces in that picture are from the root end and the larger ones are obviously from the middle. Also shown is a close-up of the largest slice to show a nice picture of the cross-section.
The Cooking and Tasting
I had been thinking that this would be what finally put the questions to rest. I was wrong.
The greens: Raw these had an interesting wild flavor, similar to dandelion greens but tamer with an almost minty element that lurked in the background of the overall taste. They’d likely make a decent addition to a salad, but we didn’t eat much of these. Cooked they had very little flavor at all, but were most like a mild spinach.
The root: This thing was essentially inedible raw. It was half turnip, half radish, and dialed up so high on flavor that it was just impossible to eat. Consistency was like a turnip – solid but soft. Know how a really strong radish can make your mouth react similarly to a hot pepper? Yeah, like that only in a disgusting “where can I spit this out and what’s the number for poison control” kind of way. Bunnies are smart.
Cooked it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. It was rather bland with the faintest hint of the “poison control flavoring” that seemed stronger in the outer skin. Vaguely reminiscent of mashed potatoes but with more of a tap-root vegetable taste rather than a spud taste. Definitely a food, but not something I’ll ever crave.
If these descriptions and pictures help you identify this vegetable, please let me know what it was. I also plan to print some of these pictures out and show them to my grandfather, who’s probably grown every kind of garden vegetable even remotely possible in this area.
I will solve this mystery somehow…