Gard. Chron. (1888) i. 211, 13 fig. 1.
Stachys tuberifera

IT rarely falls to our lot to have to chronicle the introduction of an absolutely new vegetable. New Peas—literally as like Peas from the same pod—new Potatos, new Cabbages, Tomatos, Onions—these there are by the score. Only a few of them, however, stand the trial of the test at Chiswick, where the synonyms imposed by gardeners and seedsmen are as ruthlessly cut down and referred to their proper places as are the like double names by the systematic botanist in preparing a monograph.

But now we have really a novelty to lay before our readers, and it is one which we venture to think is far front unpromising. The tubers which we figure at fig. 1. p. 13, were exhibited at the meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, on December 13 last, by Mr. HASKINGS, gardener to Sir H. THOMPSON, Hurstside, West Moulsey, and were obligingly communicated to us for the purpose of illustration.

The plant producing these tubers is a Labiate, and is said to be a species of Stachys, allied to the Woundwort of our hedges, but without the disagreeable odour; but as we have not seen flowers or seed-vessels, we do not know whether this is correct or not. At any rate, the plant goes for the present under the name of Stachys tuberifera, our excellent correspondent, M. NAUDIN, having bestowed this name upon it, to replace that of Stachys affinis, which is quite a different plant.

Our first knowledge of this vegetable was derived from a notice in the Revue Horticole, 1885, p. 236. According to this, the plant was introduced front China to the Société d'Acclimatation of Paris by Dr. BRETSCHNEIDER, Physician to the Russian Embassy at Pekin. M. NAUDIN, however, in his recently published Manuel de l'Acclimateur (1887), p. 507, speaks of it as coming from Japan, and probably also from China. Possibly it may be the same as Stachys Sieboldi, which we learn is cultivated in Japan tinder the name of "Chorogi," but of this we have no means of judging. Its culture in France is due to M. PAILLIEUX, who now grows it on a large scale for the Paris market, where it is known under the name of Crosnes, from the locality in which it is cultivated.

As will be seen from our illustration, the tubers are borne at the ends of underground branches, or stolons, exactly as in the Potato. The tuber in this case is, in fact, the thickened extremity of all underground branch, and it is marked by buds, or eyes, at the nodes, as in the Potato. Those who know the Fir-apple, or Asparagus-Potato, will recognise the similarity between that variety and the new-comer. These tubers are produced in great profusion, and though at present of small size, are doubtless capable of enlargement at the hands of the gardener, especially if seedling varieties can be obtained. Unlike the Potato, these tubers have a bud at the end of the tuber (terminal), and this curves upward to form the new shoot: hence the propagation of the plant is easily effected, and as each tuber consists of several internodes—that is, has several buds or eyes—we have no doubt whatever that they may be propagated by sets or cut tubers, as in the Potato.

The plant is alleged to be perfectly hardy and of the easiest possible culture. It will grow anywhere, on any ordinary soil, but like other plants it will no doubt repay a little attention in the way of trenching and manuring. Its defects at present are its small size, and the fact that the tubers do not keep well when lifted, but both these defects can be overcome or evaded. In point of flavour we have heard it compared to Salsafy, Jerusalem Artichokes, and to boiled Chestnuts. Our own taste would lead us to consider it as most nearly allied in point of flavour to the latter. M. CARRIÈRE publishes the following analysis, which shows that the plant is a valuable food agent:—

Starch 17.80
Albumen
(including 0.69 N.)
4.31
Fatty Matters 0.55
Woody matters and cellulose 1:34
Mineral matters:
(including 0.28 phosphoric acid)
1.81
Water 74.19
  100.00

M. CARRIÈRE, while admitting that the difficulty of preserving the tubers militates against them as a market-garden crop, points out that it is well suited for the domestic kitchen garden, where the tubers can be lifted in late autumn or winter and eaten in a fresh state, either boiled, fried like Salsafy, made into sauce, or cooked in a dozen other ways that any cook—especially a French one—will devise.

The microscopic examination that we have been able to make does not reveal so large a proportion of solid starch as the chemical analysis would lead us to expect. Probably the amylaceous element exists in some other form than starch, as is the case in the Jerusalem Artichoke. The mass of the tuber consists of polygonal cells, with thickened corners, minute granules perhaps of inulin, a few oil globules, large granular nuclei, and very bright nucleoli. Pitted vessels, sieve-tubes, and other elements of a modified stem-structure, are clearly apparent.

We believe that this new vegetable will make its way, not perhaps as a staple article of food—its tubers are too small for that—but as a very acceptable change on the tables of the connoisseur.

Its complete hardiness and easy cultivation will, we should also expect, cause it to be considered a luxury by the poor.

Rev. Hortic. lix. (1887) 290

Domesticating Wild Plants