Last weekend as we were digging around in the front garden and pulling up all the coquina landscape borders, we kept finding these weird things in the ground. They looked like roots but with no plant attached. I dug up a good bowlful in just a few square feet, they were everywhere.
I posted a photo to the Grow Gainesville group on Facebook, and found out that these weird things are the dormant roots of Florida betony, and they’re edible! After some more searching to make absolutely sure they were the same plant, I convinced my kids to eat some. They said the roots tasted like water chestnuts and were excited to eat something we dug up out of the ground. So we talked about wild crafting and decided to add the weird roots to our dinner.
This may be one of the best beef stews I’ve ever eaten, and I didn’t even have to make it. My older son is learning how to cook more than scrambled eggs and macaroni and cheese so he’s taken over cooking dinner once a week. I’m proud to say he and my husband made this stew, and he made the loaf of rosemary bread next to it!
Wild Roots Crockpot Stew
3 lb grass-fed bone-in T-bone roast (can sub blade roast or even chuck roast)
1 c red wine
1 lb carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 lb parsnips, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 lb rutabaga, peeled and cut into cubes
1 lb small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
1 can of diced tomatoes
4 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and chopped
2 +1 tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
about 1 cup of Florida betony roots, well-scrubbed and trimmed
salt & pepper
Heat a cast iron skillet on high until it barely starts to smoke. Turn on your oven fan, if you have one, or open the window. Lay the whole roast on the dry skillet and leave it for a count of 10. Lift up the roast with tongs and check the browning. The side should be a deep brown but not black. Brown all sides of the roast as quickly as possible, without setting off the smoke alarm. Set the roast aside, take the pan off the fire entirely, and pour in the wine. It should bubble furiously. Swirl the liquid around and set aside.
Lay the whole roast in the bottom of the crockpot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tbl of rosemary. Add all of the root veggies. Then pour the wine and canned tomatoes over. Shake the crockpot a little to settle everything. Then add just enough water to cover the vegetables halfway. Turn the crockpot to “low” and leave for 8 hours.
About 30 minutes before you plan to serve the stew, add the betony root and turn off the crockpot. The residual heat will cook the Betony root just slightly crisp-tender. Just before serving, pull out the bones with long tongs and shred the meat. Add the remaining tbl of chopped rosemary, stir everything well, and then taste the broth and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the juices.