Sweet Chestnut at 63.4N!

About 20 years ago I sowed some sweet chestnuts that I found in Southern England. One germinated and surpisingly to me it survived the first few winters. I therefore planted it out at the bottom of the garden. However, this area of the garden was overplanted and it became survival of the fittest (I didn’t really believe I would ever get chestnuts!)… It continued to grow slowly and survived one of our coldest winters ever around 2011 with only the tips freezing out (the whole root system down to the bed rock would have been frozen solid for 3-4 months). Seeing the exciting possibility of growing perhaps the furthest north chestnuts in the world, I gave the tree more space and planted a second tree (Marigoule) next to it (one tree can produce nuts, but yields are better with two). Then 3-4 weeks ago I noticed that the now about 5m high tree had produced a few male and female flowers which were opening at about the same time and I hope I now have a couple of chestnuts developing. However, it’s debatable if they will have time to mature in what has been a really cold summer here at 63.4 deg. N!

The chestnut is centre left and is surrounded by Cornus kousa, shagback hickory (Carya ovata), Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) and chinese walnut (Juglans cathayensis)

Sochan tops Mediterranean style

Thanks to Alan Bergo (@foragerchef) for reminding me to try sochan tops. This is Rudbeckia laciniata (cut-leafed coneflower) which in the double form is one of the most popular garden ornamentals here in Norway over the last 100 years and a plant that has been commercialised as a farm vegetable over recent years in Korea. I’d previously only eaten the spring shoots, but I was equally impressed by the tops which I used simply cooked with onion, garlic and  yellow zucchini from the garden, various fungi picked in the woods (saffron milkcap/matriske; hedgehog fungus / piggsopp and chantarelles / kantarell) and scrambled with eggs with a little chilim added (a classic way for preparing wild edibles in the Mediterranean countries. See the pictures below.
See other posts on this great vegetable which was introduced to me in one of Samuel Thayer’s books:
Appalachian Greens 
Cherokee Pizza 

Persian Shallot harvest

One of my favourite perennial onions are persian shallots, Allium stipitatum and I’ve blogged about them several times in the past: 
This is one of the earliest onions to appear in the spring and they flower and die down in the course of June. July is the best time to harvest the bulbs (I’ve often harvested them too late when they¨¨’ve already started sprouting in autumn). I harvested one plant this week and the bulbs were in perfect condition. I was once again struck by the yield (although it is probably two years since I harvested this plant). I replanted 3 of the largest bulbs. I usually dry the bulbs as they do in Iran, but this time I ate some fresh. They are surprisingly mild tasting and I used them fried in an omelette. 
Below the pictures is a Norwegian article on the persian shallot which I wrote in 2021.

Please download this Norwegian article on persian shallots:

Download (PDF, 1.41MB)

The wildest garden

Salad for HGB and HvB

My dad Harald George Barstow (HGB) sadly passed away on 7th June at 97. A few days later on 11th June I’d scheduled a long-awaited visit from my friend Helene von Bothmer, the Koster Islands Permaculture Queen accompanied by participants on a one day permaculture course on Katy Chada’s farm (I had twice visited Koster but this was Helene’s first Malvik visit). They had asked if I could make a salad for lunch that day, so with my Dad’s loving memory in focus, the salad became a tribute to Dad as well as a welcome to Helene, Katy and the participants. It had exactly 97 ingredients <3 (a list can be found at the bottom of this page)

There’s an H in there (sort of!)

Now some pictures taken during a lovely visit! I hope it isn’t long before our ways cross again Helene!

…and a few pictures taken by Helene:

The ingredients:
1-2. Oxalis triangularis
3. Claytonia perfoliata
4. Gynostemma
5. Physalis “Indian Strain” fruits
6. Begonia heracleifolia (flowers)
7. – 11. Lettuce (salat) – 5 varieties
12. Dill
13. Chopsuey greens (kronkrage)
14. – 15. Celery (selleri) – 2 varieties (Green Utah and Red Stem)
16. Allium “Purple Sensation” flowers
17. Allium ursinum (ramsons / ramsløk) flowers
18. Allium stipitatum “Album” flowers
19. Allium victorialis (seiersløk) flower stems
20. – 21. Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion / pipeløk) – 2 varieties
22. Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely / Spansk kjørvel) flowers
23. Allium karataviense flowers
24. – 25. Polygonum viviparum (alpine bistort / harerug) bulbils (2 varieties – light brown and purple)
26. – 27. Viola cornuta “Alba” (flowers and leaves)
28. – 29. Crambe maritima (broccolis and flowers)
30. Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley / hundekjeks)
31. – 40. 10 different Hosta cultivars and species
41. Alliaria petiolata (hedge garlic / løkurt)
42. Sorbus (rowan / rogn) leaves
43. Campanula trachelium (nettle-leaved bellflower / nesleklokke)
44. Allium oleraceum
45. Stellaria media (chickweed / vassarve)
46. Meum athamaticum
47. Nasturtium (blomkarse)
48. Hablitzia tamnoides
49. – 50. Humulus lupulus (hops / humle) – 2 varieties
51. Basil
52. Aster scaber
53. Allium spp.
54. – 55. Lepidium sativum (cress / karse) – leaves and flowers
56. Rosebay willowherb / geitrams
57. Ground elder / skvallerkål
58. Allium macleanii – flowers
59. Lepidium latifolium
60. Origanum “Aureum”
61. Scorzonera hispanica (flower stems and buds)
62. Cichorium intybus (chicory / sikkori)
63. Cryptotaenia japonica “Atropurpurea”
64. Allium nutans x senescens
65. Sonchus oleraceus (sow thistle / haredylle)
66. Oxeye daisy / prestekrage
67. – 68. Rumex scutatus – 2 varieties
69. Tragopogon pratensis (Jack-go-to-bed-by-noon / geitskjegg)
70. – 72. Allium schoenoprasum (chives / gressløk) – 3 varieties including Black Isle Blush
73. Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke)
74. Campanula punctata
75. Allium scorodoprasum (sand leek / bendelløk)
76. Rumex crispus (curly dock / krushøymole)
77. Phyteuma nigra (black rampion / svartvadderot)
78. Viola arborescens
79. Allium cernuum (nodding onion / prærieløk)
80. Kale / grønnkål – “Ragged Jack”
81. Lamb’s lettuce / vårsalat
82. Diplotaxis tenuifolia (perennial rocket / flerårig rucola)
83. – 84. Perennial kale / grønnkål – 2 varieties
85. Oxalis spp. (red leaved)
86. Plantago major “Atropurpurea”
87. Alchemilla spp. (lady’s mantle / marikåpe)
88. Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry / markjordbær) – flowers
89. Allium x proliferum (walking onion / luftløk)
90.- 91. Brassica juncea (mustard greens / sennepsalat) – 2 varieties
92. Chervil / hagekjørvel
93. Malva alcea
94. Ligularia fischeri (gomchwi)
95. Pisum sativum (garden pea / hageert) – top shoots
96. – 97. Malva moschata (musk mallow / moskuskattost); pink and white flower forms

Sweet Gigas stalks

Somebody asked me a few days ago if one could eat Angelica gigas (Korean Angelica) as you can Angelica archangelica (see my book Around the World in 80 plants for more about that). In my book, I do mention gigas as one of several other Angelica species used in other parts of the world, but until yesterday I hadn’t eaten it myself, partly as I¨’ve never had many plants and the flowering is wonderful!!

On the Korean wiki page, it simply states that “dangwi / dangquai’s petioles and tender stems are eaten raw or seasoned with herbs”. The root is also used medicinally along with Angelica acutiloba and Angelica sinensis.
You can find various instructional videos and recipes on Korean pages by searching
For example, the spring leaves and petioles are boiled and served with onions, garlic, sesame oil and sesame seeds.
As my plants were close to flowering (they darken quickly to deep red at this stage), I decided to go for using the flower stems in salad:I first took one of the thicker flower stems…
….and sliced off a bit at the base for a taste! I was taken aback by how sweet it was (flower stems of Angelica archangelica were in the past considered to be candy by Norwegians). This reminded me of other plants that have surprisingly sweet flower stems: Scorzonera hispanica (scorzonera / scorsonnerot) and Arctium (burdock / borre). I assume that as plants like these approach flowering they produce less insect repellent chemicals and transfer their energy to producing flowers and seeds. For the salad, I peeled off the outer layer as it is fibrous and sliced it into the salad.  Young seed pods of sea kale / strandkål were also available as were Scorzonera flower stems and buds.

As with most Apiaceae, Angelica gigas is very popular with the pollinators, so this one definitely fits into the Edi-ento-mental category (delicious, ornamental and popular with the pollinators – what more could you wish of a plant!).
Unfortunately, like Angelica archangelica this species dies after flowering.

Cuckoo wasp in the garden!

I found the cuckoo wasp / rødgjøkveps in the garden today – Vespula austriaca. It parasitizes the red wasp / rødveps (Vespula rufa) by occupying its nest. V. rufa is uncommon in the garden, but I saw one today too. There are no workers of V. austriaca.

Admiral on Urtica kiovensis

Back from my two week stay in England for my dad’s funeral (he was 97 and still growing leeks from seed; I planted them posthumously!) and being with my mum. The growth in the garden has been phenomenal with a heat wave (over 30C), 24 hour light and plentiful rainfall. I have much work ahead of me tidying up overgrown paths!
Harvested nettles of the almost stingless Urtica kiovensis for dinner and found this red admiral caterpillar!

Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden