All posts by Stephen Barstow

20 years of Extreme Salads

20 years ago on 19th August 2001, the Extreme Salad (Man) was born when I made my first (of two) world record salads with 363 different plants and 382 ingredients (i.e., including flowers and leaves from the same variety). During last night’s garden tour, the occasion was marked by a 120 plant salad (1/3 the number of the 2001 salad)….and it was tasted by the participants! Although far from the world record, it was probably the fastest made extreme salad as I only had 30 minutes to collect the ingredients and 30 minutes to put it together before the participants arrived! The second picture below shows the only known picture of the original extreme salad!

Pål Theodorsen with the 2001 salad

5 years ago…on the 15th anniversary, I made this salad with my garden helper Josefine Marie Dichmann:

Other related links:

Link to the 2001 salad recipe :)

Rejection letter from Guinness :)

Stephen’s salad: a six part series following me around the garden collecting plants for a springtime extreme salad in mid-May, also fully indexed by plant names in the film description:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Porcini in abundance

At last, after the warm summer the porcinis (ceps / steinsopp; Boletus edulis) are coming up in large numbers in the woods, the best year since 2005! I’d read the reports on Facebook, so now is the time to harvest and dry these amazing fungi in as large amounts as possible to last until the next time, hopefully not another 16 years! Almost all were in good condition. They are often infected with a parasitic fungi that makes them inedible! In addition, we found a large patch of yellow foot / gul trompetsopp or gul trompetkantarell (Craterellus lutescens), at a place I’d picked many some years ago. Not a fungi I find every year. There were also some chantarelles (kantarell) and a few puffballs (røyksopp). The walk home with a very heavy load was thankfully mostly downhill! Now for the biggest job of cleaning them before drying!

Large forms of Alpine Bistort

Alpine bistort or harerug in Norwegian (Bistorta vivipara syn Persicaria vivipara or Polygonum viviparum) is a common plant here in Norway and the only wild plant apart from berries that I forage every year. There are large quantities of this plant in particular in the mountains. It’s also one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants where you can read more. I enjoy it’s nutty taste on bread and other baked dishes like quiches (see
However, the local alpine bistort here is a rather small plant, typically up to 20cm tall, and is difficult to cultivated as it competes badly with weeds and requires a lot of weeding. I’ve collected forms that seem to be more vigorous, but nothing as large as I’ve seen elsewhere in botanical gardens. In 2002, I found a plant closely resembling alpine bistort cultivated in the Hilliers Arboretum in Hampshire UK. However, it was significantly bigger than our plants. I planted a bulbil in a garden bed, but it spread quite aggressively, a bit like bistort (Bistorta officinalis) and I removed it again. It spread however into the adjacent grass and is still there (I haven’t noticed our native alpine bistort doing this in my garden). I had wondered if it was a different species at the time. Here’s a picture of it (a larger plant with large and many bulbils):

Returning to Hilliers in 2010, I saw another vigorous plant in 2010 (below), more closely resembling our Norwegian plants:

Then in 2017, I saw another viviparous plant, labelled Polygonum spp., in the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens and was given a few bulbils. I’ve grown that one on in a large pot and here are a few pictures taken today:

According to a paper in 2013: “Viviparous bistorts are represented by 3 species in the world, P. suffultoides An Jen Li (1995: 415), B. vivipara (Linnaeus 1753: 360) Gray (1821: 268) and B. tenuifolia”. 
has very narrow leaves and the description of suffultoides doesn’t fit my plant. Among other things it has pubescent leaves (hairs – on both sides).
I don’t have the accession data for my plant (I will try to find out from Gothenburg), but it does almost fit the description in Flora of China of one of the larger forms of Bistorta vivipara. My plant reaches 50cm (15-60cm in FOC); leaf blade 13cm long (3-10cm). The bulbils are large, but there are a larer proportion of sterile flowers, so the yield may not actually be much larger. The pink flowers are within the normal range and I have one variety from Norway with pink flowers. It could also be from North America where large forms exist (usually known as Bistorta vivipara subsp. macounii), reaching 45cm according to the Flora of North America; see
I have today dug up a couple of tubers from the grass so that I can grow it out and complete the comparison. Watch this space.



Dystaenia heaven

Along with many members of the Apiaceae (carrot family / umbellifers) the flowers of Dystaenia takesimana (Giant Ulleung Celery) are heaven for pollinators like hoverflies (blomsterfluer).
These great edi-ento-mentals thrive both in sunny conditions and in the complete shade of this Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush / sommerfuglbusk).
For more on this great multi-purpose plant, see

Nanking cherry harvest

Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa) is a species native to northern and western China, Tibet,  Korea and Mongolia. My two plants are seed propagated about 20 years ago, but are planted a bit far apart for good yields, but I’ve just harvested a small crop, having forgot about them (in a part of the garden I don’t often go) but then I heard the fieldfares (gråtrost) feasting on them this morning. The berries are quite sweet to my taste, not sour as is often reported, but the seeds are relatively large. The biggest advantage with them is that they are supposedly hardy down to below -40C, so something for Northern Norway and the mountain areas. They are also earlier than sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and therefore it’s worth having a couple of bushes to extend the fresh fruit season (ripe just after strawberries and honeyberries / haskaps which are earliest here). There are cultivars; from wikipedia: “…examples include ‘Graebneriana’ (Germany), ‘Insularis’ (Japan and Korea), ‘Leucocarpa’ (Manchuria; white fruit), and ‘Spaethiana’ (Europe).”
They are also fantastic when blossoming (and full of fruit), so a valuable edimental in any case!
And, yes I do save the seeds for sharing with Norwegian Seed Savers (

The 2021 Selfies with a 20-year old Udo

This year’s udo (Aralia cordata) selfie pictures, probably the highest ever with a flowering spike way above my head. I harvested about 1/3 of the shoots in the spring. This is my largest herbaceous perennial vegetable that was planted here 20 years old ago! It has never had any fertiliser and is growing on the steepest slope in my garden. Ostrich fern (strutseving) and giant bellflower (storklokke) can be seen in the foreground.

Temnostoma vespiforme

Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to document as much as possible of the incredible diversity of insects and spiders that are living in The Edible Garden. For many years I’ve noted and reported the birds I see in the garden. COVID gave me the opportunity finally to have time to look at the other life forms that I live with and it’s been quite a journey. I have a separate blog post on the moths (approaching 170 species) and I often post pictures of various pollinators on my edible plants (notably bees, beetles, wasps and hoverflies); edible plants that attract pollinators I term edi-ento-mentals (the most valuable plants are those that both provide food for me and the pollinators, and are also good to look).
I initially thought that the latest hoverfly to be documented was a large wasp, but it turns out to be Temnostoma vespiforme (Ginger or wasp-like tigerfly / vepsetreblomsterflue). It was feeding on Heracleum sphondylium (common hogweed / bjørnekjeks). The first record for Malvik kommune and only scattered finds before in this area. Larva of this species feed in decaying wood of deciduous trees.

Alpine bistort harvest and the Idas Blue

More or less the only plant I forage these days from the wild are alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils (Polygonum viviparum / Persicaria vivipara) to dry for the winter. This is one of the 80 plants in my book and I grow various accessions of this plant also in my garden! See also my post on 25th June 2019:
The best places for this species are in the high mountains and this plant’s tubers saved many mountain folk in the past from dying of hunger. We were at about the tree line and here it’s only found on disturbed ground but in places there can be large numbers of plants as in the video. It was a little early still, so we didn’t pick a lot, but will return in a couple of weeks. As we worked, hundreds of Idas blue / Idasblåvinge butterflies flitted around us!