All posts by Stephen Barstow

Carraig Dulra permaculture farm

Finally, a post from my 3 days non-stop tour of Wicklow gardens, thanks to Orlaith Murphy. The first stop was Suzie Cahn’s Carraig Dulra Permaculture Farm. The abundance developing here on this hillside site which most would probably be categorized as marginal land reminded me of Mandy Barber‘s Incredible Edible site on previous sheep pasture in Devon!
It’s been a hard year due to the very unusual drought since April until recently. Nevertheless, the deep rooting collection of heirloom apples had produced well! We were there on a blustery day after Storm Ali had battered Ireland that night!

Blackcap on yew berries

The male blackcap (munk) was this morning feeding on yew berries (a garden variety “Hicksii”). This yew is right next to the kitchen window and has attracted several fruit eating species including blackbird (svarttrost), redwing (rødvingetrost), fieldfare ( gråtrost), waxwings (sidensvans) and last night for the first time a song thrush (måltrost).

 

Visit to Pro Specie Rara

On 4th April 2018, I took advantage of my trip to Switzerland to attend the The Potential of Perennials for Food Resilience symposium to visit KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) sister organisation Pro Specie Rara in Basel. Many thanks to Director Béla Bartha (since 2002) and Head of Education, Esther Meduna for making me feel so welcome. The trial grounds and offices of Pro Specie Rara are located in the Merian Gärten, a botanical garden in Basel. I lead a walk and talk of the trial grounds and botanical collections followed by an evening lecture at Markthalle in the centre of Basel! A great place for a seed saver organisation to be located! Béla also showed me their seed vault a specially climate controlled room (15C and 15% humidity). The walk and talk was sadly interrupted by heavy rain and we moved indoors and I did a short version of my evening lecture instead!

See also on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156381535005860&type=1&l=add4af4a2e

Pictures and review of my walk and talk at Merian Gärten: https://www.prospecierara.ch/de/news/rueckblick-around-the-world-in-80-plants
Here’s a review of my lecture:  https://einfachnachhaltig.net/2018/05/14/around-the-world-in-80-plants

Mid-October flowers in the Edible Garden

No frost thus far in October and it looks like it could be a frost free month! That and record high temperatures and there are a lot of plants still flowering or reflowering! Most but not all are edible!

Chinese arrowhead: chestnut and artichoke in one vegetable!

Nothing like the promised “giant” 5-10 cm tubers, I was nevertheless surprised to get maybe 3 times the yield of what I planted of chinese arrowhead tubers – Sagittaria trifolia subsp. leucopeta (syn. S. trifolia var. edulis)…a much bigger yield than when I tried North American wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).
211018: I finally got round to trying some. I didn’t peel them and dedn’t trim away the edible shoots and started steaming them (as I usually cook potatoes).  Then halfway through I remembered a post by Alison Tindale (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/2017/11/ducks-eat-duck-potatoes )  where she mentions that they were slightly bitter after boiling,  I therefore boiled then (to reduce bitterness for the second half).  The verdict: one of the tastiest tubers I’ve ever eaten…the texture is like floury potato, but the taste not unlike chestnuts and yes a slight bitterness of the good sort, adding to the overall taste experience…and to cap it, the shoots taste like artichoke hearts!!
I think I will just steam them the next time!
I hope I will manage to overwinter them as I really need to grow more next year! I’m trying to overwinter in the cellar (about 3C and dark), on a window sill in a cool room and in my pond about 10 cm deep to protect  from the worst frost…maybe also covered with spruce branches!

Fungi at Gevingåsen

After finding large quantities of winter chantarelles (traktkantarell) the day before within a few hundred metres of our start point, it was very surprising to find only a handful during a 3 hour walk in the Gevingåsen area….the mysteries of the forest! I shouln’t have mentioned yesterday that it was almost guaranteed to find this fungi in suitable habitat in October :(
Nevertheless, there was also an unseasonally large diversity of fungi to be found and here is a selection. Please feel free to add names if you recognise any!

Potato harvest at Væres Venner

The first small potato harvest in KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) vegetable sanctuary at Væres Venner Community garden.
I planted 10 varieties of potatoes in the spring…these were virus-free mini-seed potatoes offered to members. They were planted close at about 15 cm apart to produce full size seed potatoes for the 2019 season!
The varieties were a mixture of old Norwegian heirlooms and modern day varieties. The following Norwegian page gives the background for all the varieties seen here: http://www.norwegianseedsavers.no/potet-bestilling/

Winter chantarelle picking

The most reliable edible fungi here is winter chantarelle (traktkantarell). Only once in my over 30 years of picking this has it failed. The second part of October is the best time and I can always find large quantities in short time in damp mossy spruce woodlands which there is much of near me. Fortunate then that it’s one of the tastiest and it dries quickly for long term storage.This year is no exception and an oven load is now drying (too warm to have the wood burning stove on for drying).