All posts by Stephen Barstow

Early spring moths and sallow

The end of March this year was mild with little frost.  I was surprised to find the first flowering sallow / selje (Salix caprea) on 19th March and by the end of the month some larger trees were in full flower providing much needed food for a myriad of insects include wild bees, bumble bees and most of the 13 moth species shown below, all of which were photographed in my garden at the end of March, attracted by a moth trap. In turn, birds are attracted to the insect feast and some also feed on the nectar directly.



Sleepless night counting geese flocks

Not much sleep last night as the year’s biggest migration of pinkfooted geese this year (kortnebbgås) went on from 2230 to 0400! Counting flocks of geese doesn’t put you to sleep, it has the opposite effect and I’m not complaining…altogether 30 flocks passed over in this time (will have missed a few as I dosed off occasionally) with somewhere between 3000 and 6000 birds passing eastwards along the fjord before heading north to their pit stop on agricultural land just north of here!
The bright light isn’t my moth trap, it’s the one owned by the workers electrifying the railway :)

Runner Bean Falafels

After many years of trying, I managed to get a decent crop of dried runner beans / løpebønner* (Phaseolus coccineus). My own garden is a bit too cold due to the shady conditions on a rather windy spot. Last year I grew a selection of 15-20 early varieties sourced from the German gene bank IPK Gatersleben and commercial suppliers which I grew successfully in the sunnier community garden (Væres Venner).
They were made into delicious falafels,  accompanied by living room grown Kandahar cress (karse) and wild buckwheat / vill bokhvete and turned into gourmet food with a couple of dandelion flowers from the windowsill! 
*In Norwegian, these beans are known usually as blomsterbønner (flower beans) and most often used as an ornamental. I prefer to call them løpebønner to better reflect that these are much more than an ornamental!

Root hairs and burdock

I used some burdock / borre root (Arctium lappa) in an oriental stir-fry the other day. They’ve been stored in autumn leaves in the cold cellar since autumn and now with the temperature increasing, the roots had developed many white root hairs. Their function is to dramatically increase the root surface area and hence interface with the soil, and hence enhancing the absorption of water and minerals.



Hablitzia beginnings

If I’m asked what my favourite perennial vegetable is, I will struggle to only mention one (I wrote a book about my 80 favourites after all), but the one I will mention most frequently is the Caucasian spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides) as it has an interesting history, it was discovered as an edible plant in Scandinavia and remained a closely kept secret here until the 2000s, it provides the first spring greens together with various Alliums , its productive and probably grows best in cold climates!
This video describes how I discovered this amazing vegetable and its history in Scandinavia and in particular the role Swedish author Lena Israelsson played!
The video can be seen here: HABLITZIA BEGINNINGS

First Chaffinch

With relatively warm weather continuing, it was nice to hear an early chaffinch (bokfink) in full song this morning in the garden. You can also hear an unusual breeder, coal tit (svartmeis) and one of several great tit (kjøttmeis) pairs defending territories at the moment in the garden; the coal tit is singing (higher pitch) from the top of one of the spruce trees.



Living room veggies; March 2024

Somebody asked me to show how I force veggies indoors in winter, so here you have a link to a short video showing what is available at the moment! 
At this time of year, most of our leafy greens used in salads and cooking are either harvested from the forcing pots shown in the video or directly from the cold cellar under the house. Here is a mixture of perennials, biennials and annuals. Still looking for a good perennial chicory for forcing. See the list of plants shown below.
Follow the link to the video.
Witloof Festive Chicory (sikori / julesalat)
Witloof Væres Venner mix (my own selection from the community garden based on several varieties from various gene banks)
Hristo’s onion (Allium flavescens x nutans?)
Kandahar cress (karse) from the Experimental Farm Network (seed harvested in the community garden)
Wild buckwheat / vill bokhvete (seed harvested in The Edible Garden) Garlic bulbil sprouts / spirte hvitløk bulbiller
Nodding onion / prærieløk (Allium cernuum)
Dandelion / løvetann

Balcony fieldfare

1 or 2 fieldfares (gråtrost) normally overwinter in the garden and this winter has been no exception. They appear in autumn attracted to the cultivated and wild fruit. Fallen apples then become most important as the winter progresses. When the first deep snow arrives, I help them by putting out a few apples that makes it easier for them. The birds are very territorial, defending their cache of apples quite aggressively against other fieldfares. I put out apples in two parts of the garden which has lead to two birds overwintering. They are quite shy and have good vision, so only slight movement in windows puts them up. I’ve gradually moved the apples closer to the house and yesterday I put some apples on my balcony only a couple of metres from where I work….to my surprise, it wasn’t long before a bird found them and I made this video today!

Dandelion scape, bud and flower omelette

Sorry, but I ceremoniously sacrificed all the dandelion flowers, buds and scapes for a delicious omelette today…and what a wonderful view they had on their last day on earth!
Also in the dandeliomelette was chicory “Witloof” sprouts, an old Finnish shallot, garlic, thyme and the last of the wild buckwheat sprouts (løvetann, sikori,sjalott, hvitløk, timian og vill bokhvete)

Freedom for Palestine

The year’s first seed is as usual dandelion (løvetann), but this one is extra early as it was one of those forced indoors for the leaves.
The dandelion symbolises freedom and this seed head is ironically growing next to a wild food plant of the Palestinians, Cyclamen persicum on my windowsill (the leaves are cooked with rice and meat, or raw as salad according to a paper Alishtayeh, 2008: Traditional knowledge of wild edible plants used in Palestine; I haven’t tried yet).