All posts by Stephen Barstow

Habby Chicago Eggs

I was showing a journalist around the winter edible garden and cellar this morning and dug up some nodding (Chicago) onions (Allium cernuum) and picked a few Hablitzia shoots, so why not turn it into lunch! I sliced an oca (Oxalis tuberosa) in with the vegetables. Scambled Habby Chicago eggs is simple gourmet midwinter food from garden to table in no time!

First 2023 Edimental Flowers

Despite the fact that the soil is frozen solid apart from the top couple of cms, I was surprised to discover the year’s first flowers in the garden: 
1. I received this as Primula veris subsp. macrocalyx but is always a couple of months earlier than Primula veris, so I wonder if it’s a hybrid?

2. Primula elatior (oxlip / hagenøkleblom) – this could also be a hybrid

THE NEW EDIMENTALS SEED TRADE LIST FOR 2022-2023

WELCOME TO MY NEW SEED TRADE LIST FOR WINTER 2022-23, THIS YEAR WITH 338 CHOICES
20, 21, 22 indicate the harvesting year for the seed. Concerning seed quantity: as I don’t have many plants of each species, seed quantity is limited in most cases. Therefore, for some species you may only get a few seeds. Many species are harvested in my garden. Others are surplus from trade and purchase. OUT: Means out of stock.  NB! Cultivars do not always come true. I offer them anyway, but no guarantees to what you will get!  
NOTE: I don’t sell seed and I won’t be doing many trades this winter due to a busy schedule. However, I offer all plus others to members of Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN) through our spring (February) “yearbook” and autumn catalogue. To become a member go to https://kvann.no/bli-med. It costs only kr. 250 / year plus postage and packing.
For trades, I am mainly interested in uncommon hardy perennials, but I may also be interested in annuals.
NB! Not all plants in the list are edible, although almost all are!
(The text in the list is at the moment only in Norwegian, but the botanical and cultivar names are included)

Download (XLSX, 34KB)

Seven Vegetable Dishes

In Denmark’s major ethnobotanical work, Brøndegaard’s Folk og Flora (1978-80), ground elder (skvalderkål; Aegopodium podograria) is one of seven different greens used in a once common health-bringing springtime dish, skærtorsdagssuppen (skærtorsdag=Maundy Thursday) and I included this in my book as a number of perennials were among the ingredients as they are at their best around Easter when this dish was served:
The number 7 is considered lucky in different cultures around the world and is often seen as highly symbolic. This Danish dish is related to the northern England dish Dock Pudding, which has very similar ingredients (see Easter Ledge Pudding in my book Around the World in 80 plants).

After my book was published I came across another seven vegetable dish from Japan, nanakusa, which contains an unusual mix of edible plants (see the first slide below – from my talks over recent years) including perennial Oenanthe javanica (seri) and as fate would have it, on my study tour to Japan, organised by my friend Aiah Noack, I was taken to a farm where they were actually producing several of these herbs (pictures below). Greenhouses full of common chickweed (Stellaria media; vassarve) was a sight I won’t forget easily! Today, 7th January, is the Festival of Seven Herbs or Nanakusa no sekku (Japanese: 七草の節句) and is the old Japanese custom of eating seven-herb rice porridge on this day. 

Oenanthe javanica (seri) greenhouse production (right) in Japan and edimental cultivars of seri available in Europe (left)

As I was writing this I wondered if there were other seven herb traditions  out there and, right enough, a quick google search revealed two others (please let me know if you know of others):
Seven vegetables on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year is eaten for luck and health, a tradition perserved by the Teochew or Chaoshan people in Southern China. The following five vegetables must be included, the other two are flexible: celery, garlic, green onions, coriander and leeks.
Seven vegetable couscous: Seven is a lucky number in Jewish tradition and a dish featuring seven vegetables is a New Year favourite among Sephardic Jews (early autumn). A recipe can be seen here: https://theveganatlas.com/seven-vegetable-couscous

 

Bullfinch on guelder rose

Bullfinches (dompap) take a very wide range of seeds in my garden including hawthorn, rowan, nettle and Norway spruce, as well as buds of different trees, but this was the first time I’d seen them taking guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) seed and I could see them discarding the flesh of the berries. Even when they have a rich supply of sunflower seeds, they will continue also to take natural food.

Xmas diversity from the rhizosphere

Presenting this year’s 30 rhizosphantastic Xmas vegetables, all roasted in the oven, served as every year in the last 40 with nut roast, bedecked with the following seeds / bulbils: alpine bistort / harerug (Polygonum viviparum), Himalayan balsam / kjempefringfrø (Impatiens glandulifera), evening primrose / nattlys (Oenothera biennis) and opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The tubers are listed below the pictures.

The 30 tubers, roots and rhizomes in the picture are:
Solanum tuberosum (potato / potet: 11 varieties)
Daucus carota (carrot / gulrot)
Oxalis tuberosa (oca: 2 varieties)
Arctium lappa (burdock)
Scorzonera hispanica (Scorzonera / scorsonnerot eller svartrot)
Tigridia pavonia (cacomitl)
Pastinaca sativa (parsnip / pastinakk)
Beta vulgaris (beetroot / rødbete)
Tropaeolum tuberosum (mashua) 
Anredera cordifolia (Madeira vine)
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke / jordskokk :  3 varieties)
Brassica rapa (turnip / nepe)
Brassica napus (swede / kålrot) 
Dahlia (Dahlia / georginer)
Polymnia sonchifolia (yacon)
Sagittaria latifolia (wapato)
Allium cepa (onion)

Oca harvest 2022

Xmas isn’t Xmas without Oca and a hoard of other tubers, served with the traditional nut roast. Pre-xmas preparations includes the annual oca harvest. Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is a short day root crop hailing from the central and southern Andes. When harvested at the first frosts, yields are poor, the plants needing a long mild autumn to fatten up the tubers for the festive season. I therefore grow my oca in large buckets which we bring into the extension to the house at the first hard frosts which was late October this year. We don’t heat the extension which is normally a fairly constant 5-10C in winter and hence a good place to store vegetables and other plants like my bay tree (Laurus nobilis). There’s no sunlight and I don’t use artificial light so there’s no diurnal variation in temperature either. The oca plants don’t grow vegetatively, but miraculously the tubers do grow over the few weeks to harvest:

 

The House from Nordlandsbanen

I had to go to Stjørdal this morning to renew my driver’s license. I took the bus there and returned with the train along the fjord to Trondheim as I needed to go to the botanical garden, a distance of about 34 km…and this beautiful train journey only costs kr 42, the same price as taking the bus anywhere in Trondheim!
This video shows a short stretch from Haugan to Malvik and the last few seconds shows my red house on the hill!


Geeking out with Dandelions

Earlier this year I bought the Field Handbook to British and Irish Dandelions by A.J. Richard which contains descriptions, photos and keys for all 239 known UK and Irish species, a book written during Covid lockdown! I was curious to go deeper into the world of dandelions and to hopefully identify the various species I have in my garden and area around apart from the obvious moss-leaved dandelion (is this really Taraxacum sublaciniosum?), the pink flowered dandelion (Taraxacum pseudoroseum) and white-flowered species like Taraxacum albidum. And what about some of the historical cultivars such as the French cultivar “Pissenlit Coeur Plein Ameliore”. What species is this?
Inspired by the book, I set about taking detailed photographs of about 40 different dandelions at home and at the Væres Venner community garden with the thought to have a proper look and try to key them out during the winter months. I did try one species but it was daunting and they may not be species found in the UK. I have introduced quite a few cultivated and wild Taraxacum species in the garden over the years. I also joined a couple of specialist Taraxacum groups on FB. There I met Alex Prendergast in Norwich who kindly sent me seed of 25 mostly identified species! Having the answer for species that I could grow and have before me should hopefully help me keying out some of my species! I finally got round to sowing these dandelions today; see the album below. At the very bottom are detailed pictures for one species, the moss-leaved dandelion, which I’ve learned are necessary for dandelion identification. Detailed photos of the moss-leaved dandelion, so far known as Taraxacum sublaciniosum

“Delikatess”: