“WHY IS IT SWIRLY WHEN IT’S LATE?” (MMA, 2020) Probably the last dandelion to flower in the edible garden in 2020! The temperature didn’t drop below +12C last night, but there may be snow later in the week!
This is the harvest of 6 varieties of Scorzonera at our community garden (Væres Venner) last week two years after I sowed seed (I was surprised by an early hard frost and didn’t get round to harvesting it). The following accessions Libochovicky (Czechoslovakia) (IPK Gatersleben SCOR5) ‘Peter Schwarzer’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR3 and SCOR 6) ‘Schwarzwurzel’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 7) ‘Einjaehrige ‘ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 8) Wild accession 1653 from Bundesgarten Wien (I had hoped to include other varieties from the Nordic gene bank in this trial but those were sadly not available) Einjaehrige gave as expected the biggest yield (this is a variety selected to be grown in one year…traditionally it would take two years for roots to be big enough. I will grow this one on as a perennial for seed to supply seed as a root variety. The biggest roots of the other accessions apart from the wild accesion which gave as expected the smallest roots (planted now in the World Garden) will be grown on to investigate differences in production of Scorzonera lettuce (spring shoots) and Scorzonera scapes (the sweet flower stems). Scorzonera is not only one of my favourite must have perennial vegetables but also a popular plant for pollinators flowering right up to the first frosts.
Two years ago I accidentally dug up one of my Queen Anne’s Thistles (Cirsium canum) and I discovered the tubers were quite like the tuberous thistle (Cirsium tuberosum). I’ve now dug them all up, harvested the largest roots and replanted. This really is a great plant: a thornless thistle which yields good size tubers that is also attractive to look at, is popular with pollinators and provides winter food for some bird species (oil rich seeds). * Edi-avi-ento-mental (edible, ornamental and useful for both avian (birds) and insect pollinators)…the most useful category of plant in my book!
There were unusually many plants still flowering in the garden in October this year as we experienced a bit of an Indian summer. We’ve now had our first frost, so time to publish this album of 116 pictures of over 100 species. Most but not all are edible / edimentals and, yes, I should have made a salad.
A year ago I was scheduled to give the Alston lecture at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Before the lecture, my host Cornelia Cho showed me round the botanical gardens. I’ve collected a series of pictures of the useful plants we saw (with captions). There’s a large Japanese garden which had many familiar Japanese edimentals and perennial vegetables and the main theme of teh glasshouses was ethnobotany! More can be read about the lecture here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23467
Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium) has a more southwesterly distribution in Europe than my favourite giant bellflower C. latifolia and replaces the latter species in the south of England, France, Italy, Spain and North Africa and eastwards into West Asia. It has also widely naturalised in northeast North America. Like C. latifolia, it has edible sweetish tasting roots that contain the carbohydrate inulin like Jerusalem artichoke, good for diabetics, but can give flatulence. I suspect, however, that it takes several years to get to a usable size. I’ve been digging over an area of the garden into which Polygonum alpinum (Alpine knotweed) had invaded this week and there were also many self-seeded bellflowers with good sized roots, so I put them to one side to use in a delicious zucchini-bellflower curry which we ate last night!
Nettle-leaved bellflower has similar habitat requirements to the giant bellflower, inhabiting open woodlands and hedgerows and grows well in complete shade on the north side of my house amongst the Hostas. It has a preference for alkaline soils and grows well on clay. It is therefore an excellent plant for the forest garden, although given the choice I would prefer the giant bellflower as the spring leaves of trachelium are coarser and hairier and therefore less good in salads, but nevertheless fine finely chopped in mixed salads. It has been used traditionally in Italy in mixed species spring soups such as minestrella (see page 59) and is one of the ingredients in pistic (boiled and fried, see page 59 of my book Around the World in 80 plants).
There are a number of ornamental forms available in the trade which you might like to try, including a single-flowered white form (var. alba), which has naturalized in my garden. The double white (‘Alba Flore Pleno’) form and “Snowball” (https://dorsetperennials.co.uk/product/campanula-trachelium-snowball) haven’t come true from seed for me. ‘Bernice’ is another deep purple-blue flowered cultivar.
As I wrote earlier, it looks like we may have a glut of runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) this year, the first time for many years. Runner beans are borderline here and last year we only managed to get a few beans before the first frosts. This year, we could have made a first harvest a week ago, but I wanted to keep the first beans for seed for the next couple of years. Yesterday we had bread dough ready and therefore made a pizza with runner beans and a mix of fungi picked in the woods (separate post). The dough was 100% coarse whole grain rye, spelt and emmer (sourdough)! Delicious as always!
My Dad (95) has always grown Runner Beans, so I have them in my blood. Moving to Norway, I was surprised to find that they were mostly grown as ornamental plants. Indeed, they are called Blomsterbønner (flowering beans) here. Similarly, broad (fava) beans were also rarely grown as a vegetable although both are being more commonly found in veggie gardens today. However, my cool windy shady hillside garden isn’t ideal for growing runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus), really needing a warm south facing spot for reliable yields. However, being in my blood I have to grow them every year, but some years I wonder why I bother, but still hoping for that bumper yield that we had once many years ago. There were so many that we salted many for winter use. Well, it looks like this year may finally be that year that my runner beans do crop well and there are already many young beans, perhaps a month earlier than normal, mainly due to the record warm June here when they grew almost as quickly as in Dad’s garden (we compare notes by phone every week!). However, a very cold July turned things around until things started moving again in August. This year I’m growing four different varieties with different flower colour (we can at least enjoy the flowers!) 1. Celebration 2. Heirloom Painted Lady 3. Czar 4. Plain old red Firestorm
I think it was Nathan Shannon who sent me seed of the white-flowered variant of common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), now blooming for the first time! There are 10+ pages about Sonchus oleraceus in my book and also other blog posts on this site, probably my most used vegetable in July-August each year!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden