Proboscidea louisianica subsp. fragrans (in the Martyniaceae) is currently flowering in the window sill and as its name suggest it has a beautiful fragrance! I’ve tried unsuccessfully growing it outside in the past, so this time I was given seed I’m trying it as an edible house plant. Its English names are variously devil’s claw, unicorn-plant, ram’s horn, aphid trap, goat’s head and elephant tusks. Sadly only one seed germinated and it only rarely self-pollinates (bees do the work, so I’ve been playing the bee using a paint brush…on the off-chance I might get a fruit). The fruits are sometimes compared with okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) or even the climbing cucurbit, achocha (Cyclanthera spp.) from South America. Years ago in 2007, I did get one fruit when I grew it in my old unheated greenhouse:
The unripe seed pods were traditionally cooked as a vegetable and added to soups or pickled and the leaves were also used as a potherb with beans. The immature oil rich seeds were also eaten raw or were roasted or dried and eaten like pine nuts.
Apart from being an important food plant for First Peoples, the dried seed pods were also incorporated into basketry to make patterns, plants were even selected for longer claws and used for sewing and a black dye was also obtained. However, I’ll probably just enjoy it as a fragrant unusual house plant with a potential for food and hope it will live up to its alternative name, aphid trap!
And finally, one of Tom Hare’s wonderful art installations, Devil’s Claw, in Kew Gardens in 2011:
It’s always a nice surprise to discover a plant in flower in the garden that I thought long dead! Yesterday I discovered a plant that I’m pretty sure is Ornithogalum pyramidale (Pyramidal star-of-Bethlehem). I planted 8 two year old plants in this location in 2016. This species is used in a similar way to Bath asparagus (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) as I wrote in my book: “There are at least three other similar species used in a similar way in the Mediterranean, Ornithogalum narbonense (mainly in eastern parts) and O. pyramidale and O. creticum (Dogan et al., 2004; Rivera et al., 2006).” I’ll have to rediscover it a bit earlier next year!
Samaritan’s Goatsbeard (Tragopogon crocifolius subsp. samaritanii) is currently flowering, a biannual species from Southern Europe (Italian: Barba di becco di Samaritani). and it’s a beauty! In Scandinavia, Tragopogon crocifolius is only found on the Baltic island Gotland. See otherwise my (Norwegian) article on the ethnobotany of Scorzonera and Tragopogon here https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=21020
Last night’s greens included all my 16 Hostas, Allium scorodoprasum (sand leek / bendelløk) scapes; broccolis from sea kale (strandkål), ornamental sea kale (Crambe cordifolia) and Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis); and flower buds of two daylilies Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus and Hemerocallis dumortieri!
Rice lily or riceroot (Fritillaria camschatensis) is a great hardy edimental, and exclusive root vegetable, although don’t expect large yields. The small (but many) sweet tasting tubers often lie right on the surface all winter! One of the hardiest plants found in Western North America from Oregon to Alaska, Northern Japan and the Russian Far East…and quite a common ornamental, grown for its almost black flowers (I’m still trying to establish the yellow flowered variant shown here in Gothenburg Botanical Gardens). See also my blog post Riceroot and Hog Peanuts (http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=480). It’s currently in full flower, so here’s a few pictures of my biggest expanding patch!
No doubt introduced by the previous owners here as an ornamental and despite the fact I spent a lot of time trying to eradicate it from parts of the garden, Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke) is nowadays one of my most important springtime vegetables used both cooked and raw. It has naturalised under Hazel in part of the garden! Always nice to see how plants find their own way to the best spots it grows happily alongside Aegopodium podograria (ground elder / skvallerkål). See the excerpt from my book Around the World in 80 plants below. Here is the excerpt from Around the World in 80 plants (I’m happy to send signed copies within Norway). “When I first moved to my present garden, there was one weed that I struggled to eradicate from my cultivated beds, Campanula latifolia or giant bellflower. The roots in particular were almost impossible to dig out, having a knack of germinating in the most difficult places. Then, one day I was reading the Norwegian book “Gratis Mat av Ville Planter (Free Food from Wild Plants; Holmboe, 1941). I learnt that my worst weed had been wild gathered for food by farmers in my area in the 17th century, a tradition which probably died out soon afterwards. The leaves and stems were collected in springtime and made into a soup. Similar stories have also survived from other parts of Norway and Sweden. Storklokke (literally large bell) is considered to be one of the most commonly used wild food plants in the past in Norway. Both the leaves and roots were used, the latter also ground and added to bread.” It was the nephew of Bishop Gunnerus (after whom the genus Gunnera was named) who published this in Norway’s first flora published 3 years after the Bishop’s death! It was stated that “storklokke” deserves to be considered as one of the best springtime greens! I totally agree! Thanks to the previous owners (Johansen) for planting it for me!
I also walked around the outside gardens during my visit to the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens on Saturday 25th January 2020. In the mild weather, there were many people out walking and running in the garden. Here’s an album of pictures of edibles and other interesting plants and a video of the large Actinidia arguta in the Asiatic woodland garden.