Category Archives: Perennial vegetables

Perennial puha, Sonchus kirkii in Malvik #2

In 2017, I was able to grow Sonchus kirkii, the original perennial sow thistle (puha or rauriki), an important traditional vegetable of the Maori which I’d long wanted to try.  Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to overwinter it. It grows in coastal New Zealand and isn’t adapted to freezing winter temperatures and no doubt stays green all winter. I had been hoping to overwinter it and try the spring shoots, but I didn’t get the opportunity then. I relocated the original seed packet this spring, and the seed was still viable and the plants started flowering now in October and with unusually mild weather so far this winter with no serious frosts, I finally got round to trying some of the top growth in the tradional way to eat Sonchus oleraceus in Mediterranean countries, fried with garlic and chili in olive oil and added to scrambled eggs. The raw leaf was surprisingly mild, much milder than perennial Sonchus arvensis, which I’ve experienced as unpleasantly bitter in the past (young shoots in spring).

There is an account in my book Around the World in 80 plants of this species and annual super(healthy)weed Sonchus oleraceus which replaced it in Maori kitchens! Variously known as  puha, shore puha or New Zealand sow thistle (syn. Sonchus asper var. littoralis), its habitat is described by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network as http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=205: “Coastal. Usually on cliff faces in or around damp seepages where it often grows with the blue green alga Nostoc and fern Blechnum blechnoides. This species has a distinct preference for base rich rocks such as basalt, calcareous mudstones, siltstones, limestone or apatite-rich greywacke faces. On some offshore islands this species extends up into coastal scrub and herbfield. It occasionally grows on stabilised sand dunes. Indications are that this species once occupied a wider range of habitats but has retreated to those less suited to other faster growing introduced weeds.”
NZPCN states that it is “Easily distinguished from all the other naturalised Sonchus species by the very large, glaucous, non-spinose leaves” (this includes Sonchus arvensis – perennial sow thistle and annuals Sonchus asper and Sonchus oleraceus). The first picture shows a comparison of the autumn leaves of the two growing in my garden:

Scorzonera harvest

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.


Mountain Gardens tour with Joe Hollis

A year ago, on 22nd September 2019, Joe Hollis had invited me to do a walk and talk with him at his Mountain Gardens in North Carolina! Before the event he took me around the woodlands to show me the woodland flora. I made a short video at most of the plants to help me remember what they were. I’ve now put them together into one video (see below). Joe talks briefly about the following plants:
Disporum spp. (trachycarpum?)  (medicinal)
Medeola virginiana; Indian cucumberroot
Hosta sieboldiana (self-seeding)  (food)
Panax quinquefolius; American ginseng
Prenanthes trifolioliata; Gall of the earth (Food and medicine)
Smilax rotundifolia; common greenbrier (Food and medicine)
Acer spp.; maple
Castanea spp.; chestnut
Sassafras albidum; sassafras (Medicine and beverage/spice)
Cacalia delphinifolia? (Far Eastern edible and medicinal)
After the video is a gallery of photos taken on the same tour. Will post more from the walk and talk later.
This is one of several blog posts about my visit to Joe. See more by searching here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=joe+hollis

 

Nettle-leaved bellflower

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).

Campanula trachelium in the Jardin de Botanique, Paris at the best stage for harvesting tops and leaves
White flowered Campanula trachelium “Alba” has yellower spring leaves.
Campanula trachelium subsp aloha (in Kew Gardens)
Nettle-leaved bellflower thrives in shade together with Hostas

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.

Campanula trachelium in the background of emerging Allium wallichii flowers
Campanula trachelium flowers are edible and can be used to decorate salads
Naturalised blue and white forms in my garden
Nettle-leaved bellflower produces masses of seed

A Taste of Myoga

After many years trying, I finally had a taste of home grown myoga or Japanese ginger (Zingiber mioga) this week!
I think it was in the garden of my friend Frank van Keirsbilck (of http://www.thevegetablegarden.be) in Belgium that I  first saw this plant. I bought a plant from Edulis nursery in the UK in 2010 and planted it in my garden, hoping it would be hardy enough. It survived for 3 years, but grew weakly and emerged in the spring later and later every year, before disappearing for good. Determined to have a taste, Frank sent me a starter in 2016 and, now, 4 years on my pot grown plant kept indoors in a cold bedroom all year finally produced a flower bud, the main part eaten. We made a Japanese style soba (buckwheat pasta) dish to which the shredded myoga was added! A very pleasant mild ginger taste, making it all worth while. I will now move it to a larger pot.

Pond Bed North Upgrade

I’ve been busy planting up a bed that I’ve been renovating. It’s part of a bed I’ve called “Pond Bed North” since I constructed it in the late 80s after felling several  birch trees (the previous owners liked even more shade than I do). However, it had become overgrown with unwanted inedibles…
Here’s a video of the bed and the plants and below a picture and hand drawn map of the bed with details of everything I planted for those wanting more details. You’ll see various Japanese edibles, two new Zanthoxylums, Aster scaber (new accessions) and right at the end an exclusive edible, Taraxacum californicum (California dandelion).  This information will be added to my master garden Excel sheet in the winter.

Allium atroviolaceum: Caucasian Turkish garlic

Allium atroviolaceum is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental. I’ve been growing it for some 15 years now and it is admittedly not very productive as an edimental under my conditions, but it’s nevertheless a beauty and it is currently coming into flower both in my own garden and the Allium garden at the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim, where the pictures below were taken.  Its wild distribution is in the Crimea, Caucasus, Middle Asia (Mountainous Turkmenistan, Syr-Darya foothill areas) and Iran.

 

In the Armenian Highlands in Eastern Turkey, there are several ethnobotanical studies documenting its use in local food, presumably wild collected, although there are indications that it might also be cultivated for food including:
1) In otlu peyniri, a herbed cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk. it is used as a flavouring along with many other species (from Wikipedia):
Ranunculus polyanthemos L.(Ranunculaceae)
Nasturtium officinale R. Br. (Brassicaceae)
Gypsophila L. spp. (Caryophyllaceae)
Silene vulgaris (Maench) Garcke var. vulgaris (Caryophyllaceae)
Anthriscus nemorosa (Bieb.) Sprengel (Apiaceae)
Carum carvi L. (Apiaceae)
Anethum graveolens L. (Apiaceae)
Prangos pabularia Lindl. (Apiaceae)
Prangos ferulacea (L.) Lind. (Apiaceae)
Ferula L. sp. (Apiaceae)
Ferula orientalis L. (Apiaceae)
Ferula rigidula DC. (Apiaceae)
Thymus kotschyanus Boiss. et Hohen. var. glabrescens Boiss. (Lamiaceae)
Thymus migricus Klokov et Des. – Shoct. (Lamiaceae)
Mentha spicata L. subsp. spicata (Lamiaceae)
Ziziphora clinopodioides Lam. (Lamiaceae)
Ocimum basilicum L. (Lamiaceae)
Eremurus spectabilis Bieb. (Liliaceae)
Allium schoenoprasum L. (Liliaceae)
Allium fuscoviolaceum Fomin (Liliaceae)
Allium scorodoprasum L.subsp. rotundum(L.)Stearn (Liliaceae)
Allium aucheri Boiss. (Liliaceae)
Allium paniculatum L. subsp. paniculatum (Liliaceae)
Allium akaka S. G. Gmelin (Liliaceae)
Allium cf. cardiostemon Fisch. et Mey. (Liliaceae)
2) In another study, the young shoots are used in various dishes and as a flavouring with yoghurt. It us used both boiled and raw. The bulbs are used to replace garlic in food.
Local names in Turkey include sirmo, körmen, and yabani sarimsak.




Udo record

My 18 year old udo (Aralia cordata) is probably the tallest ever this year (I’m 6 ft or 1.8m). After the coldest May for many years with plenty of rain, June is likely to be the warmest ever in this area with several days over 30C and a probable (to be confirmed) highest temperature for this area at 34.3C at the airport on Saturday. Cold damp spring temperatures are perfect for udo! I’m dreaming of fields of udo replacing the barley and oats!

More perennial kales

The perennial kales overwintered well the last two winters and are looking good. I showed a video of one I got from Walsall Allotments in Birmingham, UK a few years ago here last week: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=25787
The first below is one of Chris Homanics’ perennial crosses (I lost track of which cross this is). It has large dark glossy leaves (a bit reminiscent of Glazed collards) and hasn’t flowered, concentrating instead its energy into producing leaves! This is a keeper.
This is followed by non-flowering offspring of  my Daubenton cross with Purple Sprouting Broccoli in 2012 and still alive https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1632. These have inherited the daubenton genes but one is taller and has bigger leaves. I’m still playing with the offspring on the broccoli side, but they are less perennial but some have survived for 5 years but the broccolis are smaller than the father, but still useful.
Finally is a current picture of Daubenton variegated.
AND Diamond back moth (kålmøll) is now here in large numbers (over 100) and will have almost no impact on these kales, nor will other pests!

1. Homanics Norway perennial kale

2. Daubenton like (from Daubenton x Late Purple Broccoli cross)

3. Daubenton variegated