Category Archives: Perennial vegetables

Large forms of Alpine Bistort

Alpine bistort or harerug in Norwegian (Bistorta vivipara syn Persicaria vivipara or Polygonum viviparum) is a common plant here in Norway and the only wild plant apart from berries that I forage every year. There are large quantities of this plant in particular in the mountains. It’s also one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants where you can read more. I enjoy it’s nutty taste on bread and other baked dishes like quiches (see  https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=alpine+bistort)
However, the local alpine bistort here is a rather small plant, typically up to 20cm tall, and is difficult to cultivated as it competes badly with weeds and requires a lot of weeding. I’ve collected forms that seem to be more vigorous, but nothing as large as I’ve seen elsewhere in botanical gardens. In 2002, I found a plant closely resembling alpine bistort cultivated in the Hilliers Arboretum in Hampshire UK. However, it was significantly bigger than our plants. I planted a bulbil in a garden bed, but it spread quite aggressively, a bit like bistort (Bistorta officinalis) and I removed it again. It spread however into the adjacent grass and is still there (I haven’t noticed our native alpine bistort doing this in my garden). I had wondered if it was a different species at the time. Here’s a picture of it (a larger plant with large and many bulbils):

Returning to Hilliers in 2010, I saw another vigorous plant in 2010 (below), more closely resembling our Norwegian plants:

Then in 2017, I saw another viviparous plant, labelled Polygonum spp., in the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens and was given a few bulbils. I’ve grown that one on in a large pot and here are a few pictures taken today:

According to a paper in 2013: “Viviparous bistorts are represented by 3 species in the world, P. suffultoides An Jen Li (1995: 415), B. vivipara (Linnaeus 1753: 360) Gray (1821: 268) and B. tenuifolia”. 
Tenuifolia 
has very narrow leaves and the description of suffultoides doesn’t fit my plant. Among other things it has pubescent leaves (hairs – on both sides).
I don’t have the accession data for my plant (I will try to find out from Gothenburg), but it does almost fit the description in Flora of China of one of the larger forms of Bistorta vivipara. My plant reaches 50cm (15-60cm in FOC); leaf blade 13cm long (3-10cm). The bulbils are large, but there are a larer proportion of sterile flowers, so the yield may not actually be much larger. The pink flowers are within the normal range and I have one variety from Norway with pink flowers. It could also be from North America where large forms exist (usually known as Bistorta vivipara subsp. macounii), reaching 45cm according to the Flora of North America; see http://floranorthamerica.org/Bistorta_vivipara)
I have today dug up a couple of tubers from the grass so that I can grow it out and complete the comparison. Watch this space.

 

 

Dystaenia heaven

Along with many members of the Apiaceae (carrot family / umbellifers) the flowers of Dystaenia takesimana (Giant Ulleung Celery) are heaven for pollinators like hoverflies (blomsterfluer).
These great edi-ento-mentals thrive both in sunny conditions and in the complete shade of this Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush / sommerfuglbusk).
For more on this great multi-purpose plant, see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=24998

The 2021 Selfies with a 20-year old Udo

This year’s udo (Aralia cordata) selfie pictures, probably the highest ever with a flowering spike way above my head. I harvested about 1/3 of the shoots in the spring. This is my largest herbaceous perennial vegetable that was planted here 20 years old ago! It has never had any fertiliser and is growing on the steepest slope in my garden. Ostrich fern (strutseving) and giant bellflower (storklokke) can be seen in the foreground.




Chiugok, Small Bird’s Garlic, a hardy Himalayan edimental

Like Sherpa onion or Nepalese onion Allium wallichii, which features in my book Around the World in 80 plants, chiugok (small bird’s garlic) as Allium macrantum is known in Lithang, Tibet is the latest emerging Alliums in my garden. I often wonder if they are still alive when, in a cold spring they haven’t emerged by the end of May, but both species have overwintered now for almost 20 years.

A nice large group of Allium macranthum in the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens in Sweden on 26th May 2008
Spring shoots in the Tromsø Botanical Gardens on 4th June 2009

I’m not sure where my oldest plants came from but my second accession came from Vojtec Holubec’s seedlist, collected in Szechuan in China.  It’s native to Bhutan, Sikkim, Gansu, Shaanxi, as well as Szechuan and Tibet and grows in wet places at elevations of 2700–4200 metres (Flora of China).

The roots are fleshy and could no doubt be eaten like the fleshy roots / rhizomes of Allium wallichii and Allium hookeri are.
The roots of Allium macranthum (on the left) are similar looking to larger Allium wallichii (right)

By early July the old roots are withering away and new roots are growing as the flower scape appears:


The flowers are gorgeous hanging on long pedicels. Note that the flower colour varies and the Szechuan accession is pink with green pedicels and has relatively many flowers.

One of my multi-species salads with Allium macranthum flowers in the centre:

Seed heads on 6th September:

Seeds ready to share or trade:

Ethnobotanical records
I searched Google Scholar for evidence of Allium macrantum being used traditionally for food and there were indeed a few ethnobotanical studies recording its use as a food plant. Although not the most popular food Allium in the Himalayas, it is reported to have been one of several species eaten both in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India, the Eastern Hills of India (along with more commonly used Allium wallichii, Allium hookeri and Allium fasciculatum) and used as a spice with meat in South Central Tibet. In Lithang, chiugok “is cleaned and cut into small pieces. It is mixed with butter, tea, roasted barley flour (tsampa), salt, and chilly. Tsampa may not be added. The sauce so obtained is eaten with Tibetan dumplings (mokmok) and fried meat-filled pancakes (shapakle)” (in Traditional knowledge of wild food plants in a few Tibetan communities). 
The taste is in my experience relatively strong and therefore best in mixed salads and cooked dishes.
Allium macranthum has also been moved into gardens as an ornamental and has also been used medicinally, including,  along with other Allium species, as a cure for altitude sickness! 

Early July Veg

Here are some of the vegetables we’re currently using.
From left to right:
Common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus) will be in most meals from now to September
Parsley / persille 
Ground elder / skvallerkål
Perpetual spinach (Beta vulgaris var flavescens)
Moss leaved dandelion (Taraxacum sublaciniosum “Delikatess”)
Oregano / bergmynte (Origanum vulgare)
Chopsuey greens (Glebionis coronaria); I’m growing out about 10 varieties from IPK Gatersleben this year
Day lily / daglije (Hemerocallis): flower buds from two species
Urtica kiovensis (nettle / nesle) 
Nodding onion / Prærieløk (Allium cernuum) flower scapes
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) leaves
Rumex patientia (Patience dock / hagesyre)
Rumex acetosa (non-flowering); sorrel / engsyre
Perennial kale / flerårig kål (Brassica oleracea)
Dandelion / løvetann (Taraxacum officinale)
Sherpa or Nepal onion / Sherpaløk (Allium wallichii)

Used in a green pasta sauce with wholegrain spelt pasta

Fasciated dandelion- udo- sea kale salad

Not something I can make very often as I don’t find fasciated dandelions very often! A simple salad was put together, made fascinating with a fasciated dandelion.
The blanched udo (Aralia cordata) was ready:
I harvested some blanched sea kale (Crambe maritima) too and I found a fasciated dandelion to decorate the salad
The udo was peeled 

…and the salad was put together with the fasciated dandelion flower stem cut into strips and mixed in with a sesame oil – soya sauce dressing:
 

Today’s permaveggies

 Presenting the 14 permaveggies used in tonight’s Indian dal! 

Here are the ingredients:
Around the outside:
Blanched sea kale / strandkål (Crambe maritima)
Stinging nettle / brennesle (Urtica dioica)
Top left and anti-clockwise:
Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde (Hablitzia tamnoides
Hedge garlic / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata)
Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum)
Day lily / daglije (Hemerocallis shoots) 
Common wintercress / vinterkarse (Barbarea vulgaris
Giant bellflower / storklokke (Campanula latifolia)
Blanched lovage / løpstikke (Levisticum officinale)
Ground elder / skvallerkål (Aegopodium podograria)
Victory onion / seiersløk from the Lofoten Islands in Norway (Allium victorialis)
In the middle:
Great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) grows well in my garden and self-sows. It’s natural habitat is damp calcareous woodlands in Eastern North America.
Patience dock / hagesyre (Rumex patientia
Afterthought:
Moss-leaved dandelion / mosebladet løvetann (Taraxacum sublaciniosum “Delikatess”) – one entire leaf rosette with dandichokes and top of the roots)

 

Perennial Baccalao with victory onions

We occasionally eat wild fish and are particularly fond of baccalao (dried salted cod from Lofoten).
These were yesterday’s ingredients (list at the bottom):

Top left and clockwise: Dandichokes / løveskokker (the white blanched part which is under the soil surface and hence blanched) plus masses of green leaves; Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica) blanched shoots from the cellar; Victory onion / seiersløk (Allium victorialis); 7 varieties of heriloom Norwegian potatoes; Ramsons / ramsløk (Allium ursinum) at the top right; Cirsium canum tubers; Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica) roots; Sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel (Myrrhis odorata); blanched lovage / løpstikke (Levisticum officinale); stinging nettle / brennesle (Urtica dioica); Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde (Hablitzia tamnoides) and garlic / hvitløk and golpar spice (ground seeds of Heracleum spp.)
The greens are added at the end so as not to overcook.