Category Archives: Root crops

Spring beauty time in the garden!

My spring beauties are flowering in the garden, appearing a little before wood anemones (hvitveis).

The one I grow is Claytonia virginica and last summer I found this monster tuber:


I still haven’t got round to eating the tubers (Euell Gibbons was a fan!), but I regularly eat the spring leaves and flowers in mixed salads. I would love also to try  other tuberous species like Claytonia caroliniana and C. tuberosa but have never seen a source  :-(

More about spring beauties in Green Deane’s article here:

Spring Beauty

A visit to a Wasabi farm on the Izu peninsular in Japan

On 3rd April 2016 I was on an amazing study tour in Japan to witness first hand the cultivation of perennial vegetables. These are wild native species which were previously wild foraged in Japan but are now cultivated to meet demands for what is collectively known as sansai (mountain veggies).  There’s a whole section of supermarkets devoted to sansai. The one we are most familiar with in the west is wasabi, but for most of us it is in name only as it is almost always horseradish, mustard and food colouring which are the ingredients of wasabi sauce offered in sushi bars, rather than genuine wasabi (Wasabia japonica).

The farm we visited was on the Izu peninsula, a popular tourist area.  It was one of the most beautiful and naturalistic farms that I’ve witnessed anywhere and could be categorised as a permaculture forest garden with shade-loving wasabi growing in running water diverted from a river into an intricate series of neatly set out beds and intercropped with trees like loquat and other fruit. Most of the work seems to be done manually.

First, a few videos from the farm and below can be found an album of pictures of wasabi and other plants we saw, including at a shrine and associated vegetable garden adjacent to the farm! Wasabi has very narrower ecological requirements to produce well, including shade and running cool mountain spring water.

17th March 2019:  I’m adding three pictures at the bottom of a group of “wild” wasabi plants growing in quite a dry shady environment in the hills near to Toyota in Japan!


I’m adding below three pictures of a group of wasabi plants growing in quite a dry shady environment in the hills near to Toyota in Japan:

…and a flowering plant in the Kyoto Botanical Gardens:

Om Scorzonera: en hardfør helårs grønnsak

English speakers: See the summary at the bottom!

Skorsonerrot, svartrot, jordskonnerot eller bondeasparges Scorzonera hispanica er en av de nye rotgrønnsakene som har kommet til Norge de siste årene. De fingertykke røttene med hvitt fruktkjøtt serveres på de beste gourmetrestauranter. Men, dette er en grønnsak som har vært dyrket her til lands helt siden 1600-tallet. Dyrket som flerårig grønnsak kan planter bli gammel (minst 50 år pluss) og alle plantedelene kan spises fra vår-rosettene til de søte blomsterstengelene, blomsterknopper og kronblad. Jeg har tidligere skrevet artikler om denne planten både i Våre Nyttevekster i 2012 og  i min bok Around the World in 80 plants  fra 2014. Dette er en “må-ha” grønnsak i min hage!

De siste årene har det kommet frem mye nytt om denne planten og slektningene i den etnobotaniske litteraturen. Derfor tenkte jeg at det var på tide å oppdatere tidligere artikler og resultatet finner dere nedenfor (på norsk)! Jeg håper det faller i smak!

Om du kjenner til en gammel scorsonerrot plante, ta gjerne kontakt!

Takk til Landbruksdirektoratet som har støttet dette arbeidet gjennom prosjektet «Kartlegging – innsamling- dokumentasjon og vurdering av genetisk mangfold av spiselige planter i Norge»
Takk også til Guri-Kristina Batta Bjørnstad for korrekturlesing og faglige kommentarer!

Download (PDF, 1.74MB)

English Summary:  Scorzonera hispanica is one of the new root vegetables that has come to Norway in recent years. The finger-thick roots with white flesh are served at the best gourmet restaurants. However, this is a vegetable that has been cultivated here in Norway and elsewhere in Europe since the 17th century. Grown as a perennial vegetable, plants can grow old (at least 50 years plus) and all plant parts can be eaten from the spring rosettes to the sweet flower stems, flower buds and petals. I have previously written articles about this plant both in the Norwegian Useful Plants Society journal Våre Nyttevekster in 2012 and in my book Around the World in 80 plants from 2014. This is a “must-have” vegetable in my garden!

In recent years, much new information has emerged about this plant and its relatives in the ethnobotanical literature. Therefore, I thought it was time to update previous articles and the result can be found (in Norwegian) in the link! There is a comprehensive table in the article which is in English summarising the traditional use of this plant in Europe! I hope to translate this into English when I get more time….

The perennial Rampions: shade tolerant edientomentals!

This is my third article published here this week, written as part of a 3-year project funded Landbruksdirektoratet (Norwegian Agriculture Agency), this time in English! As the last two plants, Scorzonera and Good King Henry, the perennial rampions (Phyteuma spp.) are also multi-use plants, having both edible roots, spring shoots, unopened flower spikes and the flowers themselves. In addition, they love to be in the shade, have lovely flowers and are some of the best pollinator plants, perfect for the permaculture or forest garden or just for a shady spot in your garden! Plants that combine food, beauty and are insect friendly are what I call edientomentals!
I hope you enjoy the article which can be downloaded below!

Download (PDF, 3.46MB)



Long Horseradish root

We’re nearing the end of a very mild period with no frost in the ground, so I’ve been doing a lot of unseasonal work in the garden. Yesterday, I dug over the horseradish (pepperot) bed and excavated this one root that was trying to escape into a neighbouring area as carefully as I could!
I cut off the top with a bit of root for forcing the delicious young shoots and the root will be ground!

The last roots

The last roots I harvest in the autumn are perennial vegetables for eating in the winter. I usually do this as late as possible and some years harvestng involves breaking through the ice with a pick axe! With daytime temperatures of -7C forecast for next week, this may be the last chance! Yesterday was the annual horserdish (pepperrot) harvest….the big roots are for forcing young shoots as a vegetable (usually blanched) and the younger roots for grated horseradish! An annual dig also serves to limit the spread of horseradish which can be a problem in some gardens!
See my webinar from last winter on winter vegetables here:

Rampions for dinner: one of the best edientomentals!

The most successful of the half dozen Phyteuma species I’ve tried in my garden has been a plant received as Phyteuma nigrum (syn. Phyteuma spicatum ssp nigrum), black rampion or (Norwegian) svartvadderot. It has much darker flowers than Phyteuma spicatum, sometimes almost black. I planted it from seed propagated plants in 2003 and this picture is from 2006-2007:

It has self-sowed freely and seems to have crossed with other accessions of Phyteuma spicata with white and blue (ssp. caeruleum) flowers that I have in my garden (these have not self-sowed much) as there is now a mix of colours in the original spot I planted nigrum. Phyteuma spicatum/nigra is also  the most popular bee plant in my garden in mid-June and a great edimental (one of the edi-entomentals, plants combining food, ornament as well as good for bees and other pollinators!). Phyteuma spicatum (rapunsel) is a very old root vegetable in Europe, mentioned already in Gerard’s Herball from 1597, but best known as a vegetable in France and Germany! The name rapunsel is related to rapa (turnip) due to its use as a root vegetable!
See my blog post from 23rd June 2017 with pictures and video of black rampion:
I tried Phyteuma spicatum as a root vegetable in 2013 and was struck by its good sweetish taste:

I harvested a lot of plants this week (late July 2018) while remaking the bed where it was growing  and was impressed by the good size of roots and yields, although it is unknown how old the individual plants were (I plan to grow some of the smaller plants elsewhere to see how quickly they grow in a shady area of the garden, as this could be a good forest garden plant, although, like Jerusalem artichoke, plants in the Campanulaceae to which Phyteuma belongs, contain the diabetic friendly but poorly digestable carbohydrate inulin):

The flower heads can also be used as a vegetable, reminiscent of Bath Asparagus flower heads (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) see the picture from its wiki page:

I saw the plant in the wild for the first time in Austria in the Alps on my Arche Noah tour in 2017 (see, the white flowered form, growing in open woodlands.

In Norway, it grows wild a few places in southern Norway and has also naturalised in parks, including the great garden at Baroniet Rosendal (see the video and pictures at It is also found in the far north of Norway in Finnmark where it naturalised during World War II, introduced by the Germans with horse forage!

The name rapunsel is related to rapa (turnip) due to its use as a root vegetable! (with video)

Other European languages: Raiponce en épi (French), ährige Teufelskralle (German), ährige Rapunzel (Swiss German), and Raponzolo giallo (Italian)

I’ll be offering seed this autumn via Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN):