My friend Eirik is involved in the restauration of the fantastic Mylna (mill) in Voss…incredible to think that this would be no more if it hadn’t been for a group of private people fronted by one of Norway’s first environmentalists, Ivar B. Løne, who became vegetarian in the 70s and founded Friends of the Earth in Bergen (Naturvernforbundet) and also has done much for Vossakvann (the old variety of Angelica which was the main reason for our visit). He was also way ahead of his time with local slow food like his barley and Jerusalem artichoke flat bread! One of the real heros of our time, now in his 90s!
One of the culinary highlights of the year is the annual Jicama (hee-ka-ma) meal….if you’ve never eaten yam beans or Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus), you haven’t lived!
I grow this subtropical vegetable in my office, which only gets sunlight for maximum 1 hour a day which isn’t optimal conditions (they are usually grown in open fields), but being a climber originates in forests, so it tolerates shade. I grew it’s brother on-climbing Ahipa (Pachyrhizus ahipa) beside it, but that species didn’t produce much (perhaps it’s more sensitive to light?). I also didn’t think the taste was as good. Both species died down at the end of the year and I harvested the tubers in early January!
Jicama tubers are best eaten raw and are crispy and a little sweet. Being one of the lost crops of the Incas, much more popular in the Americas than in Europe, I served them sliced with a cooked quinoa mix – mixed home grown Quinoa and black-grained Henry quinoa from Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus), flavoured with chilis and lemony sanshō seeds (Zanthoxylum piperitum or Japanese pepper).
NB! Both species, Ahipa and Jicama are normally started from seed which I haven’t succeeded in growing myself!
Day Two: I didn’t eat it all yesterday, I needed a bit more, so I cooked up a third species quinoa, Fat Hen quinoa (Meldestokk quinoa), from the seed of one plant of Fat Hen or Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album). It was added to yesterday’s to give a Three species quinoa and jicama salad (two pictures added)
Follow the link above for a good video in English where Johan Swärd, winner of the Norwegian Plant Heritage prize, tells the story of Svedjerug (literally Slash and Burn Rye), an old variety which was rescued when a few seeds were found between the floorboards on an old farm in Finnskogen, Norway before being grown out at the Hamar Domkirkeodden Urtehagen (Herb garden at the Hamar Cathedral ruins; see a picture of one of the plants growing there in 1988: https://no.wikisource.org/wiki/Svedjebruk#/media/File:Ryesod.JPG). Johan got his seeds from there and has done great work in popularising it (I can now even buy flour and grain in one of the better supermarkets in Trondheim):
It’s a very tall rye (over 2m) traditionally sown in summer and harvested the year after as part of the slash and burn agriculture (spruce forest) introduced by the Forest Finns (Skogfinner) to parts of Norway and Sweden. Johan tells how as many as 100 straws can in optimal conditions be produced from a single seed and up to 100 grains in each ear, an amazing total of 10,000 grains from a single plant! He also explains why it is important not only to store old varieties like Svedjerug in gene banks like Svalbard, but also to continue to grow them and select them for changing conditions.
Seed of Svedjerug has been offered in our Norwegian Seed Savers Yearbook (norwegianseedsavers.no), coming out in February, another good reason to support our work!
Below are two pictures taken during a workshop Johan gave at the Permaculture Festival in Hurdal in 2013!