Eurasian redwings (rødvingetrost) seem to becoming more common in winter here. I now have 7 records of single birds since 2015 (December to March) and today there were 4 together feeding briefly with fieldfares (gråtrost) on guelder rose (krossved) berries! Interestingly, 27th December seems to be the best day to see redwings here as I now have records in 2015, 2017 and 2021 on this day!
Two years ago there was an irruption of pine grosbeaks (konglebit) in Norway and I finally got to see this species in the garden for the first time although only briefly (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23766). Yesterday, they turned up again, a flock of 17 birds (there’s an invasion again across the country). I thought initially they were bullfinches (dompap) to which they are closely related (bullfinches also feed sometimes on rowan). Poor light conditions as the sun was still below the horizon and -10C. As I was filming a couple of the birds flew to about 1m from me (they are unafraid of humans). Then, five minutes later they were gone.
I love the seasonality of fruit and berries and one group of berries that can be harvested in October and November are particularly valuable when you only eat fresh and, later in the winter / spring, dried fruit and berries. The blackberries (bjørnebær) are finished now and we will be eating fresh stored apples now until at least April. This week after the first heavy frost I was able to continue harvesting Worcesterberries (a selection of Ribes divaricatum) at the bottom of the picture, Aronia prunifolia (purple chokeberry) at left and autumn olives / Japansk sølvbusk (Elaeagnus umbellata)
The fresh fruit season approaches rapidly as the first fruit ripens…wild strawberries (markjordbær) and haskaps (Lonicera edulis). Since the fresh apples ran out early April we’ve been eating delicious rehydrated dried fruit salad every day. We mix different flavours (sour and bitter and sweet) in the same way as in mixed salads. Here are the recipe and ingredients in this year’s “Summer in a Bowl” mix: apples, wild bilberries, raspberries (from the hills and garden), yellow raspberries, redcurrants, saskatoons (Amelanchier), rhubarb, sour cherries and gooseberries! We both made mixed fruit leather and dried the berries as they were (mixed together in the rehydrated mix). I never buy fruit and never use sugar for preserving and don’t own a freezer (by choice).
Rehydrated fruit mix for breakfast every day is delicious:
The first ripening berries of 2021 (wild strawberries and haskaps):
…and the 2021 fruit harvest is very promising with both plums, cherries and apples all covered in flowers in May (pictures and video of the biggest apple tree – Aroma)
Norwegian: for en norsk oversettelse av denne artikkelen (Norwegian translation), se KVANNs (Norwegian Seed Savers) Nyhetsbrev #15
There’s always been a barberry (Berberis vulgaris) in my garden, in dry soil in the root zone of my largest spruce trees. It was a large plant when we moved here in 1984 and may be wild as it’s a common plant on the other side of the bay (Malvikbukta) where it grows on shallow dry soils next to the fjord in company with sea buckthorn (Hippophae tamnoides). It is thought that this species was originally introduced in monastery gardens and later naturalised. It’s nowadays a relatively common but local plant along the Trondheimsfjord, but isn’t found much further north.
I also planted one next to the kitchen window in order to get good views of waxwings (sidensvans) and thrushes (troster) that feast on the berries in autumn and winter:
I also have a form with dark berries which I propagated by seed which I received in 1998:
Ethnobotany There are many species of Berberis, and the closely related Mahonia, which many botanists consider to be a part of Berberis, that have been used traditionally for food around the world. In South America, several species were used including the fruit of the michay (Berberis microphylla) used by the Mapuche people of Chile and Argentina. Numerous Native American tribes used various Mahonia species both fresh and dried, for jelly and jam, tea, wine and lemonade. In Japan, several species are used for drinks and at least one species is used for a drink in China. 7 species are known to be used in Nepal, both eaten fresh, pickled, distilled into alcohol and in the case of Berberis chitria, the seeds are roasted. Fruit of Mahonia acanthifolia and Mahonia napaulensis are also eaten fresh and pickled. Another Himalayan barberry (Berberis asiatica) is said to make the best Indian raisins. However, it is in Iran (and neighbouring Afghanistan) that barberries are really an important part of the national cuisine(s), notably zereshk polow (literally barberry rice). The eastern Iranian province of South Khorasan is the main production area of seedless Iranian barberries on (in 2014) 11,000 ha and over 9,000 tonnes of dried fruit. Cultivation goes back 200 years or so. Most authors consider that the seedless barberry, which is propagated by suckers, is Berberis vulgaris var. asperma but others that it is a form, or hybrid, Berberis integerrima ‘Bidaneh’ (bidaneh meaning seedless). Difficulty of propagation, the spiny nature of plants and the tendency to yield every other year are problems being addressed. I like to let the birds, and in particular waxwings, take most of the barberries. However, I normally dry a few for my dried fruit mixes which I have for breakfast once the fresh apples are finished normally from April to when the first fresh fruit is available again in July (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=25352). However, this year there were very few waxwings and I dried many more than normal (over the wood stove).
I’ve been inspired by Persian cuisine many times over the years, like the Persian spice golpar from the seeds of Heracleum persicum and other Heracleum species, now the spice I use more than any other (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=golpar) and Persian shallots (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=persian+shallots). I therefore decided to try using my dried Berberis harvest in various Iranian dishes. The first was just to give a “lemony zing” to rice. I ground the dried berries and just sprinkled on the rice before serving.
There are numerous recipes for preparing zereshk polow which you can find easily by searching on the net (including youtube videos). It’s either a layered rice dish, but the rehydrated berries are usually sprinkled on the top as a jewel-like decoration. The berries are either rehydrated by soaking in cold water for 5-10 minutes or quickly in hot water. They are also added to melted butter which plumps them up. Saffron is often an ingredient (South Khorasan is also an important production area for saffron). The Iranian spice mix, which often contains golpar (ground seeds or the flower petals of Heracleum persicum). The pilow is usually steamed and often onions, garlic and almond slices are included. I’d like to adapting this using barley or rye grains in place of the rice.
Other Ethnobotanical Uses I’ve also recorded other uses of Berberis vulgaris in the ethnobotanical literature in Europe and West Asia: Czech Republic: Snack food for children Estonia: Spice for fermented cucumbers Slovakia: Young shoots eaten raw in spring or added to sauces Bulgaria: Fruit added to soups as a sour taste Turkey: Used fresh or dried Basque Country (Spain): Young shoots are eaten
Other species In 2011 on a visit to the Dublin botanical garden, I tasted my way through a nice collection of Berberis in fruit and two of them stood out with good taste:
Nutritionally, Berberis fruits are rich in vitamin C (similar to citrus). In some areas, it may be unadvisable to plant Berberis vulgaris as it is an alternative host for the stem rust Puccinia graminis of wheat and barley. However, modern day varieties are usually resistent.
After a 15 year wait, I was finally able to harvest a few mulberries last year, see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23040 In the winter I was sent 4 cuttings of the variety Illinois Everbearing which everyone raves about! I’m not much of a grafter and in fact I can now report my first success as all 4 are alive! I’d actually given up when I noticed green buds on 3 of them a few weeks ago and then last week I saw the 4th that I had missed that even had berries! I’m wondering, what chance the ones in bud have in making it through the winter and I should maybe remove the fruit and flowers now appearing on another?
This summer we’ve experienced a big swing in temperatures from one month to the next…from a record cold May to a record warm June followed by most of July being also record cold. The warmth in June straight after planting my runner beans on 11th (later than normal) resulted in quick growth and by the end of July the earliest variety, two-toned Painted Lady was already in flower, a month earlier than a normal year (if there is such a thing as normal anymore)….so maybe we are heading for a record crop, where runner beans are marginal and almost never give a good sized crop:
My courgettes (zucchini), planted out on 14th June on my shady composting area (no more than 2 hours of direct sunshine) also started cropping very early at the end of August:
Finally, I was surprised when folk told me last year that their Worcesterberries (a selection of Ribes divaricatum) ripened in July. I’m usually eating mine from the middle of September to the first frosts late in October, but they are also turning colour already:
I didn’t expect to find a bumble bee feeding first thing this morning but I found this Bombus hypnorum (tree bumblebee/trehumle) busy visiting flowers of Ribes divaricatum and its selection Worcesterberry. The air temperature was about freezing…
I planted a yew (Taxus x meda “Hicksii”) next to the kitchen window mainly for the birds some 20 years ago and the berries regularly attract blackbirds, fieldfares, robin, blackcap, waxwings and as here a redwing only about 1-2m from me!
Norsk: Svarttrost, gråtrost, rødstrupe, munk, sidensvans og rødvingetrost!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden