Category Archives: water plants

Swamp saxifrage salad

The swamp saxifrage (Micranthes pensylvanica, earlier Saxifraga pensylvanica)  is a very interesting perennial edible for a damp place in the garden. I grow it in damp soil next to my small pond.  It grows over much of northeastern North America in “marshy meadows, mucky seepages in woods, swamp forests, montane bogs and seeps” (Flora of North America). It is recorded as being eaten by the Cherokee people as a salad.
I obtained seed of this in 2003 as its edibility is mentioned in Cornucopia II:  “Young, tender, unrolling leaves can be used in salads, eaten as a potherb or briefly cooked in bacon fat”.  For various reasons I never tried it.
And then I bought Samuel Thayer’s book The Forager’s Harvest (2006) in which he includes this rarely foraged plant, despite it being  quite common over its range! He says that “…the only part of the swamp saxifrage plant that I consider worth eating is the flower stalks”. He considers the boiled young leaves hardly edible, being bitter and tough even when young. However, reading Sam’s account was at the same time that I had started to redo my overgrown pond and adjacent boggy areas. This took several years and it wasn’t until this spring that the swamp saxifrage was big enough again to be harvested!
The verdict: the flower shoots were delicious and crispy raw without a hint of bitterness or toughness. I served them with a simple olive oil and soy sauce dressing. I’d now like to grow a larger area of this! Sam advises against cooking them as this makes them very soft. Incidentally, I didn’t find that the top third of the flowers stalks are less palatable as commented by Thayer.

 

Jorge’s edible water garden

I’ll always be grateful to my friend Jorge Carona as without him I would never have been invited to Portugal. The story of how we met is told here:

Sintra Foraging with Fernanda Botelho

He was also instrumental in suggesting that the Ecoaldeia de Janas should invite me to give a course! Added to that, he did almost all the driving on my trip. I also spent two nights at his house on the hills in Calhandriz above Alverca near Lisbon and was able to see his edible water gardens for the first time! So here are a few pictures of the garden, sadly neglected as Jorge wasn’t living here for some time! He has a large water tank under an outhouse to supply the water for this project! The pond is an oasis for wildlife in the dry countryside which has been suffering from drought for several years! Many thanks, Jorge!
Other edible water plants in the pond: Bacopa, Acorus, Oenanthe, Houttuynia, Aponogeton and watercress. Elsewhere in the garden, Jorge has planted apples, pears, orange, plums,fig and edible bamboos! A great little garden!

Chinese arrowhead: chestnut and artichoke in one vegetable!

Nothing like the promised “giant” 5-10 cm tubers, I was nevertheless surprised to get maybe 3 times the yield of what I planted of chinese arrowhead tubers – Sagittaria trifolia subsp. leucopeta (syn. S. trifolia var. edulis)…a much bigger yield than when I tried North American wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).
211018: I finally got round to trying some. I didn’t peel them and dedn’t trim away the edible shoots and started steaming them (as I usually cook potatoes).  Then halfway through I remembered a post by Alison Tindale (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/2017/11/ducks-eat-duck-potatoes )  where she mentions that they were slightly bitter after boiling,  I therefore boiled then (to reduce bitterness for the second half).  The verdict: one of the tastiest tubers I’ve ever eaten…the texture is like floury potato, but the taste not unlike chestnuts and yes a slight bitterness of the good sort, adding to the overall taste experience…and to cap it, the shoots taste like artichoke hearts!!
I think I will just steam them the next time!
I hope I will manage to overwinter them as I really need to grow more next year! I’m trying to overwinter in the cellar (about 3C and dark), on a window sill in a cool room and in my pond about 10 cm deep to protect  from the worst frost…maybe also covered with spruce branches!

Brown Cress is Back

BROWN CRESS IS BACK!
I received a tip via permies.com that hybrid brown watercress is again available in Europe!
In my book I wrote (in the piece about watercress):
“There aren’t many cultivars and the most common variety is ‘Dark Green American’. In the past, a naturally occurring hybrid between the two closely related species Nasturtium officinale and N. microphyllum (One-rowed watercress), known as brown cress (as it inherited the brownish winter leaves of N. microphyllum), was cultivated. However, this sterile clone had to be vegetatively propagated and the build-up of viruses led to its demise…….It would be nice if the old hybrid brown cress had been available to the home gardener, but I’ve never seen it offered.”
You can order it from:
https://www.kraeuter-und-duftpflanzen.de/Nach-Verwendung/Essbare-Pflanzen/Salatkraeuter/Braune-Brunnenkresse-Pflanz
Please let us know how you get on!

My pond is back

I finally got my Tiny pond back it into life today after 5 years trying to get rid of the Equisetum (water horsetail?) I foolish planted many years ago…also removed the Zizania aquatica (Manchurian wild rice) which was also taking over..
Unfortunately seem to have lost my ALlium VAlidum (swamp onion), one of the 80 in my book, so if you are one of those I sent seed to, you know what to do :)
I have planted plenty of Saxifraga pensylvanica though, looking forward to trying that one!
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Saxifraga pensylvanica:
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Some pictures of Allium validum:
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