Category Archives: Brassica

Lily White in flower

My youngest seakale Crambe maritima “Lily White” which isn’t that young longer (17 years old), is in full flower a couple of weeks earlier than my other plants and its looking better than ever this year! In the winter, I dug a trench along the “ex-driveway”, now path to the house, to stop tree roots invading and drying up the shallow soiled beds in this part of the garden.

Diamondbacks in their thousands

Since I first blogged about an invasion of diamondback moths (kålmøll) two days ago, reports have been coming in across Scandinavia of the enormity of this invasion, even reaching the farthest north parts of the Norwegian mainland in Finnmark, the arctic city of Tromsø and Northern Sweden. In some places, it’s been too cold to start planting out vegetables!
There were more than a thousand moths in my garden yesterday and they were observed swarming over my perennial kales (Brassica oleracea), sea kale (Crambe maritima) and common wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), none of which are likely to be severely affected.

Diamondbacks are back :(

There’s been a major arrival of diamondback moths (kålmøll) here since yesterday and there are hundreds of this major Brassica pest in the garden today!  I am thankfully only growing perennial kales (Brassica oleracea) and resistent sea kale (Crambe maritima) this year, both of which are already close to maximum yield and unlikely to be severely affected by the moth. This also means I don’t need to use any form of protection (horticultural fleece / fiberduk) which is probably a major source of agricultural microplastics. Problem solved!

Sea kale/strandkål (Crambe maritima):

Perennial kales (Brassica oleracea):

The Holy Grail Kale and the Janas Ecovillage gardens!

I was blown away by the edible and medicinal gardens at the Janas Ecovillage (Ecoaldeia de Janas) during my stay there. Part of my course there was a tour of the gardens and when I enthused about the Portuguese perennial kale growing well in the gardens somebody quipped “Must be the holy grail of veggies!”. Well, not far from it, I’d tried to find it on previous work trip to Portugal having read João Silva Dias’ paper about it (see the last slide for the reference). I had contacted Dias (at the Technical University of Lisbon) to ask if he would share cuttings, but sadly he wasn’t willing. Imagine my surprise then seeing a woody plant that resembled the pictures in his paper. It was confirmed to be called Couve de Estaca (which I think means cabbage propagated by cuttings) in the ecovillage garden. The oldest plant was about 4 years and there was a newer two year old bed planted closely from cuttings! It didn’t flower!
So, here are a few pictures of the holy grail kale :)

Bramblings on kale seed

A flock of 10 bramblings (bjørkefink) and 3 chaffinches in the garden this morning. They were also taking kale (Brassica oleracea) seed (second film). I hadn’t noticed this before! A plan then to grow kale seed for the finches in future..

Sea Kale Yard on the Solent

After my visit to Tim Phillips’ walled garden vineyard (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=10678), I was very happy that Susan Campbell found time in a busy schedule to meet and she drove me to her and husband Mike Kleyn’s home and garden on the Solent… sadly, Mike was travelling on the other side of the world visiting family… :(
Susan is the co-founder, in 2001, of the Walled Kitchen Garden Network and began researching the history of walled kitchen gardens in 1981 (the same year that I moved to Norway, so I know it’s an awful long time!). She has personally visited and photographed over 600 walled kitchen gardens in the UK and abroad, making her a foremost authority on the subject. I met her as she had come across my book and on the strength of it invited me over from Norway to give a couple of talks at the Walled Kitchen Garden Network Forum at Croome (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=2554). You can read more about this network here: http://www.walledgardens.net
However, the main reason for my visit was to see first hand Susan’s sea kale yard, the only operation I’m aware of that delivers seakale commercially in the UK, despite sea kale being for me the most English of all vegetables and for some the King of vegetables! See also my blog post about visiting the Curtis Museum in Alton, coming soon!

Diversity of Brassicas in Munich

The best living displays of the diversity of Brassicas  I’ve seen was in the Munich Botanical Garden in Germany in November 2015, including an apparently perennial kale I hadn’t seen before… Braunkohl “Rote Palme”. Please let me know if you know more about this kale, also if you know of a source of seed /cuttings.

 

The Edible Japanese Bluebell!

When I visited Japan in early spring 2016, I noticed a violet/purple flower growing as an ornamental in some gardens and also escaped as a weed.

I finally realized that it was a plant I had grown for a couple of years (2011-2012) as an unusual annual vegetable, Orychophragmus violaceus, known as ‘Chinese Violet Cress’ or ‘February Orchid’, sourced from Horizon Herbs in the US. Despite one of its common names, it’s not an orchid but is related to cress, belonging to the cabbage family Brassicaceae.

It hadn’t grown particularly well in my garden, but it did manage to flower and I used them in various salads during those two years, adding a different colour to the mix and it continued flowering right to the first frosts in November! It was also badly attacked by the usual pests of Brassicas, but it bounced back with masses of shoots from the roots in the autumn when the pest pressure was released. It doesn’t like temperatures below -5C and therefore didn’t have much chance of overwintering here in Malvik (it is biannual in the Far East).

Orychophragmus violaceus has a wild distribution in China and Korea and was introduced to Japan a long time ago both as an ornamental and also as a potential oil seed crop (you can google pictures of it growing alongside rape oil plants). In the wild it has a wide range of habitats from woodlands,  gardens, roadsides and open fields. In Japan it has widely naturalized in many habitats thanks to its adaptability and it is now found throughout the islands, encouraged by gardeners who love the early spring flowers. In some parts it carpets woodlands in the early spring and it has been described as the Bluebell of Japan! However it is also a weed in gardens (and as such one of the world’s most beautiful weeds!). In Japan it is known as hanadaikon (“flower-daikon”), which name is also used for Hesperis matrionalis (dame’s violet), ooaraseitoumurasaki-hana-na (“purple-flower-rape”), shikinsou (“purple-gold-plant”). Shokatsusai /  zhu ge cai  is its Chinese name.

It has also been used as a forage species in China:
“Its shoots are rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. Hence it is a valuable forage. Its shoot yield is high, about 36,400 kg/ha, when cultivated in Chengdu. This plant species is adaptable to grassland, barren hills, roadsides, gardens, etc. Its protein content is higher than most other forage plants.”

Orychophragmus violaceus is mentioned as an edible wild plant alongside Udo (Aralia cordata) in Joy Larkcom’s Oriental Vegetables!