Category Archives: Edientomental

Toad lilies: great edientomentals

 

Toad lilies (Tricyrtis sp.) are great edientomentals from the Far East; i.e. both food for us to eat (the edi bit), eye food (the mental bit ;) ) and food for the pollinators like bumble bees (the ento bit).
I’ve been meaning to try to research this genus properly for many years ever since I ate the young shoots 10 years ago (it tasted mild and good).  I’ve tried 10+ species over the years, but only the early flowering species thrive (Tricyrtis latifolia is I think the most successful of the two). Bumble bees love them too as can be seen in the video below!
Below the pictures is an overview of how different species Tricyrtis are used in Japan. It indicates that the flowers can also be used at least in moderation for decoration, so I must give it a go!

Blanched perennial veggies eaten on 14th May 2012 were dandelion, Crambe cordifolia , Cicerbita alpina, Lovage, Horseradish, Hosta, Sonchus arvensis, Allium tuberosum, Silene vulgaris, Heracleum maximum and Tricyrtis (latifolia)

Tricyrtis in the kitchen
All I have so far is that 6 or 7 species are listed in my comprehensive Japanese foraging book (in Japanese): Wild Food Lexicon (Japan) and this is what it says (there are no warnings of possible toxicity and it encourages the reader to get and grow a couple of the species):
Tricyrtis latifolia (Tamagawa hototogisu)
Eat young shoots. You can eat other types of Tricyrtis so don’t worry if you make a mistake. Rest assured. You can pick it even if the stems are long, you can pick the soft young shoots until they bloom.
Boil in hot water with a pinch of salt, then rinse in cold water. In boiled food, soup, tempura…
Tricyrtis macropoda
It can be eaten like Tamagawa hototogisu, but the ones with a lot of hairs have an inferior taste.
Tricyrtis macrantha
Boiled soup. For tempura etc. It has a crisp texture. Boil briefly, soak in cold water, boil, cut into small pieces and season with mustard. The young shoots are the most flavourful amongst the hototogisu.
Tricyrtis macranthopsis
Seedlings for cultivation are on the market. You can grow it and use it as food.
Around May, pick young shoots that grow diagonally. Even those with long stems can be eaten by picking the soft part at the tip of the stem.
Tricyrtis perfoliata
Young shoots are “hard”? in quality. Floating the flowers in the soup and enclosing them in jelly will make them beautiful. Get it, grow it and taste it!!

Rampions for the hungry gap

The rampions (vadderot in Norwegian, Phyteuma in Latin) has been naturalizing in my garden but so far keeping to the cultivated beds. I needed to dig up a few this week as it was outcompeting some other plants I wanted to keep. I cooked the roots and they were delicious and almost fibre-free and used in a salad. Along with other plants in the Campanulaceae this is a very useful root crop for the root hungry gap! And just look at the bumble bees swarming over the flower tops, always the most popular plant for the white-tailed bumblebees (jordhumler), one of the most useful plants to grow, both tasty (I use also spring leaves and flower buds), nice to look at and a pollinator friendly, ticking all 3 boxes required to categorise it as an edi-ento-mental!
Thr film shows bumble bees on a white-flowered patch of Phyteuma spicatum (spiked rampion).
See also these posts about Phyteuma:
https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=21018 (an article I wrote on the ethnobotany of Phyteuma “The perennial rampions: Shade tolerant edientomentals”)
https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18624 (Rampions for dinner)
https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11910 (Rapunsel)


Old Man’s Beard

Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard / tysk klematis) is an important wild edible in Italy (young shoots which must be cooked) and also one of the most attractive plants in my garden for hoverflies and other pollinators! Saving seed this week from my 20+ year old seed propagated plant which provides me with a lot of entertainment (hoverfly watching on my balcony)!

Sweet Gigas stalks

Somebody asked me a few days ago if one could eat Angelica gigas (Korean Angelica) as you can Angelica archangelica (see my book Around the World in 80 plants for more about that). In my book, I do mention gigas as one of several other Angelica species used in other parts of the world, but until yesterday I hadn’t eaten it myself, partly as I¨’ve never had many plants and the flowering is wonderful!!


On the Korean wiki page, it simply states that “dangwi / dangquai’s petioles and tender stems are eaten raw or seasoned with herbs”. The root is also used medicinally along with Angelica acutiloba and Angelica sinensis.
You can find various instructional videos and recipes on Korean pages by searching
For example, the spring leaves and petioles are boiled and served with onions, garlic, sesame oil and sesame seeds.
As my plants were close to flowering (they darken quickly to deep red at this stage), I decided to go for using the flower stems in salad:I first took one of the thicker flower stems…
….and sliced off a bit at the base for a taste! I was taken aback by how sweet it was (flower stems of Angelica archangelica were in the past considered to be candy by Norwegians). This reminded me of other plants that have surprisingly sweet flower stems: Scorzonera hispanica (scorzonera / scorsonnerot) and Arctium (burdock / borre). I assume that as plants like these approach flowering they produce less insect repellent chemicals and transfer their energy to producing flowers and seeds. For the salad, I peeled off the outer layer as it is fibrous and sliced it into the salad.  Young seed pods of sea kale / strandkål were also available as were Scorzonera flower stems and buds.



As with most Apiaceae, Angelica gigas is very popular with the pollinators, so this one definitely fits into the Edi-ento-mental category (delicious, ornamental and popular with the pollinators – what more could you wish of a plant!).
Unfortunately, like Angelica archangelica this species dies after flowering.

Root Chicory Trials 2021 at Være

One of the experiments this year in the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) trial gardens at Væres Venner in Trondheim has been a comparison of different root chicories. These have 3 main uses:
Witloof (literally “white leaf”) or forcing chicories used for producing chicons, also known as Belgian or French endive (forced from the roots in the dark, usually in winter. to reduce the bitterness);
Root chicories where the root is used as a vegetable, popular in winter in Italy;
Coffee chicories are also in the group root chicories and sometimes the same varieties harvested more mature and used as coffee surrogate (ground and roasted).
There are hundreds of varieties of chicories with multiple other uses. Common for all here in the north is that they are relatively easy to grow with few pests and diseases, thus easier to grow organically than for example the cabbage family. However, they are almost never used here in Norway. In Norway’s largest FB group on vegetables “Grønnsaksdyrking i Hele Norge” with 36,000 members there is only one mention of chicory)(sikkori) and that more as a wild plant than something you would cultivate. 
This is partly because most have been selected for a very different (Mediterranean) climate and some go to seed (bolt) in the first year which significantly lowers yields. Witloof chicories have, however, largely been improved further north (Belgium and France) and my experience has shown that these varieties only occasionally bolt (out of several hundred plants grown this year, none bolted!).

The chicory bed just before harvest. There are 9 varieties along the 1.2m wide raised bed.

I sourced different varieties of root chicories from the German genebank IPK Gatersleben with the objective to select a good variety in the two main groups for my area (I had previously had reasonably good experience growing witloof chicories for forcing in winter; see the picture below). I wanted also to explore if it is possible to be self-sufficient in seed. As part of the seed saving process, roots need to be overwintered and grown to flowering in the second year. Hardiness of chicories varies a lot between varieties and I therefore overwinter roots in my cold cellar, but plan also later to test winter hardiness outside. Some chicories can also perennialize like the wild species and this is a secondary project to select high yielding perennial and hardy chicories. Another great characteristic of chicories and side-effect of seed saving is that the beautiful chicory flowers are very popular with pollinators and a number of selections with different flower colours are also available for growing as an ornamental. This is indeed a great combination plant that I term an edi-ento-mental (edible, good for the pollinators and ornamentally valuable too).
See the various flower variants I’ve grown in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18650

Winter forced Witloof chicons from my cold cellar in mid¨-February

Chicory in flower in my garden

I was pleased with the yield, which was better than I’ve experienced in my shady garden at home. The fact that the roots are irregular in size is probably at least in part due to the fact that the spacing between the roots was a little irregular (I will try for a more even spacing next year).

Witloof chicory Prezo RZ performed well
Witloof chicory Extra Vroege Mechelse had a lot of forking roots


We’ve grown 4 varieties of Witloof forcing chicories including Witloof Prezo RZ, Witloof Extra Vroege Mechelse (Early) and Witloof Dobbel Blank. In the video there are 9 varieties shown and the Witloofs are #2, 7, 8 and 9. There are some nice size roots and I plan to grown on the largest 20-25 or so roots for seed, which will then be made available to KVANN members.

Nice sized roots of the edible root variety Radici di Soncino

The root chicory Radici di Chiavara 

There were two varieties of root chicory and both gave good yields. I will probably grow again next year in larger quantity (the descriptions are taken from Stephen Facciola’s Cornucopia II)
Radici di Chiavara (Chiavari)
Grown primarily for its root, although the leaves are also used and have a good flavor. The root is thick-collared, creamy white and uniform. Grows over a long season, from early spring until late fall. To prepare, scrape and boil the root until tender. Slice thinly and serve with vinaigrette, or it can be rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried and served with lemon and parsley.
Radici di Soncino(Radison)
Long, narrow roots with creamy white skin and flesh; rather bitter. May be harvested anytime from autumn until the following spring. Popular in Italy where it is considered very healthful and is cooked and eaten in many ways.

Below is a video showing all the harvested roots:

Dystaenia heaven

Along with many members of the Apiaceae (carrot family / umbellifers) the flowers of Dystaenia takesimana (Giant Ulleung Celery) are heaven for pollinators like hoverflies (blomsterfluer).
These great edi-ento-mentals thrive both in sunny conditions and in the complete shade of this Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush / sommerfuglbusk).
For more on this great multi-purpose plant, see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=24998

Keeled garlic, a useful winter Allium and edimental in summer

There are Allium species that can be harvested year round in the garden, notably nodding onion / Norw:prærieløk (Allium cernuum) which I’ve blogged about before. In autumn, new shoots of Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum (keeled garlic / Norw: rosenløk) appear and with the mild weather we’ve been experiencing they’ve already reached about 20 cm high. They are hardy and can survive to at least -20C. It’s now in the autumn that this edimental Allium is most useful. I use the shoots in a similar way to chives (Allium schoenoprasum), which died back some time ago and won’t reappear until spring (unless I force them indoors), in salads, cut and sprinkled on sandwiches, in scrambled egg, quiches etc. I use them from October to April.

8. mars: Pizza greens, all harvested outside after most of the snow disappeared during the day. From the top and clockwise; Ficaria verna (lesser celandine / vårkål), Allium cernuum (nodding onion / prærieløk), Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), Allium carinatum, Allium senescens (or hybrid), Primula veris (cowslip / marianøkleblom), Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard / løkurt) and Taraxacum spp. (dandelion / løvetann)

There are two colour forms, pink and white which are particularly valuable as they last such a long time and are popular with pollinators:

There are also forms with bulbils which can be a bit invasive:

You’ll see the flowers used as a tasty decoration in my multi-species salads (bottom right in the picture):

Allium carinatum is also popular with pollinators:



Broad Bean Diversity contributes to Resilience

Broad beans (favas / bondebønner) will easily cross with other varieties that are growing nearby.  In order to keep a variety pure, you need to isolate them physically. I’ve chosen a different strategy and manage to maintain a mix of different bean colour and size forms by selecting for these characteristics every autumn. This automatically gives different flower colours too (broad beans are beautiful enough to be included in the edimental category and are also edi-ento-mentals as they are also extremely popular with bumblebees). Here are my selections which I made yesterday after drying the beans for storage.

Each form will be stored separately and each variety will be planted close to each other in a large block of beans containing many different forms! I think that diversity within a species also contributes to a good harvest with better bean set. I have never had a crop failure using my own home saved mix of beans. I don’t offer the different forms as named varieties, but as a mix or composite “Væres Venner* Mix” through the KVANN / Norwegian Seed Savers yearbook (kvann.no) in February so that others can also select for separate forms!
*Væres Venner is the community garden where most are grown.
See also this post showing the diversity of flowers that produced these beans: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=26183

Scorzonera harvest

This is the harvest of 6 varieties of Scorzonera at our community garden (Væres Venner) last week two years after I sowed seed (I was surprised by an early hard frost and didn’t get round to harvesting it). The following accessions 
Libochovicky (Czechoslovakia) (IPK Gatersleben SCOR5)
‘Peter Schwarzer’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR3 and SCOR 6)
‘Schwarzwurzel’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 7)
‘Einjaehrige ‘ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 8)
Wild accession 1653 from Bundesgarten Wien
(I had hoped to include other varieties from the Nordic gene bank in this trial but those were sadly not available)
Einjaehrige gave as expected the biggest yield (this is a variety selected to be grown in one year…traditionally it would take two years for roots to be big enough. I will grow this one on as a perennial for seed to supply seed as a root variety. The biggest roots of the other accessions apart from the wild accesion which gave as expected the smallest roots (planted now in the World Garden) will be grown on to investigate differences in production of Scorzonera lettuce (spring shoots) and Scorzonera scapes (the sweet flower stems).
Scorzonera is not only one of my favourite must have perennial vegetables but also a popular plant for pollinators flowering right up to the first frosts.