Category Archives: Edientomental

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.


Queen Anne’s Thistle: a multi-purpose ediavientomental*

Two years ago I accidentally dug up one of my Queen Anne’s Thistles (Cirsium canum) and I discovered the tubers were quite like the tuberous thistle (Cirsium tuberosum). I’ve now dug them all up, harvested the largest roots and replanted. This really is a great plant: a thornless thistle which yields good size tubers that is also attractive to look at, is popular with pollinators and provides winter food for some bird species (oil rich seeds).
* Edi-avi-ento-mental (edible, ornamental and useful for both avian (birds) and insect pollinators)…the most useful category of plant in my book!

Buddleja Butterflies

By chance, the best two plants in the garden for pollinating insects in late summer are growing together in the garden. The Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard / tysk klematis) is in the foreground in the picture below and is popular with hoverflies, droneflies and bumblebees. Behind is my largest (of 3 Buddlejas, butterfly bush /sommerfuglbusk). We had one when we were growing up in the back garden, where my interest in insects and nature started. As the name suggests, it is most popular with butterflies (and moths), but bumble bees are also commonly seen on it. The Clematis reaches up to the balcony which allows me to study the insects at close hand. Clematis vitalba was planted in the garden as the cooked young shoots are commonly eaten in spring in Italy and is therefore one of the best edientomentals (edible/for the insects/ornamental) you can plant. Buddleja davidii is not edible and is in the entomental category.
Although the total number of butterflies is lower this year as last year we experienced a major invasion of painted lady (tistelsommerfugl) butterflies (only 2 observations in the last month in this part of Norway), there is a good diversity of species and you’ll find pictures and videos of the following species below:
Red admiral / admiral (up to 4)
Small tortoiseshell / neslesommerfugl (7)
Dark green fritillary / aglajaperlemorvinge (1)
Brimstone / sitronsommerfugl (colonising this area and my 3rd record this summer)
Comma / hvit C
Small white? / liten kålsommerfugl
Green-veined whites / rapssommerfugl have also been very common this year.
A possible small blue (dvergblåvinge) was also seen in the garden on Allium wallichii on 21st August.

Broad Bean Mix

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 like to have different varieties with different coloured flowers and bean colour in additon to maintaining early yielding varieties such as Express. I’ve found that I can plant different forms close together and if I save separately beans with different colour and bean size and mark for saving plants with particularly nice flower colours, then I can maintain a good mix in the same place. The flower forms below are all growing within a few metres in the Væres Venner community garden. They were grown from the mix of beans saved at the same place in 2018 (first picture). I don’t offer the different forms as named varieties, but as a mix or composite “Væres Venner Mix” so that others can also select for separate forms! Bumble bees were all over the flowers when I was there!




Red-tailed bumblebee: new species for the garden

Yesterday, I registered red-tailed bee / steinhumle (Bombus lapidarius) for the first time at the community garden (Væres Venner), the first time in this part of Trondheim. This is a common species in the city and is probably the commonest bumblebee in the Allium garden at the botanical gardens. Today, I saw this species for the first time in my own garden, the first record in this area.  It was on Allium pskemense, probably the most popular plant in my garden for bumblebees. In the second video you can see both the white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum; lys jordhumle) and tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum; trehumle). Please correct me if I’m wrong!

Edimental of the Day is Malva alcea

Malva alcea (greater musk-mallow, cut-leaved mallow, vervain mallow or hollyhock mallow / Norw: rosekattost) is a mallow native to southwestern,  central and eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Spain north to southern Sweden and east to Russia and Turkey.  It is easy to confuse with musk mallow (Malva moschata). It is a much larger plant than moschata. My plant is the upright form Malva alcea var. fastigiata and reaches 1.8m, double the height of moschata. I had this for many years, but it was sterile and I suspected it was a hybrid with moschata. It finally died after some 15 years and I sourced new seed through the Scottish Rock Gardening Club seed list in winter 2012-2013. It grew quickly, produced seed and has self-sowed in a few places in the garden, growing well in the half shady conditions my garden provides for. Here it is, filmed from my balcony today:

It is often planted in gardens as it flowers for a long time in summer. It has naturalised in the UK (see https://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/plant/malva-alcea) and also here in Norway there are a number of observations, particularly around Oslo.

This summer, I’ve been using this mallow much more than before as I now have a lot of it and it has replaced moschata in a few places, suggesting that these may be hybrids! This really is one of the most useful perennial vegetables in the summer garden. Along with other mallows you can pick off leaves, young flower buds and flowers over an extended period! I use them in various stir-fry dishes, in soups, on pizza, in quiches and mixed salads!

It is surprisingly not often mentioned as edible in ethnobotanical studies (maybe underreported due to confusion with moschata?). However, a quick search revealed it being used traditionally in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria!

If I had written my book today, this may well have replaced moschata. I did mention alcea in the book under the account of moschata as follows:

I have less experience with Malva alcea, greater musk mallow, which is, as the English name suggests, a larger plant. It has a similar range to musk mallow, except that it isn’t found in the UK. I’ve only grown the form ‘Fastigiata’ which is long-lived and a nice ornamental, needing staking up during the summer. My plant was sterile and is
thought possibly to be a hybrid between M. alcea and M. moschata. The flowers are also good in salads.

Bees love it too!

Here are a few pictures of it in the garden today: