Category Archives: Edientomental

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:

 

Butterfly prefers onion to butterfly bush!

The warmth has encouraged the Buddleja (Butterfly bush / Sommerfuglbusk) into flower, but this small tortoiseshell (neslesommerfugl) still prefers Alliums!
Buddleja isn’t edible, but it is one of the best entomentals (insects love them and so do we; it would be an edi-ento-mental if it had also been edible!)

Opium poppy season is here again

My annual vegetable beds are once again aglow with opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) flowers, my favourite annual edimentals. These are my favourite “weeds” that come up year after year. I’ve planted some 40 different varieties over the years, so there are many colours and flower forms! They need to be “weeded” in order that the individual plants are big! See my grand album of opium poppy pictures here: https://tinyurl.com/y6snlc4r
I collect the seed for using on bread (see the latter album and  http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3191) and other baked dishes!
However, great and blue tits compete with me for the seeds, see my blog post on my narcotits (narkomeis)!  The flowers are almost certainly perfectly safe to eat raw, at least in small amounts and you’ll see the occasional flower in my salads.
Papaver somniferum is also one of the favourite plants for pollinating insects such as bumblebees, hoverflies etc., see  http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=12787!
Other poppy species have also been used traditionally for food and even the leaves of corn poppy (kornvalmue) are used in the Mediterranean countries (I remember seeing the leaves for sale in a market in Venice some years ago!

More about the uses of poppies from Cornucopia II. I grow all 3 in my garden here in Malvik!

Papaver somniferum – opium poppy (opiumvalmue).  The seeds, called maw seeds in Europe and khas-khas in the Middle East, are widely used in breads, cakes, rolls, milky soups, rice dishes, stews, curries, saladdressings, and sweetmeats. When crushed and sweetened, they are used as a filling for crepes, strudels, pastries, etc. Poppy-seed oil is used like olive oil in French cooking, where it is known as olivette. A paste made from poppy-seed oil and roasted, ground poppy seed is widely used in Turkish cuisine. 

Papaver orientaleoriental poppy (orientvalmue). Unripe capsules, though very acrid and hot in taste, are reportedly eaten as a delicacy. In Turkey, the seeds and flower parts are eaten.

Papaver rhoeasCorn poppy (kornvalmue). Young leaves are cooked and seasoned like spinach, or used as a flavoring in soups and salads. A syrup prepared from the scarlet flower petals has been employed as an ingredient in soups and gruels. They also yield a red pigment used for coloring, especially wine. The seeds are used in cakes, breads, and rolls or pressed for their oil, an excellent substitute for olive oil.

Rampions for dinner: one of the best edientomentals!

The most successful of the half dozen Phyteuma species I’ve tried in my garden has been a plant received as Phyteuma nigrum (syn. Phyteuma spicatum ssp nigrum), black rampion or (Norwegian) svartvadderot. It has much darker flowers than Phyteuma spicatum, sometimes almost black. I planted it from seed propagated plants in 2003 and this picture is from 2006-2007:

It has self-sowed freely and seems to have crossed with other accessions of Phyteuma spicata with white and blue (ssp. caeruleum) flowers that I have in my garden (these have not self-sowed much) as there is now a mix of colours in the original spot I planted nigrum. Phyteuma spicatum/nigra is also  the most popular bee plant in my garden in mid-June and a great edimental (one of the edi-entomentals, plants combining food, ornament as well as good for bees and other pollinators!). Phyteuma spicatum (rapunsel) is a very old root vegetable in Europe, mentioned already in Gerard’s Herball from 1597, but best known as a vegetable in France and Germany! The name rapunsel is related to rapa (turnip) due to its use as a root vegetable!
See my blog post from 23rd June 2017 with pictures and video of black rampion: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11910
I tried Phyteuma spicatum as a root vegetable in 2013 and was struck by its good sweetish taste:

I harvested a lot of plants this week (late July 2018) while remaking the bed where it was growing  and was impressed by the good size of roots and yields, although it is unknown how old the individual plants were (I plan to grow some of the smaller plants elsewhere to see how quickly they grow in a shady area of the garden, as this could be a good forest garden plant, although, like Jerusalem artichoke, plants in the Campanulaceae to which Phyteuma belongs, contain the diabetic friendly but poorly digestable carbohydrate inulin):

The flower heads can also be used as a vegetable, reminiscent of Bath Asparagus flower heads (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) see the picture from its wiki page:

I saw the plant in the wild for the first time in Austria in the Alps on my Arche Noah tour in 2017 (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11483), the white flowered form, growing in open woodlands.

In Norway, it grows wild a few places in southern Norway and has also naturalised in parks, including the great garden at Baroniet Rosendal (see the video and pictures at http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=15680). It is also found in the far north of Norway in Finnmark where it naturalised during World War II, introduced by the Germans with horse forage!

The name rapunsel is related to rapa (turnip) due to its use as a root vegetable!

http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11910 (with video)

Other European languages: Raiponce en épi (French), ährige Teufelskralle (German), ährige Rapunzel (Swiss German), and Raponzolo giallo (Italian)

I’ll be offering seed this autumn via Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN):