Category Archives: Annuals

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.

Shungiku Soba

I have a special fascination for vegetables that are superstars in one part of the world but hardly known in others and one of those is garland chrysanthemum or crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria / Chrysanthemum coronarium) a wild and extremely common herb of early spring in Mediterranean countries, often growing in large quantities, and commonly available in supermarkets in Japan where it’s known as  shungiku. It had started to become available in Europe in vegetable catalogues in the 1970s and became known as chopsuey greens. I started growing it in the 1980s, not very successfully as it went quickly to seed in our long northern summer days, better in the years when I had a greenhouse in which I could sow in March.

This year, I started seed very early indoors and plants have for the first time been quite productive. Last night I made a soba (buckwheat pasta dish) with stir fried chopsuey greens and garlic scapes (with white wine, ginger, chili and soy sauce as flavourings). Chopsuey greens have a similar “aromatic” taste common to many other Asteraceae, including perennials like Aster scaber, Aster tripolium and Ligularia fischeri.  Try substituting these perennials  in chopsuey greens recipes.

I wrote an article about shungiku in the Norwegian herb magazine Grobladet, see

Shungiku article

At the time, I couldn’t find much evidence of this plant having been used traditionally in the Mediterranean countries. However, thanks to the many ethnobotanical studies over recent years to document the Mediterranean diet, it has now been registered as eaten both raw and cooked  both in Spain, Italy (including Sicily) , in a number of studies in Turkey as well as Palestine and Morocco. It is also sometimes cultivated.
More specifically, leaves and young shoots are used in the Mediterranean countries in salad (both raw and cooked), in pies, as a cooked vegetable,  in a Turkish dish unlama (flour, garlic and lemon juice) and in Moroccan bakoula salad, usually made with mallow leaves, but spinach and /or kale are substituted for them (see, for example, http://www.mymoroccanfood.com/home/bakoula-with-spinach-and-kale)

Garlic Barley Weedotto!

The last two nights,  Barley Garlic Weedotto (or Garlic Weed Barlotto) was on the meny at the Edible Garden!
I have a relaxed approach to weeds and weeding and don’t mulch my beds like no dig gardeners do as I consider the weeds to be an important edible resource which increases the yield rather than decreasing as most people think!  If weeding becomes harvesting, it becomes less of a chore!
The greens in the barlotto were mostly weeds harvested when weeding my garlic which has grown well despite the ground cover of weeds (the garlic roots are deeper than the weed roots).

NB! Barlotto (Barley risotto) is a local and more nutritious and healthy food as we can’t grow rice !

Garlic with ground cover of “weeds” ready to harvest
Allium oleraceum (wild onion / villøk), Allium scorodoprasum (sand leek / bendelløk), Stellaria media (chickweed), Urtica dioica (nettle / nesle), Taraxacum officinale (dandelion / løvetann), Urtica urens (annual nettle / smånesle), Scandix pecten-veneris (shepherd’s needle / Venuskam; an endangered annual edible weed of grain fields in the UK, in the carrot family, deliberately introduced as a weed in my garden and encouraged by letting some plants self-sow), Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle / haredylle; see my book for more on my most productive and most used “weed”) and Chenopodium album (fat hen / meldestokk)!
Barley Weedotto!
Scandix pecten-veneris (shepherd’s needle / Venuskam) in parsnip / pastinakk
Flowering Scandix pecten-veneris (shepherd’s needle / Venuskam) in a reconstruction of a traditional wheat field in Utrecht Botanical Garden
The characteristic seed heads of Scandix pecten-veneris (shepherd’s needle / Venuskam)

No dig?

A sign of a fertile soil are the weeds. Being a bit late at planting my chicories and swiss chard, the weeds had already formed a green carpet over the bed I’d intended to use (nature’s plaster!). I hand weeded this area yesterday, harvesting edible plants as I worked!
Most of my vegetable production is by way of what I call the  no dig  self-mulching gardening (ultimate no dig)…as perennial vegetables form a long-term vegetation cover that requires little energy and no digging to maintain. Below soil surface the earth is full of roots, binds more carbon than other vegetable growing systems and fungi are now known to play a bigger role than we realised only a few years ago.
However, I still grow a significant amount of annual crops, both leafy greens like swiss chard, potatoes, carrots and parsnip. If I was to use no dig methods, where the undug soil is covered with compost, hay or similar, I would need to produce much more compost and import hay (non-organic). I therefore choose to dig and some of the healthiest plants are weeds like Sonchus oleraceus (my most important vegetable from August to September!
In any case, any nutrients which are washed out from my annual beds ultimately end up in my forest garden and perennial plantings below, so are not lost!

Perennial puha, Sonchus kirkii in Malvik

Sonchus kirkii is the original perennial sow thistle (puha) of the Maori which I’ve long wanted to try (see the account in my book Around the World in 80 plants of this species and annual super(healthy)weed Sonchus oleraceus which replaced it in Maori kitchens! Probably not hardy here, I overwintered it inside having finally layed my hand on some seed! Variously known as  puha, shore puha or New Zealand sow thistle (syn. Sonchus asper var. littoralis), its habitat is described by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network as http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=205: “Coastal. Usually on cliff faces in or around damp seepages where it often grows with the blue green alga Nostoc and fern Blechnum blechnoides. This species has a distinct preference for base rich rocks such as basalt, calcareous mudstones, siltstones, limestone or apatite-rich greywacke faces. On some offshore islands this species extends up into coastal scrub and herbfield. It occasionally grows on stabilised sand dunes. Indications are that this species once occupied a wider range of habitats but has retreated to those less suited to other faster growing introduced weeds.”
I will hopefully eat it for the first time next summer!
NZPCN states that “Easily distinguished from all the other naturalised Sonchus species by the very large, glaucous, non-spinose leaves” (this includes S.arvensis –perennial sow thistle and annuals S. asper and S. oleraceus)
Meanwhile, here are a few pictures:

A 2012 visit to the Århus CSA near Skien, Norway

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of a memorable visit to the Århus CSA scheme and Tom Harald Eckell’s magical vegetables with Rita AmundsenMargaret M. Meg Anderson and Veronica Samycia!
Never have I been so impressed by a field of vegetables (organic too), the astonishing diversity, many of which I’d never seen before…..and above all Tom Harald’s gentle modest manner in the midst of brilliance….my life changed that day…
We all sensed that we’d passed into a parallel universe for the duration of the visit and we all sensed simultaneously on the journey home our return! My life changed that day 

 

From Malta to Japan and back again

The article below, published in Grobladet in 2006 is the story (in Norwegian) of how one of the commonest spring flowers in the Mediterranean countries became one of the most important vegetables in Japan, yet was completely forgotten at home…this is the story of shungiku, the edible-leaved Chrysanthemum, Glebionis coronaria.

Download (PDF, 2.69MB)

Grobladet was the magazine of Oikos, Norway’s biggest organic organisation.