Category Archives: Annuals

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.

Garden pictures 24th-25th September 2016

A collection of pictures from last weekend in the garden!


A Sonchus oleraceus variety?

It would be a great project to select Sonchus oleraceus…for new improved yielding and special forms like was done with wild chicory aIt would be a great project to select Sonchus oleraceus…for new improved yielding and special forms like was done with wild chicory and other vegetables… Last winter somebody found seed of an amazing frilly sow thistle being sold in an on-line chinese vegetabe catalogue….too good to be true…I should have noticed that the seed weren’t Sonchus when I sowed them…it seems it’s just an endive :( Lost in translation?

The seed packet….
The resulting plant.
The flower stem
I had seed left from the Chinese packet (right) and compared with common sow thistle seed collected in my garden…

Joke plants

From top left and clockwise: Medicago radiata, Medicago scutellata “Sava” and Scorpiurus spp. (picture from my garden on 31st July 2004)
Chorogi or chinese artichokes (Stachys affinis)








I read some 15 years ago (but would love a proper reference*) that the Victorians (and some more recent jokers too) were fond of practical jokes and would add various plant parts that resembled caterpillars, snails, worms etc to their salads. I call them collectively joke plants. I should grow them again…I love humour in the garden :)

Scorpiurus muricatus and S. vermiculatus (Prickly caterpillars, prickly scorpionstail / skorpionurt), Medicago scutellata “Sava” (snail medick), Medicago radiata (ray-podded medick) and chorogi or chinese artichoke (Stachys affinis) are examples. Pictures below (yes, I’ve grown them and smuggled them into my salads for the entertainment of unsuspecting visitors!)
*I find the following reference in Google Books:  A Joy of Gardening by Victoria Sackville-West (Harper, 1958). On pages 184-186, there’s a section called “Joke plants” which I’d love to get hold of! Anyone have this book?
Add 050916: Thanks to Alison Tindale who mentioned joke plants in her great blog  The Backyard Larder having seen a reference in the classic book by Fearing Burr The Field and Garden Vegetables of America Containing Full Descriptions of Nearly Eleven Hundred Species and Varietes; With Directions for Propagation,Culture and Use”  (1863). See (at the bottom)

Weekend garden pictures

A diverse selection of pictures from last weekend in the Edible Garden :)

Sonchus seed

I couldn’t resist these two packets in a Chinese seed catalogue someone tipped me about. Never seen common sow thistle seed for sale (first picture), perhaps a cultivar?…and the second is Sonchus brachyotus, which I’ve never seen seed of before, but mention in the book “Another closely related perennial species, S. brachyotus, is used by farmers in northern Jiangsu. The young rosettes are washed, mixed with wheat flour, steamed, cooled, seasoned with mashed garlic, chopped onion, salt, vinegar and soy sauce (no doubt disguising the bitter taste suggested by the name, Bitter Wheat-field Herb, in the process).”
Exciting times!