New Year Hablitzia

There are 8 pages in my book devoted to this, one of my all time favourite perennial vegetables, Hablitzia tamnoides. I prefer just to call it Hablitzia or Habby as my friend Telsing calls it fondly, but sometimes it is known as the Caucasian spinach revealing its home territory.  I’m particularly in awe of its hardiness as shoots appear in autumn and are usually undamaged after being exposed to up to 3 months of freezing temperatures. Even if the shoots were killed off, there are numerous shoots waiting at the ready to sprout from the roots! Even on the 31st December, the snow having disappeared for some days, I could now harvest a few shoots for a winter salad! I did this last Xmas which was very mild – the reddish shoots at the bottom in the 50 species salad picture are Hablitzia. The pictures of my oldest Hablitzia root mound below were taken today, 31st December 2014….
I also noticed like last year that several seeds have already sprouted around the plant,  eager to get started with spring. Last year they all died in our winter drought…. I’ll leave them and see if they make it… :)

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Oca Harvest

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is a short day plant from the Andes which produces next to nothing  outside here as the plants are usually killed by the first hard frosts in early October…..
In order to lengthen the season, I grow my Ocas in large pots, which I usually bring in to the porch on the first frosts…
This year I was a bit late and most of the foliage was killed before I could bring the plants inside and only the odd stem remained green until harvest. I hadn’t therefore expected much yield.  However, some of the varieties were as good as normal….
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Ocas in pots in the garden:

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In the porch (not this year):

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This old man’s beard has gone to seed…..

Most of the snow disappeared in the garden after rain and high temperatures over the last 24 hours…revealing this old man’s beard in seed. I’ve grown Clematis vitalba as a spring edible (cooked young shoots) for a number of years, but after a long mild summer and autumn this is the first time the seed has matured and the beard has emerged…this is a good one for the Forest Garden, but remember that it needs to be cooked as poisonous raw like most members of the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae…
Clematis vitalba is an important wild foraged edible particularly in Italy!

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Sowing a Vermontian woodland

I tonight sowed various perennial edibles I found and collected seed of in the woods near Woodstock, Vermont while visiting a friend and my US distributors Chelsea Green in White River Junction in September! Excited to be creating my little bit of Vermont in Malvik :)

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Asclepias (Milkweed)

 

 

 

 

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Asclepias (Milkweed), Viola canadensis…..

 

 

 

Asclepias (Milkweed)

 

 

 

 

Amphicarpaea (the small beans), Osmorhiza (longest) and
Honewort

 

 

Amphicarpaea (the small beans), Osmorhiza (longest) and
Honewort

Greek Mountain Tea / Sideritis syriaca

 I visited an ex-colleague in Athens, Greece some 20 years ago. He offered me tea of a plant I didn’t know.  He called it mountain tea from the Greek  τσάι του βουνού…  He told me it was one of the two most popular herbal teas in Greece, used both for pleasure and to prevent colds.  Looking it up in a book on the flowers of Crete,  where he was from, it turned out to be Sideritis syriaca.  At the time I’d never heard of it and was puzzled as to why one of Greece’s most prized herb teas wasn’t known in Northern Europe. After all, most of our herbs originate in the Mediterranean countries.  I searched for seed and in the early days of the Internet I traded some with someone in Italy.

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To my surprise, the resultant aromatic plants thrived in my garden in a dry well drained spot.  Not that surprising as I found out that the plant was usually wild harvested high up in the White Mountains of Crete (ssp. syriaca, despite its name), an area with not that dissimilar a climate to where I live.  I concluded that perhaps this herb was easier for me to grow than further south in Europe, not liking wet winter conditions. This theory was strengthened when my first plants died one w inter after I had removed a tree which had kept the place I was growing it dry….and subsequent replants also died . However, I have seen it in botanical gardens in recent years (Wisley and Hilliers in England) as well as Copenhagen and Århus (Denmark) and Gøteborg (Gothenburg). I alslo saw it growing in the Tromsø Botanical Garden at close to 70 deg. N in Norway. The herb also started to become available particularly in Germany (the German wiki page is particularly informative: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrisches_Gliedkraut) and elsewhere where there are Greek markets such as in New York.

If you’ve succeeded with this herb, please let me know!!

In 2010 I found that another gardener here in Malvik had managed to keep one of the original plants I’d given her alive:

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 Here in the Tromsø Botanical Gardens in 2009:

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14th June 2015 with Geranium lucidum

It turns out that there are a number of other closely related species also used as herbal tea including S. scardica (Mursalski or Olympus Tea), S. cretica (Crete Mountain Tea, actually from Tenerife!) and (below) S. trojana seen in the Mediterranean garden at Kew OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGardens:

 

“If you can’t beat them, eat them…”

During my talks I make the suggestion that although there are justifiably invasive unwanted species in our part of the world, there are many “black-listed” plants in my view that we may in the future thank our generation for having introduced due to their being valuable and healthy edibles (the positive impacts of such plants haven’t as far as I know been included in the total evaluation of black listed plants.  There are other positive factors such as Fallopia japonica (Japanese knotweed) being an important bee plant as it is late flowering and also a cultivated source of medicinal resveratrol  (an antioxidant also found in red wine and peanuts).  In my book Around the World in 80 plants, there are about 7 species categorized as having “severe impact” (SE) on the Norwegian Black List, 2 with “high impact” (HI) and at least 6 with “potential high impact” (PH).  At least two others in the book (Dandelion and Ground Elder) are often referred to as invasive, but as they are well established and introduced before 1800 are not on the black list!  As they say  “If you can’t beat them, eat them…” and I might (jokingly) add “If you can’t eat them, beat them”….  ;-)

The link is a recent one arguing against the hysteria by a US based ecologist pointing out that “our panic about invasive species might be a major mistake”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/battling-invasive-species-can-be-a-mistake-ecologist-says-1.2861822