Cactus pads for my last lunch in Mértola

Thanks to Matthias Brück for preparing cactus pads (nopalitos) from Opuntia ficus-indicus for lunch, a long job by hand to de-spine first, but delicious! Does the old variety developed by Luther Burbank, “Burbank’s Spineless” still exist?

 

Long circular Yam

Two years after receiving bulbils of Chinese yam or cinnamon vine (Dioscorea polystachya) from my friend Søren Holt, I was able to harvest this curious tuber! I grew it as an “auedible” house plant….yes, it even makes a noise…as the numerous bulbils fall reverberating on my wooden floor in autumn! The bulbils are the reason it has become an invasive species in North America, the vines swamping native vegetation! The first picture below shows the tuber after its first season….I was quite pleased and was about to eat it when someone encouraged me to wait a year…I’m glad I did!
Although Chinese Yam has been grown in Europe since the middle of the 19th century, it never became popular as the  tubers bury themselves very deep (up to one metre) as in my pot where it went as far down as it could! According to Vilmorin (1920) (see pictures), there were successful attempts to breed varieties that didn’t bury themselves so deep…with round tubers clustering near the surface, but these varieties were not so productive.
Any suggestions for good recipes?

Carraig Dulra permaculture farm

Finally, a post from my 3 days non-stop tour of Wicklow gardens, thanks to Orlaith Murphy. The first stop was Suzie Cahn’s Carraig Dulra Permaculture Farm. The abundance developing here on this hillside site which most would probably be categorized as marginal land reminded me of Mandy Barber‘s Incredible Edible site on previous sheep pasture in Devon!
It’s been a hard year due to the very unusual drought since April until recently. Nevertheless, the deep rooting collection of heirloom apples had produced well! We were there on a blustery day after Storm Ali had battered Ireland that night!

Blackcap on yew berries

The male blackcap (munk) was this morning feeding on yew berries (a garden variety “Hicksii”). This yew is right next to the kitchen window and has attracted several fruit eating species including blackbird (svarttrost), redwing (rødvingetrost), fieldfare ( gråtrost), waxwings (sidensvans) and last night for the first time a song thrush (måltrost).

 

Visit to Pro Specie Rara

On 4th April 2018, I took advantage of my trip to Switzerland to attend the The Potential of Perennials for Food Resilience symposium to visit KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) sister organisation Pro Specie Rara in Basel. Many thanks to Director Béla Bartha (since 2002) and Head of Education, Esther Meduna for making me feel so welcome. The trial grounds and offices of Pro Specie Rara are located in the Merian Gärten, a botanical garden in Basel. I lead a walk and talk of the trial grounds and botanical collections followed by an evening lecture at Markthalle in the centre of Basel! A great place for a seed saver organisation to be located! Béla also showed me their seed vault a specially climate controlled room (15C and 15% humidity). The walk and talk was sadly interrupted by heavy rain and we moved indoors and I did a short version of my evening lecture instead!

See also on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156381535005860&type=1&l=add4af4a2e

Pictures and review of my walk and talk at Merian Gärten: https://www.prospecierara.ch/de/news/rueckblick-around-the-world-in-80-plants
Here’s a review of my lecture:  https://einfachnachhaltig.net/2018/05/14/around-the-world-in-80-plants

Mid-October flowers in the Edible Garden

No frost thus far in October and it looks like it could be a frost free month! That and record high temperatures and there are a lot of plants still flowering or reflowering! Most but not all are edible!

Chinese arrowhead: chestnut and artichoke in one vegetable!

Nothing like the promised “giant” 5-10 cm tubers, I was nevertheless surprised to get maybe 3 times the yield of what I planted of chinese arrowhead tubers – Sagittaria trifolia subsp. leucopeta (syn. S. trifolia var. edulis)…a much bigger yield than when I tried North American wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).
211018: I finally got round to trying some. I didn’t peel them and dedn’t trim away the edible shoots and started steaming them (as I usually cook potatoes).  Then halfway through I remembered a post by Alison Tindale (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/2017/11/ducks-eat-duck-potatoes )  where she mentions that they were slightly bitter after boiling,  I therefore boiled then (to reduce bitterness for the second half).  The verdict: one of the tastiest tubers I’ve ever eaten…the texture is like floury potato, but the taste not unlike chestnuts and yes a slight bitterness of the good sort, adding to the overall taste experience…and to cap it, the shoots taste like artichoke hearts!!
I think I will just steam them the next time!
I hope I will manage to overwinter them as I really need to grow more next year! I’m trying to overwinter in the cellar (about 3C and dark), on a window sill in a cool room and in my pond about 10 cm deep to protect  from the worst frost…maybe also covered with spruce branches!