I’ve been growing Hablitzia tamnoides, affectionately known as Habbies, for over 20 years and this is the first registered mortality. On a shallow bed under a birch tree, plants lift during winter as if to walk off to take over the world (OK, probably just frost heave as also happens with parsnip roots), and one of them is now no more, a dead Norwegian habby :(
Here’s a few more that are going the same way of I don’t rescue them:
…and below is a nice little edible community where both self-sowed Siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are growing happily in company with Hablitzia tamnoides!
It’s always a pleasure to spend time with students from the Fosen Folk High School from the other side of the fjord. Despite the dreadful weather, we visited all 3 of my sites – the onion garden Chicago at the Ringve Botanical Gardens followed by the Væres Venners Community Garden and, finally, my own garden The Edible Garden (this is the first time I’ve taken a group to all 3 sites!). Those that took part were two of the “lines”: The Self-sufficiency line and the The Organic Farming line (small scale). The Organic Farming line were only on the first two visits, so the picture only shows the Self-sufficiency folk!
Thousands of thrushes, mainly redwings and fieldfares (rødvingetrost og gråtrost) arrived back in this part of Norway over the last couple of weeks and local breeders are already established in their territories. Both species breed right up to the tree line where there’s still a lot of snow and will forage for food on agricultural land until the snow disappears, mainly on higher ground. However, there’s been significant snow falls higher up and the snow line has moved back into the lowlands as is common at this time of year. Many of the new arrivals are then pressed down and concentrated on a narrow strip of lower ground near the fjord where there is only a sprinkling of snow which will disappear again during the day. This happened today and a large flock of very talkative birds arrived in the garden and some, mainly, redwings can be heard singing at the start and then many of the fieldfares take to flight in the second segment…
This is one of the most exclusive vegetables and finest edimentals out there, Megacarpaea delavayi (Brassicaceae), a plant found in the high mountains of southwest China at high altitudes (3000–4800 m), and one of the most beautiful! Flora of China says it grows in swampy meadows, grassy slopes and open thickets. It also states that it is used for medicine and as a vegetable. Consulting Google Scholar I found a paper “Eating from the wild: diversity of wild edible plants used by Tibetans in Shangri-la region, Yunnan, China” by Yan Ju et al. (2013) which states that the young stems and leaves are used.
I purchased two young plants I found for sale in a small selection of plants for sale at the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens shop in Sweden in 2011. They took two years to flower and set seed in a shady, dry spot in my garden. It is thought that Megacarpaea can be monocarpic (dying after flowering) but it did come back three more years but grew weakly and did not flower again. I therefore moved the plant to a new location in 2016 which was a bad move as it died…
Sadly, I never did get to eat some….
I put the seed I harvested on my seed list two years in a row and sent to a few people, so if you are one of them and have seed, I am very interested! I germinated some of those seed myself (picture), but I don’t recall what happened to them…
My interest in recording the incredible diversity of insects in my 40 year old edible forest garden lead to a much better understanding of the importance of different key species for the biological diversity present in the garden and the goat willow (selje) is perhaps the most important species of all despite the fact it is only a very marginal edible plant for us. I was aware of the importance of the nectar provided by willow to bumble bees and wild bees in the spring, but I was totally unaware earlier of the importance of this tree for moths emerging as adults in mid-April. I have so far recorded over 30 species of moth which are dependent on willow either in spring or in the larval stage (see the amazing diversity of the moths photographed in the garden in the picture at the bottom. However, this also explains the arrival of the chiffchaff (gransanger) and other migratory species in a wave in the middle of April here…arriving to a ready supply of insect food. The videos show our chiffchaff insect catching up amongst the catkins of one of the goat willows in the garden on 21st April, often singing as he hunts. Another fascination I’ve had for many years is the incredible complexity and beauty of bird song when slowed down (like a sound microscope; after hearing a BBC radio program about this and particularly the song of the wren: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9x2rjExeW8). The second video is of the chiffchaff at normal and 10% speed as it hunts amongst willow catkins. The third video is also slowed down and shows a singing flycatching chiffchaff and a bumble bee flies past at the end (see at full screen)!
As the most important tree for insect diversity in the spring – goat willow / selje (Salix caprea) – emerges into flower, two more moths that feed on the catkins turned up in the garden this morning, yellow horned (vårhalvspinner) and clouded drab (variabelt seljefly). Just waiting now for the influx of birds (chiffchaff, dunnock, thrushes) that feed on this insect feast!
There are records of arctic peoples chewing the flowers of various Salix species for the sweet taste and, from Alaska “Indigenous children strip the catkins of this shrub and chew them. They are commonly referred to as “Indigenous bubble-gum” and are eaten before seeds ripen in June and July”. The catkins of Salix caprea taste good to me, but I don’t know of any use of this species historically.
It looks like I’ve finally managed to overwinter a monkey puzzle tree (apeskrekk) here in Malvik probably thanks to stable but not very cold winter weather! It only needs a partner and a wait until my 108th birthday to harvest the first Malvik monkey puzzle piñones I’ve sowed more seed this winter!
A curiosity in an occasional series “The famous eat dandelions”: From the documentary Creedence at the Royal Albert Hall where they played in 1970, drummer Doug Clifford asks the cameraman if he’s eaten a dandelion and proceeds to eat a flower :)
Yesterday, I introduced Agricultural Explorer David Fairchild who, inspired from visiting Japan, was determined to try to introduce udo (Aralia cordata) and wrote an interesting paper 120 years ago giving more details about this novel perennial vegetable: Udo introduction to the US with cultivation instructions (1903) 11 years later in 1914, he wrote a really interesting report summing up his experiences with udo. It blows my mind to read how much work was done on this plant over 100 years ago, but sad to see that it was never adopted in a big way! You can read the whole report and I recommend you do, but I’ve picked out some titbits from the report that I found particularly interesting followed by a few other interesting excerpts from various inventories of introduced plants to the US!