Alpine bistort harvest and the Idas Blue

More or less the only plant I forage these days from the wild are alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils (Polygonum viviparum / Persicaria vivipara) to dry for the winter. This is one of the 80 plants in my book and I grow various accessions of this plant also in my garden! See also my post on 25th June 2019: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22680
The best places for this species are in the high mountains and this plant’s tubers saved many mountain folk in the past from dying of hunger. We were at about the tree line and here it’s only found on disturbed ground but in places there can be large numbers of plants as in the video. It was a little early still, so we didn’t pick a lot, but will return in a couple of weeks. As we worked, hundreds of Idas blue / Idasblåvinge butterflies flitted around us!

Edimentals Goes Mainstream

On the 12th June, I gave my first webinar at a mainstream gardening conference in the US, the Southeastern Plant Symposium, hosted by the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I had thought that the invitation was on the back of a successful talk I gave at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in September 2019. However, it turned out not to be the case and one of the organizers horticulturist and owner of Plant Delights Nursery, Tony Avent, had read my book, enjoyed it and had suggested to the committee to invite me!

My talk lined up to start on the right screen with Tony Avent on the left screen

I was sandwiched between some great ornamental gardeners and plant breeders including Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter in the UK. I particularly enjoyed Aaron Floden’s talk  (from the Missouri Botanical Garden) on unexploited native plants (in an ornamental context) and plant breeder Peter Zale’s talk on Hosta breeding (the market for Hostas in the US is enormous….time for a small segment dedicated to Hostas for food!). Edimental gardeners can, as I have over the years, get a lot of inspiration from ornamental gardeners.

The feedback after the event was very positive. One of the participants, Marty Finkel, wrote an article about the talk which has just been published on page 10 of the Granville Gardeners Gazette (available for all to read!)
see http://www.thegranvillegardeners.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Gazette-2021-07.pdf (after an article about human composting!)

Chiugok, Small Bird’s Garlic, a hardy Himalayan edimental

Like Sherpa onion or Nepalese onion Allium wallichii, which features in my book Around the World in 80 plants, chiugok (small bird’s garlic) as Allium macrantum is known in Lithang, Tibet is the latest emerging Alliums in my garden. I often wonder if they are still alive when, in a cold spring they haven’t emerged by the end of May, but both species have overwintered now for almost 20 years.

A nice large group of Allium macranthum in the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens in Sweden on 26th May 2008
Spring shoots in the Tromsø Botanical Gardens on 4th June 2009

I’m not sure where my oldest plants came from but my second accession came from Vojtec Holubec’s seedlist, collected in Szechuan in China.  It’s native to Bhutan, Sikkim, Gansu, Shaanxi, as well as Szechuan and Tibet and grows in wet places at elevations of 2700–4200 metres (Flora of China).

The roots are fleshy and could no doubt be eaten like the fleshy roots / rhizomes of Allium wallichii and Allium hookeri are.
The roots of Allium macranthum (on the left) are similar looking to larger Allium wallichii (right)

By early July the old roots are withering away and new roots are growing as the flower scape appears:


The flowers are gorgeous hanging on long pedicels. Note that the flower colour varies and the Szechuan accession is pink with green pedicels and has relatively many flowers.

One of my multi-species salads with Allium macranthum flowers in the centre:

Seed heads on 6th September:

Seeds ready to share or trade:

Ethnobotanical records
I searched Google Scholar for evidence of Allium macrantum being used traditionally for food and there were indeed a few ethnobotanical studies recording its use as a food plant. Although not the most popular food Allium in the Himalayas, it is reported to have been one of several species eaten both in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India, the Eastern Hills of India (along with more commonly used Allium wallichii, Allium hookeri and Allium fasciculatum) and used as a spice with meat in South Central Tibet. In Lithang, chiugok “is cleaned and cut into small pieces. It is mixed with butter, tea, roasted barley flour (tsampa), salt, and chilly. Tsampa may not be added. The sauce so obtained is eaten with Tibetan dumplings (mokmok) and fried meat-filled pancakes (shapakle)” (in Traditional knowledge of wild food plants in a few Tibetan communities). 
The taste is in my experience relatively strong and therefore best in mixed salads and cooked dishes.
Allium macranthum has also been moved into gardens as an ornamental and has also been used medicinally, including,  along with other Allium species, as a cure for altitude sickness! 

There’s always one: blue tit taking a shower!

It was close to 30C and I was working outside this afternoon and decided that my saskatoons (Amelanchier) could do with a bit of water. The hose was on at the base of the trees and one of this year’s blue tits (blåmeis), which had fledged a couple of weeks ago, decided it would be great to cool off with a cold shower, probably it’s first!


 

Early July Veg

Here are some of the vegetables we’re currently using.
From left to right:
Common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus) will be in most meals from now to September
Parsley / persille 
Ground elder / skvallerkål
Perpetual spinach (Beta vulgaris var flavescens)
Moss leaved dandelion (Taraxacum sublaciniosum “Delikatess”)
Oregano / bergmynte (Origanum vulgare)
Chopsuey greens (Glebionis coronaria); I’m growing out about 10 varieties from IPK Gatersleben this year
Day lily / daglije (Hemerocallis): flower buds from two species
Urtica kiovensis (nettle / nesle) 
Nodding onion / Prærieløk (Allium cernuum) flower scapes
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) leaves
Rumex patientia (Patience dock / hagesyre)
Rumex acetosa (non-flowering); sorrel / engsyre
Perennial kale / flerårig kål (Brassica oleracea)
Dandelion / løvetann (Taraxacum officinale)
Sherpa or Nepal onion / Sherpaløk (Allium wallichii)

Used in a green pasta sauce with wholegrain spelt pasta

Dried fruit salad

The fresh fruit season approaches rapidly as the first fruit ripens…wild strawberries (markjordbær) and haskaps (Lonicera edulis). Since the fresh apples ran out early April we’ve been eating delicious rehydrated dried fruit salad every day. We mix different flavours (sour and bitter and sweet) in the same way as in mixed salads. Here are the recipe and ingredients in this year’s “Summer in a Bowl” mix: apples, wild bilberries, raspberries (from the hills and garden),  yellow raspberries, redcurrants, saskatoons (Amelanchier), rhubarb, sour cherries and gooseberries! We both made mixed fruit leather and dried the berries as they were (mixed together in the rehydrated mix). I never buy fruit and never use sugar for preserving and don’t own a freezer (by choice).

Rehydrated fruit mix for breakfast every day is delicious:

The first ripening berries of 2021 (wild strawberries and haskaps):

…and the 2021 fruit harvest is very promising with both plums, cherries and apples all  covered in flowers in May (pictures and video of the biggest apple tree – Aroma)

Tall Swamp Onion

Years ago, I was at a work meeting in San Francisco with my colleague Harald Krogstad who sadly died in 2020. It’s very easy to put a date on this as we flew back on the day of the September 11 attacks, almost 20 years ago. After the meeting we hired a car and drove up to the Sierra Nevada and walked for a couple of days in the Tuolumne Meadows area. I remember finding a patch of a large Allium that I later found out had to be the tall swamp onion or Pacific onion (Allium validum). A few seeds from those plants later germinated in Malvik and this became one of the 80 plants in my book Around the World in 80 plants. A few years ago I renovated my pond area and associated damp area where I was growing this onion which grows in large clumps in damp meadows at elevations of 1200-3350 m in the Sierra Nevada. It was finally possible to harvest again this year and yesterday I used it in scrambled eggs. The flowers umbels are unusually small for such a large Allium and for that reason has never become popular as an ornamental.  See an earlier blog post with pictures that didn’t make it into the book here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=5994



Allium ulleungense: a new vigorous edimental

In 2019, a very interesting paper was published giving a very good case for splitting the geographically widespread Allium victorialis species complex, at the same time describing a new endemic species to the island Ulleung between Korea and Japan. The paper also mentions that the species is “Rare in natural habitats, but widely cultivated in Korea as an edible plant named ‘Myeong-i-na-mul’ or ‘Sanmaneul.’”
Reference: Allium ulleungense (Amaryllidaceae), a new species endemic to Ulleungdo Island, Korea” by Hyeok-Jae Choi, Sungyu Yang, Jong-Cheol Yang and Nikolai Friesen in the Korean Journal of Plant Taxonomy
Those who follow my blog and FB posts will maybe remember my article on the Giant Ulleung Celery, Dystaenia takesimana, another edible endemic to this island which I’m growing in my garden from two sources, one of which is the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens in Sweden (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=24998)
Figure 4 in the paper shows a map of Allium subg. Anguinum showing the disjunct distribution of what was earlier classified as Allium victorialis, now split into Allium victorialis, microdictyon, ochotense and the new species Allium ulleungense together with other species in the section like Allium ovalifolium.
The article has a useful table and pictures showing the differences between microdictyon, ochotense and ulleungense.
I have about 10 different “Allium victorialis” accessions in my garden both from Norway, Kola (Russia), the Alps and the Far East. Having read the paper which documents that the Ulleung victory onion has both broader and longer leaves I noticed that one of my plants had very different and broader leaves than my other ones and was particularly vigorous. I had lost the label of this plant. Johan Nilson of the Gothenburg Botanical Garden wrote on the Alliorum forum thread about this species: “I believe we might grow this” (they had had an expedition to the island some years ago and this onion and Dystaenia had been collected). Johan had given me various edibles on a visit to Gothenburg a few years ago and I wonder if he might have given me this plant?
Anyway, the morphology of this plant fits well to the newly described species with several leaves 12 cm wide (ochotense reaches 10 cm and microdictyon 6 cm); leaves up to 26-27 cm long (the other two species reach 25 and 21.5cm) and yesterday I measured the white tepals which are slightly longer in the new species and this also matched with 7mm length (the others reaching 6.5). The rounded leaf apex of my plant also matches ulleungdense, acute in the other two species (and other Japanese accessions I have in my garden). I now need to propagate it and plant it in the Allium garden Chicago at the Ringve Botanical Garden. 

Bee beetle

One of my favourite insects is the bee beetle / humlebille (Trichius fasciatus). This morning I saw it on one of my favourite onions victory onion / seiersløk (this one is Allium ochotense; the East Asian species – recently separated out as a species). Later I filmed it also on a hogweed (Heracleum spp.).





Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden