Jan Lein, northernmost Asparagus pioneer

I was saddened to see in yesterday’s Adressa (local paper) that Trøndelags grand old asparagus farmer has died ☹

As part of my project  for the Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre documenting and collecting old Norwegian vegetables, I received a tip about a retired farmer, Jan Lein, who had supposedly grown asparagus commercially on Tautra (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tautra), a historic island which I can just see from my house on the other side of the Trondheimsfjorden. The fact that the island is surrounded by relatively warm water in winter makes for a mild climate and early spring. The island and surrounding area is known as Trondheim’s vegetable garden!

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I called Lein and agreed to meet him at his house on 17th October 2010. I met a really nice man who was proud of his pioneering work with asparagus on Tautra which he believed started in the early 1960s. He told me that he even grew organically with seaweed as fertiliser and he grew white asparagus by mounding the plants with earth. In his house, there were a number of pictures on the walls of his vegetables, including asparagus! The plants themselves derived from seed bought from Leuthens Seed Catalogue in Trondheim. He sold on the market in Trondheim for a number of years until his local production was outcompeted by imported asparagus ☹ Her grew about 12-13 different vegetables at that time!

Jan showed me this plant nearby which was one of the original plants

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RIP Jan Lein, the northernmost Asparagus grower in the world?
The pictures below were photographed on his wall:

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On the World’s Vanishing Vegetables

The article that opened my eyes to the importance of conserving our vegetable diversity was 37 years ago, written by Lawrence D Hills, Director of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) in the UK.  This article was in the first newsletter that I received having recently joined the HDRA.  Not much has changed in the intervening years, except it was the oil company Shell that was the “bad guy”. This is well worth a read for anyone interested in food and the history (now and then) of the fight to save our seeds!  We are now 37 years on, we in KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) setting up Vegetable Sanctuaries here in Norway!
I had become a member of HDRA following a “chance” encounter on a train north to Edinburgh where I was studying. I was travelling with a bike as was a guy called Dave du Feu.  Dave was and still is heavily involved in cycle campaigning. On that journey he told me of the Edinburgh Cycle Campaign, Spokes and introduced me to organic gardening and the HDRA, both of which I joined!
HDRA_Spring80#0 HDRA_Spring80#1 HDRA_Spring80#2 HDRA_Spring80#3 HDRA_Spring80#4

Apple moon weekend

At the apple moon coring and cutting apples is a must..processed a couple of hundred apples today, now drying over the wood stove and in the oven. It’s a it more urgent than normal as -8C when I finally managed to harvest them was a bit too much and they won’t be able to be stored long this year (all have brownish blotches on the outside), a bit like the supermoon picture I just took, see below ;)

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Bird paradise!

It’s about as like winter England as it gets here this morning, grey and drizzling….so nice to have a flock of 17 goldfinches (stillits) brightening up the day and lots of other birds too!

Hawfinch (kjernebiter)

Robin (rødstrupe) with brambling (bjørkefink)
There was also a flock of 100 waxwings feeding in the garden, nuthatches and a treecreeper…Malvik is bird paradise at this time of year!

Opening of the new Trondheim Herbarium TRH

It seems as though it’s a good life being a botanist. It was my second day at work today and it ended at 2:30 in the afternoon with bubbly and double helix clipping ;)
Accessions go back as far as Bishop Gunnerus in the 1760s.
See also this video interview with Tommy Prestø:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkSsx-du3xso


An album of potato diversity in my garden

Below are a series of pictures of my favourite potatoes which I grew until 2012-2013 when blight made it difficult to grow varieties with little resistence:

Thanksgiving Quiche

I contributed this quiche for the Thanksgiving dinner in Hurdal, you might be able to see the word “Takk” (Thanks) written in seeds; T – alpine bistort / harerug bulbils (brown) and AKK – dark poppy seeds; with 100% coarse whole grain emmer wheat / naked barley / rye pastry, with swiss chard, chicory, spring onions, onion, garlic, chantarelle, chili, blue cheese, 5 tomatoes, Begonia and common mallow flowers +++

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The many faces of burdock

One of my favourite multi-purpose vegetables and one of my first unusual vegetables  that I grew in my garden in the 80s was burdock or borre, more specifically various Japanese cultivars of Arctium lappa, hardly used in Europe and North America apart from a few foragers, even though it’s a common wild plant and hardy.  Although it is best known as a root vegetable, there are varieties bred for their leaf petioles and the flower stems are really delicious! If you add to this that the seeds are foraged by various birds like goldfinches and greenfinches in winter in addition to being impressive photogenic plants which tolerated shady conditions, no permaculture garden should be without them!
In the album below are pictures I’ve taken over the years, in my garden, in botanical gardens and in the wild. There follows links to various blog posts about burdock!

Burdock in Japan
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11024
Burdock and goldfinches
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8810
Greenfinches on burdock
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=2642
Cardboard and fiberboards from Burdock and about its cultivation
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Br%C3%B8ndegaard_on_burdock.pdf
An interesting barlotto (burlotto?)
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=4052
Goldfinches
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=2768
Perennial Greens June 2015 (including burdock flower stems)
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1772
Flower stem sweet and sour
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1535
Burdock Flower Stalk Curry
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=15132
Edinburgh’s Burry Man
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro4DXRMVdgY

Edibles & ornamental plants

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