Eurasian redwings (rødvingetrost) seem to becoming more common in winter here. I now have 7 records of single birds since 2015 (December to March) and today there were 4 together feeding briefly with fieldfares (gråtrost) on guelder rose (krossved) berries! Interestingly, 27th December seems to be the best day to see redwings here as I now have records in 2015, 2017 and 2021 on this day!
Xmas dinner in Malvik has been nut roast and roasted roots every year since 1984! This year there were 27 different roots: parsnip, 15 different varieties of potato, bulb onions, Tigridia (cacomitl), wapato (Sagittaria), carrot, beetroot, oca (red and yellow), Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia), yacon (Polymnia), garlic (Allium sativum), Dioscorea polystachya (Chinese yam) and chicory root (at the top). The nut roast was made from ground walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds with grated carrots, onion and beetroot with garlic, golpar (Heracleum seed spice), egg, salt, pepper and chili, bedecked with buckwheat groats (home grown by a friend in Czechoslovakia), Himalayan balsam seed, caraway, dill and alpine bistort bulbils (Polygonum viviparum).
I’ve met some wonderful people on my journeys over the last 10 years. One of them is my friend Carmen Porter in Hemmingford, Quebec who kindly offered to put me up when I was invited to Canada in April 2017. The reason for being in Hemmingford was for a meeting and to give a talk at La Ferme des Quatre Temps, the farm managed by author of The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier, which is just down the road from where Carmen and her mother Tamlin George live.
Jean Martin Fortier at La Ferme des Quatre Temps
Carmen is a young singer-songwriter inspired by herbs and nature who is also a keen gardener. She has a wonderful podcast series called Songs and Plants which presents tunes where “the scientific names of species comprise the lyrical content”. I was recently in touch with Carmen again in connection with a music video of her song Botanical Berceuse (a lullaby of sedative herbs!). I helped with a few plant pictures. This is real permaculture music that teaches as one listens! She joined us for the seminar and a tour of the farm with three young permaculturists including Jonathan Pineault and Alexandre Guertin from the company Écomestible (www.ecomestible.com), who had been contracted to grow perennial vegetables on the farm for sale! I wonder how it’s going almost 5 years later (wow, has it really taken me so long to blog about this!) After the seminar and farm tour, Carmen drove me to her place and we had a tour of her garden, although it was very early spring and only a few sprouts had emerged. I think also it was only just the year before she’d started work (and the gardens have expanded greatly since I was there).
Have a listen to Amaranthaceae by Carmen Porter before reading more (who else could make “a sentimental ballad for lovers of spinach, quinoa and family”)?
A fig overwintering in the living room, just like home:
Thanks to Carmen for sharing the pictures of how her garden looked 4 years on!!! First, the front garden:
…and the back garden:
The next day we went for a walk in the Hemmingford woods in a nature reserve area, the path ending at a place they call the “Gulf” locally right on the US border and I went rogue and illegally stepped into the United States of America. Shortly afterwards we heard a helicopter and retreated quickly back into the forest as a raven flew ominously overhead!
So early in the spring there were only a few plants to see, although we did see a few Erythronium (trout lily) shoots, so it wouldn’t have been long after that the woods would have been awash with spring flowers! I’ve collected pictures from the walk below:
A short video of the Gulf:
Who else than Carmen could have written “A love song celebrating the relationship between Cucurbita pepo and Peponapis pruinosa” (squash and a solitary bee)! Beeloved is great original permaculture music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoYO1mtg-HQ
Finally, a few pictures from the woods behind Carmen’s house including pitcher plants (I was surprised to see these out so early):
…and, approaching a pool in the woods with cattails, I was convinced we were hearing ducks calling until Carmen put me right. This is the call of the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus), a fascinating species you can read more about here
Many thanks again to Tamlin George and Carmen for your hospitality during my visit to Hemmingford :) Listen to more of Carmen’s Songs and Plants blogs including an interview with Experimental Farm Network’s Nathan Kleinmann here
I’ve written a series of articles in 3 parts “Fuglevennlige planter i hagen” (Bird friendly plants in the garden) for the magazine of our national bird society (NOF, now Birdlife Norge) called Vår Fuglefauna (Our Bird Fauna). The first part (6 pages) has already been published (the first two pages are shown below; deliberately blurred text (below). My most successful plant (genus) supplying bird food in winter has been various species of burdock / borre (Arctium spp.). The oil rich seeds are very popular with goldfinches (stillits) and greenfinches (grønnfink). This autumn I cut a few plants growing in a different part of the garden and moved them in full view of my kitchen window which allowed me to film a flock of 11 goldfinches yesterday (see below). In the summer, the same plants are popular with various pollinators and for that reason also provide food for other insectivorous birds in summer.
The article will also be published for members of Norwegian Seed Savers’ guild for “Insect and Bird Friendly Plants” in a few months from now. This guild works focuses on plants that are beneficial for maintaining a garden rich in a diversity of insects and birds, whilst still providing food for us!
Two years ago there was an irruption of pine grosbeaks (konglebit) in Norway and I finally got to see this species in the garden for the first time although only briefly (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23766). Yesterday, they turned up again, a flock of 17 birds (there’s an invasion again across the country). I thought initially they were bullfinches (dompap) to which they are closely related (bullfinches also feed sometimes on rowan). Poor light conditions as the sun was still below the horizon and -10C. As I was filming a couple of the birds flew to about 1m from me (they are unafraid of humans). Then, five minutes later they were gone.
One of the experiments this year in the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) trial gardens at Væres Venner in Trondheim has been a comparison of different root chicories. These have 3 main uses: Witloof (literally “white leaf”) or forcing chicories used for producing chicons, also known as Belgian or French endive (forced from the roots in the dark, usually in winter. to reduce the bitterness); Root chicories where the root is used as a vegetable, popular in winter in Italy; Coffee chicories are also in the group root chicories and sometimes the same varieties harvested more mature and used as coffee surrogate (ground and roasted). There are hundreds of varieties of chicories with multiple other uses. Common for all here in the north is that they are relatively easy to grow with few pests and diseases, thus easier to grow organically than for example the cabbage family. However, they are almost never used here in Norway. In Norway’s largest FB group on vegetables “Grønnsaksdyrking i Hele Norge” with 36,000 members there is only one mention of chicory)(sikkori) and that more as a wild plant than something you would cultivate. This is partly because most have been selected for a very different (Mediterranean) climate and some go to seed (bolt) in the first year which significantly lowers yields. Witloof chicories have, however, largely been improved further north (Belgium and France) and my experience has shown that these varieties only occasionally bolt (out of several hundred plants grown this year, none bolted!).
The chicory bed just before harvest. There are 9 varieties along the 1.2m wide raised bed.
I sourced different varieties of root chicories from the German genebank IPK Gatersleben with the objective to select a good variety in the two main groups for my area (I had previously had reasonably good experience growing witloof chicories for forcing in winter; see the picture below). I wanted also to explore if it is possible to be self-sufficient in seed. As part of the seed saving process, roots need to be overwintered and grown to flowering in the second year. Hardiness of chicories varies a lot between varieties and I therefore overwinter roots in my cold cellar, but plan also later to test winter hardiness outside. Some chicories can also perennialize like the wild species and this is a secondary project to select high yielding perennial and hardy chicories. Another great characteristic of chicories and side-effect of seed saving is that the beautiful chicory flowers are very popular with pollinators and a number of selections with different flower colours are also available for growing as an ornamental. This is indeed a great combination plant that I term an edi-ento-mental (edible, good for the pollinators and ornamentally valuable too). See the various flower variants I’ve grown in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18650
Winter forced Witloof chicons from my cold cellar in mid¨-February
Chicory in flower in my garden
I was pleased with the yield, which was better than I’ve experienced in my shady garden at home. The fact that the roots are irregular in size is probably at least in part due to the fact that the spacing between the roots was a little irregular (I will try for a more even spacing next year).
Witloof chicory Prezo RZ performed well Witloof chicory Extra Vroege Mechelse had a lot of forking roots
We’ve grown 4 varieties of Witloof forcing chicories including Witloof Prezo RZ, Witloof Extra Vroege Mechelse (Early) and Witloof Dobbel Blank. In the video there are 9 varieties shown and the Witloofs are #2, 7, 8 and 9. There are some nice size roots and I plan to grown on the largest 20-25 or so roots for seed, which will then be made available to KVANN members.
Nice sized roots of the edible root variety Radici di Soncino
The root chicory Radici di Chiavara
There were two varieties of root chicory and both gave good yields. I will probably grow again next year in larger quantity (the descriptions are taken from Stephen Facciola’s Cornucopia II) Radici di Chiavara (Chiavari) Grown primarily for its root, although the leaves are also used and have a good flavor. The root is thick-collared, creamy white and uniform. Grows over a long season, from early spring until late fall. To prepare, scrape and boil the root until tender. Slice thinly and serve with vinaigrette, or it can be rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried and served with lemon and parsley. Radici di Soncino(Radison) Long, narrow roots with creamy white skin and flesh; rather bitter. May be harvested anytime from autumn until the following spring. Popular in Italy where it is considered very healthful and is cooked and eaten in many ways.
I love the seasonality of fruit and berries and one group of berries that can be harvested in October and November are particularly valuable when you only eat fresh and, later in the winter / spring, dried fruit and berries. The blackberries (bjørnebær) are finished now and we will be eating fresh stored apples now until at least April. This week after the first heavy frost I was able to continue harvesting Worcesterberries (a selection of Ribes divaricatum) at the bottom of the picture, Aronia prunifolia (purple chokeberry) at left and autumn olives / Japansk sølvbusk (Elaeagnus umbellata)
Two days ago, the latest first frost date was registered in Trondheim for 130 years! This has allowed my oca (Oxalis tuberosa), one of the Lost Crops of the Incas, to develop properly for the first time! This is a short day plant, tuberising late in the season! These were grown in the World Garden at the community garden Væres Venner, one of the gardens in @kvann_norwegianseedsavers Schubelers Network. An apparent new variety has also turned up and as far as I know no seed has been involved, so I guess it’s a genetic mutation, seemingly halfway between the other two varieties. Of course, I will be replanting this one next year (see the third picture)! My other pot-grown ocas were moved into my porch extension just before the frost and will be grown on for Xmas harvest as usual.
Finally, having heard the bird for several months, a rose-ringed parakeet / halsbåndparakitt (blue mutation) finally turned up in the garden today and sat eating apples in good view of the living room for some time! It’s known to be an escaped cage bird and several attempts have beem made to capture it.
The Extreme Salad Man has been quiet recently. He was inspired to make this 5th November salad by a 10 year old Facebook memory of a salad he made (last picture below). Like 10 years ago, we¨’d had a very mild autumn (we may have the first frost this weekend). By chance the number of ingredients equalled the number of years I’ve been on this beautiful planet (66). For the recipe with the full list of ingredients (many are perennials), see the bottom of this post. It took less than an hour to forage around my garden and put together!
THE RECIPE or how to make this at home? Harvested first around the living room a few Basella alba leaves, lemony flowers of two Begonias, leaves of the Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor), a couple of flowers of blackcurrant sage / solbærsalvie (Salvia microphylla v. grahamii), Ragged jack kale (grønnkål) leaves, leaves of chopsuey greens / kronkrage (Glebionis coronaria), four different perennial kales / flerårige kåls (Brassica oleracea), leaf shoots of Egyptian onion / luftløk (Allium x proliferum), a few leaves of common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus), perennial rocket / flerårige rucola (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), parsley / persille leaves (Petroselinum crispum), leaves of Chicory / sikkori variety “Catalogna gigante di Chioggia” (Cichorium intybus), berries of black chokeberry / svartsurbær (Aronia melanocarpa), flowers of hollyhock mallow / rosekattost (Malva alcea), flowers of two varieties of hollyhock / stokkrose (Alcea rosea) – black and pink, hedge mustard / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata), mouse garlic (Allium carinatum), two varieties of dandelion / løvetann (Taraxacum spp.) including moss-leaved, flowers of Japan thistle (Cirsium japonicum), leaves of Allium senescens, a few of the last blackberries / bjørnebær (Rubus fruticosus), berries of black nightshade / svartsøtvier (Solanum nigrum), flowers of Allium mairei, flowers and leaves of anise hyssop / anisisop (Agastache foeniculum), flowers of two varieties of hardy Fuchsia / Magellan-tåre (Fuchsia magellanica) “Alba”og “Tricolor”, Autumn olive / Japansk sølvbusk (Elaeagnus umbellata) berries, radish / reddik (Raphanus sativus)flowers and unripe seed pods, flowers and flower buds of mustard greens / sennepsalat (Brassica juncea), a flower of marigold / ringblomst (Calendula officinalis), new shoots of curled dock / krushøymol (Rumex crispus), leaves and bulb of nodding onion / prærieløk (Allium cernuum), flowers of two varieties of nasturtium / blomkarse (Tropaeolum officinale), two varieties of spring onions / vårløk (Allium cepa), a few leaves of two varieties of sorrel / engsyre (Rumex acetosa), flower buds and flowers of chives / gressløk (Allium schoenoprasum), two leaves of chicory / sikkori variety “Rossa de Treviso” (Cichorium intybus) on the edge of the salad bowl, leaves of perennial chicory (Cichorium intybus), leaves of horned violet / hornfiol (Viola cornuta “Alba”), leaves of Rumex scutatus “Silver Shield” (buckler-leaved sorrel / Fransksyre), a flower of a reflowering variety of strawberry / jordbær (Fragaria x ananassa), flower shoot of scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica), seen in the centre of the salad, a flower of Begonia “Double White, a Dahlia (georginer) flower, oca leaves (Oxalis tuberosa), tomato / tomat “Ida’s Gold” (Lycopersicon esculentum), berries of Physalis “Indian Strain”, two varieties of celery / selleri (Apium graveolens), berries of Ribes divaricatum “Worcesterberry”, carrot / gulrot, turnip / nepe and garlic / hvitløk! Put the flowers and other colourful ingredients to one side for the topping, wash, cut (I use scissors) and mix everything else for the main body of the salad, add the salad dressing (olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar with crushed garlic) and mix, then use the artist in you to decorate the salad!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden