Atropurpureum and Validum

First flowering of Allium atropurpureum…seed from Mark McDonough 8 years ago and planted out in 2012. I had thought I’d lost it and then it was suddenly In flower…always nice with surprises like that! 

Allium validum (Pacific onion), an important wild edible for native americans and one of the 80 plants in my book Around the world in 80 plants is back in flower again for the first time for a few years. It had been in a pot whilst I redid my overgrown pond and boggy area.

Sonchus and Basil Pesto

Common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) is now in season in my garden another plant categorised by most as a weed, but for me one of the most important vegetables in my garden from now until autumn. It even saves me work as the only thing I have to do is NOT weed it!! It is at its best when the leaves are shiny:

I made a sow thistle basil pesto last night together with basil grown in my office at the botanical gardens! I’m an office basil grower of over 40 years, having started when I was a student in 1978 (see  http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5221, where I made pesto and Allium wallichii, the Sherpa or Nepal onion)
Last night I used garlic and more Johannes’ shallots (Allium x cornutum; see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22601)

Oxalis triangularis, the False Shamrock….an edimental tuberous house plant

I used to grow Oxalis triangularis, also known as the False Shamrock for the leaves and flowers. It’s also a perfect edimental house plant here as it likes cool indoor temperatures and struggles / goes dormant if it gets too warm.

I was given a couple of plants the other day, surplus to the plant sale at the botanical gardens. Repotting the plants yesterday, I noticed that there were quite a number of sizeable tubers and I had a taste for the first time. I was surprised how sweet they tasted!!

2019 US East Coast Fall Speaking Tour

I’m making the most of my invite to the Mid-West Wild Harvest Festival at the end of September, where I get to teach alongside great North American foraging authors Sam Thayer, Leda Meredith, Ellen Zachos and others! I am pleased to announce a number of other events including a walk and talk with the great Joe Hollis at Mountain Gardens in North Carolina and an event put on by the one and only Eric Toensmeier in Holyoke, Western Massachusetts (I’m promised ripe pawpaws and American persimmons!), followed by a series of other talks in New England organised by my friend Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery near Portland! Here is the whole list (still possibilities in Boston and New York):

22nd September:  Walk and talk with the great Joe Hollis at Mountain Gardens (near Asheville, North Carolina) (see https://www.mountaingardensherbs.com and https://www.facebook.com/MountainGardensHerbs); details not available yet!

24th September:  Evening talk at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia; details not available yet!

26th September:  Visit and talk at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa!

27th-29th September:  Mid-West Wild Harvest Festival (Keynote plus two*3 hour talks /courses); https://www.facebook.com/groups/wildharvestfestival and https://www.wildharvestfestival.org/register.html

1st  October:  Talk organised by author of Perennial Vegetables and other great books, Eric Toensmeier in Holyoke, Western Massachusetts (details not available yet).

3rd October: Talk “Around the World in 80 Plants: New England to the Mediterranean”  organised by Aaron Parker of https://www.facebook.com/pg/EdgewoodNursery in or around Portland, Maine (details not available yet). The talk continues with the rest of the world in Portsmouth the next day:

4th October (19-21):  Talk “Around the World in 80 Plants: The Mediterranean to New England” at the Urban Forestry Center
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA (organised by  Seacoast Permaculture, North Shore Permaculture Collaborative in collaboration with The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture ) (FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/842574716098048; Tickets:  https://tinyurl.com/y25tj8wq)

5th October: Looking for organisers for an evening event in the Boston area (possibly a walk and talk in the Arnold Arboretum)

6th October:  Looking for organisers for a daytime event in the New York City area (possibly a walk and talk in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden or elsewhere) 

Holmboe’s Gratis mat av ville planter

Jens Holmboe’s book “Gratis mat av ville planter” (Free food from wild plants) from 1941 is still my favourite Norwegian book on wild food as it is well researched and includes a number of interesting anecdotes. I’ve had a photocopy of the whole book for many years (I think I borrowed it from my friend Jan Erik Kofoed and copied it at work in the 1980s). I finally own a copy of the book from the 2016 reprint!  It had somehow passed me by that it was available! Thanks to Hanne Edvardsen from Trondheim Nyttevekstforening who gave me a copy at the recent Ringve Botanical Garden Open Day!

Interestingly, it does include the hogweeds / bjørnekjeks (Heracleum) including giant Tromsøpalme (Heracleum persicum, source of the spice golpar and a vegetable in Iran). However, I don’t think he could have tasted the latter when he wrote: “….skal være så besk at den neppe er å anbefale til folkemat” (…is apparently so bitter that it can hardly be recommended as food). Similarly, he mentions that Heracleum sibiricum is sometimes recommended for soups , together with other herbs….and it is likely to be too strong tasting for most people.

He writes about kvann (Angelica archangelica) as a wel known food plant in Norway right back to the time of the Vikings. He talks about it still being cultivated in Voss (and perhaps other places in western Norway). He encourages the use of roots as a nutritous food and indicates that some people like their bitter taste, others not. Unlike some books he also says that the subspecies litoralis (found on the coast of Norway) can also be used. He also says that Angelica sylvestris is much used in northern Norway and that it is less bitter!

 

Shungiku Soba

I have a special fascination for vegetables that are superstars in one part of the world but hardly known in others and one of those is garland chrysanthemum or crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria / Chrysanthemum coronarium) a wild and extremely common herb of early spring in Mediterranean countries, often growing in large quantities, and commonly available in supermarkets in Japan where it’s known as  shungiku. It had started to become available in Europe in vegetable catalogues in the 1970s and became known as chopsuey greens. I started growing it in the 1980s, not very successfully as it went quickly to seed in our long northern summer days, better in the years when I had a greenhouse in which I could sow in March.

This year, I started seed very early indoors and plants have for the first time been quite productive. Last night I made a soba (buckwheat pasta dish) with stir fried chopsuey greens and garlic scapes (with white wine, ginger, chili and soy sauce as flavourings). Chopsuey greens have a similar “aromatic” taste common to many other Asteraceae, including perennials like Aster scaber, Aster tripolium and Ligularia fischeri.  Try substituting these perennials  in chopsuey greens recipes.

I wrote an article about shungiku in the Norwegian herb magazine Grobladet, see

Shungiku article

At the time, I couldn’t find much evidence of this plant having been used traditionally in the Mediterranean countries. However, thanks to the many ethnobotanical studies over recent years to document the Mediterranean diet, it has now been registered as eaten both raw and cooked  both in Spain, Italy (including Sicily) , in a number of studies in Turkey as well as Palestine and Morocco. It is also sometimes cultivated.
More specifically, leaves and young shoots are used in the Mediterranean countries in salad (both raw and cooked), in pies, as a cooked vegetable,  in a Turkish dish unlama (flour, garlic and lemon juice) and in Moroccan bakoula salad, usually made with mallow leaves, but spinach and /or kale are substituted for them (see, for example, http://www.mymoroccanfood.com/home/bakoula-with-spinach-and-kale)

Greenfinch eating goatsbeard seed

Tragopogon pratensis ( Goatsbeard; Jack-go-to-bed-by-noon / Geitskjegg) is allowed to self-sow in my garden as it’s not only edible, it’s decorative when the seed head opens and  is also a useful plant for attracting birds to the garden. This greenfinch (grønnfink) dispatches one seed every 3 seconds!

Edibles & ornamental plants

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