After 3-4 weeks of snow cover, the weather this week changed dramatically and we had the second warmest February day over the last 100 years with over 10C! Together with rain and wind, almost all of what was close to 50 cm of snow has disappeared. For plants, this has been a very mild winter and the ground has hardly been frozen. As soon as the snow had disappeared I could dig the soil. Some edibles such as nettles and chickweed haven’t been killed by frost. Here are some pictures of (apart from the snowdrops) edibles in the garden today.
The Less than Extreme Salad Man has been in action with the year’s multi-species salad! A few hours before the polar low storm hit and snow covered the greens, I did a forage around the garden, finding about 15 species, mostly onions, but there were fresh dandelions, perennial kales and the first Hablitzia shoots. These were added to a selection of stored vegetables from the cellar, including blanched dandelion and chicory shoots which had grown in the above average temperatures. About 30 different veggies!
Dandelions are one of my favourite winter perennial vegetables. During the summer, wild dandelions sow themselves on my cultivated beds….one of the advantages of having too much open soil! I deliberately let them grow on until late autumn when I dig up some of the roots, others left to grow on to the next year, and plant them in large pots ready to force later in the winter like witloof chicory. I usually force them by moving from storage in my cellar to a cool room in the house where I force them in the dark!
Accidental companions: a Sherpa onion (Allium wallichii) has set up home in the middle of my greek mountain tea (Sideritis syriaca) with a few self-sowed dandelions for good measure! Allium wallichii moves around with rhizomes…I didn’t plant it here!
A selection of late May flowers in the Edible Garden:
Even though I never met him, I was saddened to learn this morning that one on North Americas leading foragers Peter Gail has died. I first came across him on the old foraging email groups, first Edible Wild in 1999 and later Wild Forager and Forage Ahead…which inspired me to buy his book Dandelion Celebration (1994). He was the first person I had come across that had actually planted a dandelion bed in his garden and he also organised the National Dandelion Cookoff in Dover, Ohio for many years! You can find the excerpt about Gail from my book Around the World in 80 plants below!
Excerpt from Around the World in 80 plants:
“I eventually saw the light (about eating dandelions”when I followed a discussion on the ForageAhead email group between two of North
America’s leading foragers ‘Dandelion Dude’ Peter Gail and John Kallas. Gail has written several essays and books about dandelions including his Dandelion Celebration (1994). He also founded the group ‘Defenders of Dandelions’ to provide information to those who want to make their neighbours aware just how good dandelions are and stop the chemical warfare. He has also organised the National Dandelion Cookoff in Dover, Ohio, still going strong since 1993. Gail says he ate dandelions every day, fresh in the summer and in dehydrated form in winter, growing his own from transplanted wild roots on raised beds in his garden for ease of access. Gail has been rightly coined the King of the Dandelions! However, it was John Kallas’ web essay Making Dandelions Palatable that explains how such a bitter weed could be so popular around the world. To start with, Gail admits to thinking he was being poisoned the first time he ate dandelion and Kallas also found them very bitter, but was determined to solve the riddle. He first points out that foraging books downplay the bitterness and thinks that the oft-quoted difference between the first mild leaves in spring and bitter at flowering time is also exaggerated. As a result many people are
disappointed and permanently put off when they sample their first dandelion. I was with him here … He says that as part of his PhD he interviewed old timers in rural Michigan. Dandelions were the most common wild collected food in this group and, no, they weren’t bitter, they said. Upon asking how they prepared the dandelions they explained that the fresh leaves were mixed with bacon grease, bacon, eggs, salt and sometimes vinegar. Incidentally, salade de pissenlit et lardons (salad of dandelion and bacon) is still prepared in France today. In most cultures as you can see in the around-the-world review above, dandelions are almost never eaten fresh alone.”
A French Dandelion cultivar, early and productive with very long leaves!
I had a little time to spare on Monday 8th May 2017, before my talk in the evening in Oslo. I went for a little walk on the coastal path (kyststien) on Nesodden where my son lives. Here’s a few pictures…