As we approach midsummer many of my perennial vegetables are beginning to flower and from spring leaves and shoots we are now in the flower bud, scape (flower stem) and broccoli stage. Many stronger tasting plants have much milder upperparts than the earlier growth. This is presumably because the plants transfer their energy from insect defence to seed production.
Somebody asked me the other day if I use floating mulch (fiberduk / agryl) to be able to harvest all these greens so early. No, no and again no….this is one of the biggest benefits of perennial vegetables….it is totally natural, no microplastics are released into the environment, no oil is needed to plough the fields, significantly less migrant labour is needed and little or no fertiliser and water is needed, it is almost totally free once established and can yield year after year! So, whilst large areas of farmland in the northern hemisphere are being covered by plastic mulches to bring on annual crops for the market earlier, I’d just like to point out that there’s an alternative better way! So, here are the plants that I harvested for yesterday’s delicious green pasta sauce: Armoracia rusticana shoots (horseradish / pepperrot) Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel) Houttuynia cordata “Chinese Market” (shoots and rhizomes from the cellar; this cultivar is significantly larger than other Houttuynia I’ve grown) (Fish herb, Himalayan water creeper) Allium senescens x nutans (hybrid Siberian onions) Laurus nobilis (bay / laurbær) Brassica oleracea (perennial kales) Crambe maritima (sea kale / strandkål) Taraxacum officinale (dandelion / løvetann) Allium x proliferum (walking onion / luftløk) Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) Dystaenia takesimana (giant Ulleung celery, seombadi) Oenanthe javanica (seri) Polymnia edulis (yacon) (second picture) plus garlic and chili
We seem to be at least a month ahead of normal this year. I don’t normally see new shoots of ground elder (Aegopodium) until the middle of April but this year they are popping up all over the place. Today’s veggies are a bit different from yesterday as it depends which part of the garden I harvest from. They are: Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach; stjernemelde) Aegopodium podograria (ground elder; skvallerkål) Rumex acetosa (non-flowering) (sorrel; engsyre) Rumex patientia (patience dock; hagesyre) Taraxacum officinale (dandelion; løvetann) Allium fistulosum (welsh onion; pipeløk) Allium paradoxum Allium x proliferum (Egyptian onion; luftløk) Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely; spansk kjørvel) Allium cernuum (nodding onion; prærieløk) Hemerocallis (day lily shoots; daglilje) These were used in a delicious vegetable pea soup!
Yesterday was St. John’s Day and many Norwegians (and other Scandinavians) celebrated the evening before what is known here as Sankthans or Jonsok with communal bonfires, the big midsummer celebration on the eve of St. John’s Day! Sankt Hans is a short form of Sankt Johannes (and my grandson is Johannes, so this is for him <3)
There is a special perennial onion which was traditionally harvested on this day in the Netherlands, which I believe to have a much large potential than its current status as a local food crop, as it is so much easier to grow, in particular in areas increasingly suffering from summer droughts and water shortages, along with many other perennial vegetables. If nothing else, it complements shallots and onions in that it is available much earlier in the year!
On a visit to the Utrecht Botanical Gardens in the Netherlands some years ago, I’d photographed an onion called Sint-Jansui and given the botanical name Allium fistulosum var. proliferum.
Botanist Gerard van Buiten at Utrecht later wrote to me “Ah, I see you have found our “St Jansuien! Yes, it is an old local variety, grown around Utrecht. One of our gardeners used to grow it on his nursery a long time ago. Every year on “St. Jansdag”, a box of onions was delivered at Paleis Soestdijk, where Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard used to live. It is grown nowadays in some urban garden projects in the city”.
It turns out that this onion is not related to Allium fistulosum and is classified as a triploid hybrid onion Allium x cornutum which has been found both in Europe (Netherlands, France and Croatia) as well as India from where, it is speculated it may have originated. Like Egyptian onion / walking onion (Allium x proliferum), it is sterile and produces bulbils in its inflorescence. I’ve only experienced flowering of this once in 10 years of growing A x cornutum (see below). 10 years ago, Dr. Reinhard Fritsch had sent me 3 accessions from the German gene bank IPK Gatersleben, but only one of these has proven hardy here, although the French accession survived a few years. The other was from India and died the first winter.
In 2014, an open access paper appeared in the BMC Plant Biology journal (see https://bmcplantbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2229-14-24). This study combined molecular, phylogenetic and cytogenetic data and provided evidence for a unique triparental origin A. × cornutum with three putative parental species, A. cepa, A. pskemense, and A. roylei. Hardiness is probably bestowed by Allium pskemense which has been growing in the Ringve Botanical Gardens in Trondheim for many years.
I had planted the Croatian accession in the new Allium garden at the botanical gardens in Trondheim a couple of years ago and I started harvesting it the other day as it starts to die back at this time of year and looks untidy:
In this little patch, there were an enormous amount of onions, admittedly a bit on the small size, but relatively easy to peel and far outyielding shallots here! I will now harvest these and replant to see how well these yield after one year of growth (I am unsure as to exactly when these were planted, but this may be two years of growth).
In Croatia, Puizina, 2013 says: “The term ‘shallot’ in Croatia denotes three genetically and morphologically different, vegetatively reproduced relatives of the common onion, Allium cepa, which are mainly traditionally cultivated for consumption and as a spice: A. cepa Aggregatum group, A. × proliferum and A. × cornutum”. Further, the triploid shallot is “traditionally cultivated in South and coastal Croatia under the name ‘Ljutika’ and it is very popular as a spice and condiment due to its tasty bulbs and leaves”….and “In contrast to most flowering species of Allium in which the leaves are already dying back at flowering time, triploid shallots are perennials, their leaves remain green and suitable for use during entire year”. Ban (2019) shows morphological comparisons of all three types of “shallot” and demonstrates that there are different forms of Allium x cornutum in cultivation, differing in leaf cross-section, bulb shape and leaf waxiness. Bulbs are traditionally preserved in vinegar (Puizina, 2013) as they are difficult to store, resprouting after harvest. It is also stated that A. x cornutum is tolerant of drought and poor soil, enabling it to persist in wild habitats. In fact my own accession of the Croatian shallot originates from such a habitat:
Plant passport data from IPK Gatersleben: “SOURCE – Croatia: Jugoslawien 1985 Dr Hanelt Nr. YUGHAN-85: 5, weedy: Tal zwischen Male Grablje und Milna, offengelassene Olivenpflanzung” (valley between Male Grabje and Milna, open olive plantation). This area has a very different climate than Trondheim, indicating that this is also a very adaptable onion.
The real St. Jansuien shallot from the Netherlands has now also been planted in the onion garden in Trondheim.
I will be making Johannes’ shallots (Sankthans-sjalott) available to members of Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN) through our autumn catalogue (membership can be had by signing up here: https://kvann.no/bli-medlem . My grandson will also get a packet of onions for his birthday (but, don’t tell him yet…I want it to be a surprise ;) )
Ban, S.J., 2019. Samples included in DNA analysis. SafeAlliDiv meeting, Olumuc, April 2019 (Symposium presentation).
Puizina, J., 2013. Shallots in Croatia – genetics, morphology and nomenclature. Acta Bot. Croat. 72 (2), 387–398.
I 2011 skrev jeg en serie artikler om vår grønnsaksarven til Norsk Hagetidend. Etter Skog og Landskap sidene ble nedlagt er artiklene ikke lenge tilgjengelig på nettet. Derfor dette innlegget hvor alle artiklene kan igjen bli lastet ned! Artikelene blir også etter hvert lagt ut hos kvann.org (Norwegian Seed Savers/KVANNs webside).
English: In 2011, I wrote a series of one page articles about Norwegian heirloom vegetables in Norsk Hagetidend (the magazine of the Norwegian Horticultural Society) in Norwegian. The complete series can be found below.
Fjellmandel og takløk (Mandel potato and the roof onions of Gudbrandsdal)
A little secret I’ve had since last autumn (apart from a select few) when I was told that I would get my very own Allium bed at the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim :)
Yesterday, 18th August 2017, I finally got the time to start the planting. I will be planting both the collection of old Norwegian perennial onions that I have collected from all over the country over the last 10 years and a selection of species Alliums to show off their incredible diversity!
The first phase was mainly the planting of my old Norwegian onion collection, Allium schoenoprasum (chives / gressløk), Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion / pipeløk including old Norwegian roof onions from Gudbrandsdalen) and Allium x proliferum (walking onions, tree onions, Egyptian onions / luftløk, etasjeløk). I also planted about 22 accessions of Allium cernuum (nodding onion, Chicago onion / prærieløk) plus a few others like Allium carinatum pulchellum and Norrlands onion (Norrlandsløk).
It was a long day starting at home at 8 am with packing, sorting and documentation, returning home after 10 pm – it was worth it for the sunset from the garden over Trondheimsfjord!! Looking forward to phase 2 which will probably be in September!
Thanks to the Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre and particularly Morten Rasmussen for funding the bed preparation and Vibekke Vange and the staff at Ringve for making me feel so welcome!
Preparing Allium cernuum accessions for Ringve at home:
Sunset and the new Allium bed with the accompaniment of screaming (approving) swifts! Life is good!!
Sand leek (rocambole) or Allium scorodoprasum gives bigger yields here than leeks, so it’s not surprising to learn that this perennial onion was probably cultivated by the Vikings (it is found naturalised near many old Viking settlements in Scandinavia) and I believe it is the original “geirlauk” (meaning spear onion) and the root of the word garlic in English… See also pages 215-217 in my book!
I hadn’t noticed the red base to the stems seen in these pictures before…
I used it in a quick scrambled egg dish together with Amish onion (Allium x proliferum), sorrel flower shoots, ground elder (Aegopodium), nettle (Urtica dioica), Hydrophyllum virginianum (water leaf) with golpar spice.
These pictures can also be seen on my 700 plus album of Allium pictures on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150966880345860
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden