Tag Archives: Asparagus

Wild “Asparagus” for the king and queen’s 80th birthdays?

I noticed in a recent number (3/2017) of the Norwegian Useful Plants excellent magazine “Sopp og Nyttevekster” a picture on page 41 (picture) accompanying a recipe for “Spring risotto with wild asparagus, sorrel and peas”, but I noticed a familiar plant in the picture which I don’t think is wild aspargus (Asparagus spp.) but rather another one of the 80 plants in my book, Ornithogalum pyrenaicum (Bath asparagus, aspargette in France or Latte di gallina dei Pirenei in Italy). This plant is in the lily family….and is commonly used over its wild range which stretches from the Caucasus through the Mediterranean countries as far north as the UK, where it may have been introduced by the Romans for food near to the city of Bath.
It’s noted in the article that wild asparagus was served to the Norwegian king and queen on their 80th birthdays….but it’s unclear if the picture is of this dish?
This isn’t the first time this species has turned up in Norway as my friend Ove Fosså told me a few years ago that he had found Ornithogalum pyrenaicum being sold as asparagus in a supermarket in Sandnes (Stavanger) and that he’d also noticed it captioned as asparagus in  Norwegian chef Eyvind Hellstrøm’s cookbook Bageteller…thanks to Ove Fosså for this picture:
Ornithogalum_Hellstrøms_Bageteller
Ove also noticed it on the pizza of a cheesemaker friend  “Lise Brunborg ( the cheesemaker who makes the great blue cheese Fønix in Stavanger). It turned out, she had it from her parents’ fridge and they had bought it at Madla Handelslag, a cooperative in Stavanger:
See https://scontent-bru2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/13339542_1637168542978165_7831958122115280143_n.jpg?oh=9582cc6e3d56c44d832c448aa7f695f3&oe=5AB6F8BB
Bath asparagus has a mild but different taste but can be used like a wild asparagus!  
Originally the word asparagus is derived from a word meaning simply “spring shoot”.
 

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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Stavanger and around

After my weekend course in Haugaland, member of Norwegian Seed Savers, Tone Lise Østboe kindly showed me around gardens in Stavanger and we also visited Rogaland arboretum outside the city and also a producer of bumble bees for the greenhouse industry!
Thanks very much Tone Lise :)

Resonating with asparagus in Oslo…..

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Just before the start of my first course for MAJOBO on Tuesday, I decided to change my first picture to something of local relevance! This is Oslo’s oldest asparagus bed, perhaps as old as 100 years as explained in the following article!

Download (PDF, 4.58MB)

In another one of these resonant moments, who should be amongst the 20 participants than the owner of this very garden, Lars Mjøset :) He walked in just after I took this picture!