The daughter Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) was self-sown in the middle of what was where we parked the car and now where I store plants until they’re ready to plant out. It is now almost as big as its mother which is at the back, now about 18 years old!
I’ve often noted that Hablitzia plants grow slowly the first year or so, but under ideal conditions (more warmth than we get outdoors here) they can grow fast… I sowed seed in February, stratifying first for 10 days in the fridge and they germinated quickly in the living room. I grew them on indoors (it was too cold to put them out) and for lack of space I planted together with newly planted taro (Colocasia esculenta) tubers in a large pot. They grew quickly and they were about to start flowering yesterday when I dug up the plants and moved outside!
Hablitzia as a weed! While researching Hablitzia tamnoides for my book Around the World in 80 plants (2014) I found the following simple entry in a 19th century encyclopedia of ornamental plants: The author was clearly not impressed….. Further Frederik Christian Schübeler (1815-1892) who was professor of botany and manager of the Oslo botanical garden at Toyen in Oslo from 1866-92 also noted from northern Norway that “At Maalselvdalens Vicarage (69 deg. 10 min. N), where it also grows very well, it reaches 8 feet (2.5m) and doesn’t only give mature seeds, but spreads even in the garden as a weed.” I found this difficult to believe and thought initially that it had been confused with good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) which can be very weedy in a garden. I only had one plant at the time and I struggled to get more than a couple of seeds from it. Introducing a second plant, suddenly there was a lot of seed and seedlings appeared around the mother plants. Nowadays it appears in many parts of the cultivated parts of my garden spread by the low friction seeds blowing around on ice in the winter and through my compost. Small plants often turn up as a weed in pot plants indoors which have been fed with compost. This is a plant which germinated in a pot with a bay tree (Laurus nobilis) some years ago. When the bay died, I let the Hablitzia grow on and it now uses the bay as a climbing frame!
Nevertheless, Hablitzia seems to depend on naked earth to establish itself here and there are no reports of it escaping into nature approaching 150 years after its introduction as a garden plant here. Yesterday, I was weeding Hablitzia from newly emerged carrot seedlings!
Last night we made a green pea soup and apart from the Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), I used perennial vegetables growing in a wild part of the garden. With little or no help from me there’s a bounty of wild edibles in this area under wild hazels (Corylus avellana) and this made for a delicious pea soup with masses of greens. Campanula latifolia is documented as used in spring soups in the 16th century in my area in Norway and Heracleum shoots are also a tradional soup ingredient, in particular Russian borsch now thought of as a beetroot soup was originally made with hogweed shoots.
It’s that time of year that Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) goes all floppy and needs help to go upwards rather than sideways! The floppiness you see here has nothing to do with the weather which habby loves although it’s never expereienced being snowed on for 5 days in a row in the middle of May in its short 18 year lifetime!
I noticed yesterday that the ostrich ferns (strutseving) in the forest garden had put on a spurt despite the cold weather and were almost past the harvesting stage. This is the main disadvantage of this great vegetable. The harvesting window is very narrow. I quickly harvested some, taking care not to take more than 1/3 of the shoots. Together with Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach), a bit of sea kale (strandkål), ramsons (ramsløk) and sand leeks (bendelløk) this made a delicious green pasta sauce. See the video before I picked below!
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I eat more Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) than any other spring vegetable and have eaten it every day now since the beginning of March (70 days). A friend mentioned on Instagram that she would love to see my plant! Well, I’ve just counted them and I have 36 harvestable plants and many different accessions now and more on the way…spread around the garden. About time then for an overview. They grow back so quickly even though we’ve hardly had a single day above 10C this spring that you wouldn’t have guessed that I’ve cut most of them right back! They regularly self-seed but they only see to succeed in naked soil where there is little competition. All the plants I tried in the forest garden area didn’t make it (in competition with ground elder, Aegopodium).
Presenting yesterdays greens used on a veggie 100% whole grain barley/spelt/rye sourdough pizza were: Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach /stjernemelde) (eaten now every day since the beginning of March and there’s more to harvest now than at any time since I started!) Crambe maritima (sea kale / strandkål) Allium ursinum (ramsons / ramsløk) Levisticum officinale (lovage / løpstikke) (I call blanched lovage “spring celery” as it’s not that much stronger than celery…and much easier to grow than celery organically) Ligularia fischeri (Gomchwi; Fischer’s Ligularia / Koreansk nøkketunge) (King of the Sannamul: see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3114) Rumex patientia (Patience dock / Hagesyre) Bistorta officinalis (Bistort / Ormerot)
A wonderful birthday dinner yesterday! As is the tradition since I left home, my birthday dinner has been Macaroni Cheese with rhubarb crumble for dessert. Mac Cheese was the first veggie dish I ate back in the 60s – Mum took us to Edwin Jones in Southampton (the superstore of the time) where they served it in the restaurant. We loved it and it became a traditions for Mum to make this every Tuesday! Nowadays, we use whole grain spelt macaroni with masses of greens…Hablitzia or Caucasian spinach ( stjernemelde) and dandelion (løvetann). On the top, we used dried alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils! This one time rhubarb crumble is the only time I eat sugar each year, something I’ve kept up now for the last 20 years. Dedicating this to my dear Mum…it’s after all her 65th birth day too!