Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard / tysk klematis) is an important wild edible in Italy (young shoots which must be cooked) and also one of the most attractive plants in my garden for hoverflies and other pollinators! Saving seed this week from my 20+ year old seed propagated plant which provides me with a lot of entertainment (hoverfly watching on my balcony)!
One of the few plants in my garden which isn’t edible is my large Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush / sommerfuglbusk), a wonderful entomental (loved by insects and an ornamental appreciated by Homo sapiens too!). It is strategically placed beneath the balcony so that I can look down from above. As chance has it, I had also planted old man’s beard / tysk klematis (Clematis vitalba) to climb up onto the balcony. The latter is equally popular with late summer pollinators, mainly hoverflies. So this is one of the best spots for watching and photographing the local insect life. However, after coming into flower 2-3 weeks ago there were no butterflies, but a rare 20C day brought them out and both painted lady (tistelsommerfugl; the first since the bumper year two years ago and only the second recorded this summer in Trøndelag county), red admiral (admiral) and comma / hvit C were out yesterday! But it’s at night that the butterfly bush is covered with pollinators, notably an estimated 200 large yellow underwing moths (hagebåndfly)
You’ll find old man’s beard or tysk klematis in Norwegian (Clematis vitalba) in Italian foraging books as the young cooked shoots are popular there in spring (they shouldn’t be eaten raw). There’s a very narrow time window for harvesting this, so I seldom eat much of it. However, it doubles as being an exceptoionally popular plant for pollinating insects (hoverflies and drone flies in particular) when it is in flower for a long period from late summer to autumn when there are few other flowers out. lt cilmbs up onto my balcony which makes photography easier! I started this from seed collected on the chalk downs of Hampshire (in the area where I grew up) about 25 years ago.
Fast Slow Food: From garden to table in 20 minutes or less…
As related in my book and my talks over the years, some of the best food is in this category and one common way of using wild and garden veggies in the Mediterranean countries is simply to gather a selection of greens, boil and fry in olive oil with garlic and chili, mix with scrambled eggs. Two of the wild foraged species mentioned at the beginning of the Mediterranean chapter are
a) Clematis vitalba (Old man’s beard / Tyskklematis)….must be boiled to detoxify as it’s related to buttercups (smørblomst)
b) Anchusa azurea (large blue alkanet): quote from the book “Anchusa azurea is a perfect perennial edimental with superb azure-blue flowers in summer. Young leaves and flowering shoots of this species and others in the same family have been gathered from the wild in most Mediterranean countries. In Cyprus, for example, they were boiled alone, boiled with beans or fried. Like its annual cousin borage, Borago officinalis, the flowers are an attractive addition to salads or just freeze them in ice-cubes.”