Cleaning out my office and I found a local newspaper article about an open day in my garden almost 13 years ago (August 2004) with a picture of me and my only 3 year old Hablitzia (noted in the caption as my favourite plant: a perennial spinach!) that’s still going strong and already in vigorous growth!
Last night (8th March 2017) was the first of two events I had been asked to take part in celebrating the diversity of vegetables that our area has on offer (or could have on offer) even in winter! The Trondheim Kosmorama international film festival are showing two films related to food. Last night, the film “NOMA: My perfect storm” was shown and around 40 people also bought tickets to a fantastic 10-15 course, 4 hour meal (I lost count) at Trondheim’s NOMA: Credo!
I supplied a number of vegetables for the dinner and these are shown here, several being served for the first time in Norway :)
Here is an article in Nationen, a Norwegian daily newspaper with a particular focus on agriculture, from my garden in 2011 by journalist Bente Haarstad. “Blomster på Matbordet” means literally “Flowers on the Edible Table”. It was written based on a garden visit on 11th August 2011 organised by the Trondheim Useful Plants Society (Trondheim sopp- og nyttevekstforening).
10 years ago in July 2006, I received an email seed request from a Sergey Banketov in the Caucasus. I don’t usually trade seed in summer, but he had such an interesting list of wild collected species from the Caucasus that I made an exception and we traded seeds. At the time I was writing my article on Hablitzia tamnoides for Permaculture Magazine and on the offchance I asked “Do you know the plant Hablitzia tamnoides? It was introduced to Sweden in about 1870 as an ornamental plant and later it was realised that it was also a very good edible plant (used in the springtime as spinach) . It is still grown in some gardens in Scandinavia for food. However, I can find no reference to its use as a food plant in its home range (the Caucasus). Do you have any information about its use? I am also interested in seed from wild populations and photographs of the plant in the wild as I am writing an article about it.”
Sergey, a botanist, lived in the city of Pyatigorsk in the Stavropol region of Russia (Northern Caucasus) and he quickly replied:
“I know a plant of Hablitzia tamnoides. This plant grows with us in the vicinity of the city. And like for the first time it is described from mountain Mashuk. I shall collect seeds and I shall try to photograph her. Unfortunately the information on it is very poor. I hear the first time that she is edible. With us we do not use even for decorative purposes. I shall try to learn about it at work (Botanical institute) and in the pharmaceutical academy.”
Just 4 days later he sent me these 4 pictures of the plant growing on northern slope at the bottom of the mountain Mashuk (see the images for the location). Further he told me that nobody knows the plant apart from botanists!
In January 2007, Sergey sent me his new seed list which now included Hablitzia! In February, I received a good amount of wild seed, collected from 3-4 plants at the bottom of Mt. Mashuk (my own single plant produced almost no seed) and in the Permaculture Magazine article an offer of seed was given, the source being Sergey.
My article “Caucasian spinach: the unknown woodlander” was published by Permaculture Magazine 9 years ago in 2007 (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1984 and also my book Around the World in 80 plants). In the meantime this vegetable has become a popular perennial vegetable and forest garden plant grown by thousands around the world, and is perhaps the first new vegetable to become popular thanks to social media and the permaculture movement! At last the results of a project to analyse the nutrient content of this plant have been announced on our Friends of Hablitzia FB group by Leena Nurmi who carried out the work for her masters thesis in Finland! And the news is very good, confirming that Hablitzia (Caucasian Spinach) is not only a fantastic productive perennial vegetable but also is superior to spinach and New Zealand spinach nutritionally and for those who worry about oxalic acid and nitrates, both are within accepted limits!!
Time for a celebration
She writes:“Hello Stephen and other Hablitzia friends! Greetings from Finland. I have done my master’s thesis about Hablitzia “Hablitzia tamnoides – a new but old leafy vegetable of early summer: cold stratification of seeds and nutritional value of leaves”. Now I am writing a scientific article about the nutritional value of Hablitzia. Caucasian spinach contains particularly plenty of carotenoids, folates, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Also many other nutritions were larger in Hablitzia than in spinach and New Zealand spianch. In my study the oxalic acid, nitrate, cadmium and lead contents did not outweigh the permissible threshold values. The seeds of Hablitzia need to be stratified either in a cold room or outside during winter in order to germinate. The highest germination rate was 52 %, recorded from the Tampere population stratified at +5 ºC in a cold room. The seeds of Tampere population were picked up in February and sown for stratification in the middle of March. In Finland Hablitzia grows even in Oulu, but wetness of soil kills the plant very easily.”
I arrived at Findhorn by bike – http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8060 – from Dyke on 14th September 2016, where I had been staying at Teeny Weeny Farm! Ariane Burgess had attended my talk there the night before and kindly invited me to visit Findhorn’s Edible Woodland Garden….
Ariane has for over twenty years worked on reconnecting people to nature in different ways and in different countries. For example, as a healing response in the aftermath of 9/11 she was commissioned to design and install The Labyrinth for Contemplation, Battery Park in New York (I feel that as I flew back from the US to Europe on that day…). From Findhorn, she inspires, teaches and consults about the transition to our future integrative, regenerative culture, including ecovillage design (see more on her web site here: http://arianeburgess.com
However, it was the new Edible Woodland Garden I’d been invited to see. Nestled next to the Findhorn community, the garden has been designed as a demonstration of how very poor land with a severe water shortage can be turned into a productive edible garden! The project was initiated by the Findhorn Hinterland Trust and more can be found on the trust and the garden at: http://www.findhornhinterland.org/ecology/edible-woodland-garden
See more in the picture gallery below!!
I look forward to visiting again, Ariane Burgess…thanks for showing me round and good luck with your important work :)