Today I harvested the year’s first broad beans at the Væres Venner Community Garden where KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) are developing a garden:
I also harvested the first potatoes at home…and the year’s first falafels resulted with new potatoes for dinner. The falafels were flavoured with salt, pepper, shallots, chili and golpar (ground seed of any species of Heracleum or hogweed) which gives a delicious exotic flavour!
Heracleum sibiricum gives the local variant of golpar here…most people have a local variety of hogweed to harvest, even Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) or Tromso palm (H. persicum), the latter giving the most authentic Iranian golpar spice.
It always amazes me how edible plants in my garden find their own best companions andystem create together really productive microsystems, often on really marginal parts of the garden that I never imagined could be so productive, such is the magic of perennials!
Here are a couple of videos showing two of these areas:
The edge of what was a shady bed previously used to grow annuals. I planted Hosta sieboldiana and Rumex scutatus on the edge of this bed with an Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern / perlebregne), one of the species sometimes eaten as fiddleheads. The shade encouraged first a Hablitzia to self-seed and next to it a large stinging nettle. A siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiridum) also found a place in the mix! Perennial kales are growing on the rest of this bed this year! The video starts with the flower umbel of a pink flowered Heracleum sphondylium (common hogweed):
The second area is at the end of one of my originally annual beds where I struggled to grow vegetables as it was very dry and under the shade of a large birch tree. Here I planted a number of Hablitzia plants 12 years ago and they love this spot producing good yields and climbing up into the birch tree in summer with the help of stakes I provided for them. Now, hogweeds have moved in (self-seeded), both Heracleum sibiricum and H. sphondylium and the Hablitzia is now using the 2.5m high hogweeds as climbing support!
Jens Holmboe’s book “Gratis mat av ville planter” (Free food from wild plants) from 1941 is still my favourite Norwegian book on wild food as it is well researched and includes a number of interesting anecdotes. I’ve had a photocopy of the whole book for many years (I think I borrowed it from my friend Jan Erik Kofoed and copied it at work in the 1980s). I finally own a copy of the book from the 2016 reprint! It had somehow passed me by that it was available! Thanks to Hanne Edvardsen from Trondheim Nyttevekstforening who gave me a copy at the recent Ringve Botanical Garden Open Day!
Interestingly, it does include the hogweeds / bjørnekjeks (Heracleum) including giant Tromsøpalme (Heracleum persicum, source of the spice golpar and a vegetable in Iran). However, I don’t think he could have tasted the latter when he wrote: “….skal være så besk at den neppe er å anbefale til folkemat” (…is apparently so bitter that it can hardly be recommended as food). Similarly, he mentions that Heracleum sibiricum is sometimes recommended for soups , together with other herbs….and it is likely to be too strong tasting for most people.
He writes about kvann (Angelica archangelica) as a wel known food plant in Norway right back to the time of the Vikings. He talks about it still being cultivated in Voss (and perhaps other places in western Norway). He encourages the use of roots as a nutritous food and indicates that some people like their bitter taste, others not. Unlike some books he also says that the subspecies litoralis (found on the coast of Norway) can also be used. He also says that Angelica sylvestris is much used in northern Norway and that it is less bitter!