The greens that went into last night’s wholegrain spelt quiche are listed below the picture! CELLAR: Dystaenia takesimana shoots; Forced hogweed (bjørnekjeks) shoots (Heracleum spp.); Forced Taraxacum (dandelion / løvetann); nederst til høyre: Witloof chicory (sikkori); øverst til høyre: swiss chard (mangold) GARDEN: Various hybrid onions (Allium senescens x nutans) and Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde)
Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to document as much as possible of the incredible diversity of insects and spiders that are living in The Edible Garden. For many years I’ve noted and reported the birds I see in the garden. COVID gave me the opportunity finally to have time to look at the other life forms that I live with and it’s been quite a journey. I have a separate blog post on the moths (approaching 170 species) and I often post pictures of various pollinators on my edible plants (notably bees, beetles, wasps and hoverflies); edible plants that attract pollinators I term edi-ento-mentals (the most valuable plants are those that both provide food for me and the pollinators, and are also good to look). I initially thought that the latest hoverfly to be documented was a large wasp, but it turns out to be Temnostoma vespiforme (Ginger or wasp-like tigerfly / vepsetreblomsterflue). It was feeding on Heracleum sphondylium (common hogweed / bjørnekjeks). The first record for Malvik kommune and only scattered finds before in this area. Larva of this species feed in decaying wood of deciduous trees.
One of my favourite insects is the bee beetle / humlebille (Trichius fasciatus). This morning I saw it on one of my favourite onions victory onion / seiersløk (this one is Allium ochotense; the East Asian species – recently separated out as a species). Later I filmed it also on a hogweed (Heracleum spp.).
In order to lengthen the season for harvesting of perennial vegetables, I dig up roots of a selection in the autumn and plant them in garden soil in large buckets (which I have a surplus of through my Allium project, now moved to the botanical gardens). As I explain in the video, all of these can be stored outside exposed to the cold as they are very hardy (minimum about -20C here), but some get a head start by moving into my cold cellar where they start growing slowly in the dark. Welcome to my living room:
These were the forced veggies used one day last week, from top left and across – Heracleum sibiricum (hogweed / bjørnekjeks); Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke); Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel); Taraxacum officinale (dandelion / løvetann); (bottom row): Allium angulosum; Ficaria verna (lesser celandine / vårkål); Allium flavescens and Armoracia rusticana (horseradish / pepperrot); (centre right): wild buckwheat / vill bokhvete shoots – Fagopyrum tataricum)
If you grow parsnip (pastinakk) for seed, you may have come across the parsnip moth or parsnip webworm (Depressaria radiata) as it can make an impact on seed harvest as it makes a silk structure amongst the inflorescences. Here it’s on its other important host, hogweed (Heracleum spp.) which I’m also letting flower for the seeds (golpar spice).
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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!
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When Heracleum sibiricum (siberian hiogweed / sibirbjørnekjeks) is in flower, you get a good impression of how much free food there is on the streets of Trondheim :) Both young shoots, flower shoots and broccolis can be used as a vegetable. They are cooked and/or fermented. Russian beetroot soup, borscht, was originally a hogweed soup – often fermented first; The spring shoots are quite sweet. The pictures show almost pure stands of hogweed on Lade, Trondheim.
More in my book Around the World in 80 plants!
BE CAREFUL HARVESTING AS YOU CAN BURN YOURSELF ON THE PLANT JUICES IN STRONG SUNLIGHT!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden