Tag Archives: Otta

Valbjør Gård and Nordigard Aukrust!

On 1st June, I gave a talk at one of Norway’s oldest herb farms, Nordigard Aukrust, run organically by Ola Aukrust since the 1980s.  This was my first visit although I’d known of Ola’s work for many years! See the pictures below, including a few Alliums in the beautiful herb garden (immediately below is a summer shot taken from a local tourist page!)

On the bus from the train at Otta to Lom the evening before, I noticed a sign to Valbjør Farm, which my friend and Norwegian Seed Saver (KVANN) Andrew McMillion had visited in 2015. During the visit he had found Allium fistulosum growing on one of the turf roofs and had been given a few onions which he has since shared through KVANN’s Year Book. 10 years ago, I had been on a tour of nearby onion turf roofs near Otta and Vågå (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=14436). I had heard that there were also onions at Valbjør but hadn’t yet been there. It turned out that the woman who offered to give me a lift from the course at Lom back to Otta, had been at one of my talks some years ago in Heidal. I asked her if we could see Valbjør up on the hills from the main road and told her about the onion roof!  Even better, she said, we’ll make a detour to the place.

Valbjør Gård (picture from Andrew McMillion)

So, it came to pass that we spent 45 minutes or so at the farm and met the long-term organic farmer, Kai Valbjør, who had run the farm organically since the 1980s and, it turned out, was one of the open organic gardens in the national Norwegian organic network which we and Nordigard Aukrust were part of!!  It’s all interconnected!! There was also an overgrown herb garden. Valbjør Farm comprises 13 restored buildings from the 17th, 18th and 19th century and is protected by law. A young couple, Ola og Kjerstin Kaurstad, had bought the farm last year and, in particular, Kjerstin was very interested to learn more about the herbs that had survived, despite the neglect. We spent some time looking for herbs and I took a few with me, in case they turn out to be old! There were a few more surprises, see the album at the bottom of this page!

Where did the Valbjør onions come from?
It turned out that the roof onions at Valbjør had not been there for long and had come from another location.  Initial information was that they came from Sve Farm (which I had visited and already had onions in the national onion collection at the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim. Kai Valbjør told that Andrew that they had been given them from herbalist Adi Bertoli at Sjoa. Adi was not sure that it was she who had given the onions to Valbjør, but her roof onions came from seed she was given by botanist Hans Shwenke in Otta (who had been on the tour of roof onion locations 10 years previously). Adi remembered that Hans had his onions from a place called Steberløkken in Kvam. Hans confirmed that the farm was probably called Næsset.

Nordigard Aukrust and Lom:

 

New study of old Norwegian roof onions!

I’m just passing the mountain village Otta in Gudbrandsdalen on the train . In 2009, I visited several old farms in this area to witness first-hand the old onion turf roofs still to be found nearby and collect some samples (see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=14436). Norway’s old edible roof gardens are also described in my book Around the World I 80 plants! I recently heard that a botanist, Bjørn Harald Larsen, did a thorough field study of the area last year (2016) and made a number of new finds. His report can be downloaded below (with many new pictures!).  Bjørn Harald has tried to partition his finds of old Allium fistulosum (pipeløk / Welsh onion) in this area as follows: There are now 10 intact roof locations documented of 31 «original known onion roofs»; 12 intact of 16 finds where plants had been moved / planted from older roofs; 2 occurrences where plants have naturalised on dry slopes; a few that have been planted in gardens; and finally two instances where plants seem to originate from other cultivated forms (i.e., plants have a different growth form – I had also noted this when growing out some of these onions in Malvik).

Download (PDF, 17.29MB)

The Roof Onions of Gudbrandsdalen in Norway

On 3rd July 2009, local historian Geir Neverdal invited me on a tour to witness first hand the old traditional onion roofs of Gudbrandsdalen near the town of Otta. I had first heard of Geir through the following web site about these very special old turf roofs on which Allium fistulosum / welsh onion / pipeløk had been planted as a protection against fire (the leaves are succulent even in very dry conditions and this Siberian species is extremely hardy and drought tolerant): http://www.otta2000.com/Diverse/Pipeloek/pipeloek.htm. The onions were also traditionally harvested in spring and used in scrambled egg and other dishes.

He had arranged visits to 5 different farms near Otta and Vågå.  Two local botanists had also been invited along: Hans Petter Schwencke and  Bjørn Engehagen.

One Norwegian botanist thinks that as these roof onions have developed over such a long time in this very special environment that they should be lifted to species level. I suggest Allium gudbrandsdaliensis ;)

Geir also blogged about the tour here http://www.otta2000.com/Diverse/Pipeloek/pipeloek.htm#Prosjektleder_

Below are a series of pictures from these farms: Søre Breden where owners Knut Romsås Breden og Eldri Seim met us; Hole; Nedre Gjetsiden;  Nerøygarden (where Ingrid Dokken and her husband met us)and, finally,  Sve Gård in Vågå kommune where farmer Harald Bjørndal showed us around. At the bottom is a document in Norwegian which I wrote after the visit. The story of these onions is also told in my book Around the World in 80 plants!

Download (PDF, 2.18MB)