I’m in Habby Blitz (bliss) once again and Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / Stjernemelde / Nordens spinat) is the most important vegetable once again. With some 30 plants (and increasing) there¨’s more than enough to harvest. Here’s a few pictures from an area on very shallow soil (10-20cm) under the shade of a large birch tree where it thrives. And it’s now 20 years since I planted my first!
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)
A wonderful birthday dinner again this week!
As is the tradition since I left home, my birthday dinner has been Macaroni Cheese with rhubarb crumble for dessert. Mac Cheese was the first veggie dish I ate back in the 60s – Mum took us to Edwin Jones in Southampton (the superstore of the time) where they served it in the restaurant, sadly no more as Debenhams that took over closed for good last year during the first COVID lockdown… We loved it and it became a tradition for Mum to make this every Tuesday! Nowadays, we use whole grain spelt macaroni with masses of greens…Hablitzia or Caucasian spinach ( stjernemelde) and others (see this year’s list below).
Dedicating this once again to my dear Mum…it’s after all her 66th birth day too!
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / Stjernemelde)
Rumex acetosa (Common sorrel / Engsyre)
Rumex patientia (Patience dock / Hagesyre)
Ligularia fischeri (Fischer’s Ligularia / Koreansk nøkketunge)
Aegopodium podograria (Ground elder / Skvallerkål)
Myrrhis odorata (Sweet cicely / Spansk Kjørvel)
Campanula latifolia (Giant bellflower / Storklokke)
Dystaenia takesimana (Giant Ulleung Celery)
Rumex acetosa “Abundance” (Non-flowering sorrel)Allium cernuum (Nodding onion / Prærieløk)
Crambe maritima (Sea kale / Strandkål)
Allium ursinum (Ramsons / Ramsløk)
Allium sativum (Garlic / Hvitløk)
Hemerocallis dumortieri shoots.
We are now rapidly approaching maximum Habby (Hablitzia tamnoides) harvest, so most meals now have masses of shoots of this amazing perennial vegetable. We make sourdough bread every two or three weeks (it stores well) and usually make pizza with some of the same dough. 100% whole grain with zero refined flour of course. Yesterday, I collected a large bowl of Hablitzia shoots and also used Allium scorodoprasum and a few dandelion leaves for the year’s first Habbizza!
The pizza was served with delicious raw urui (Hosta sieboldiana) with a roasted sesame seed / soya sauce dipping sauce:
Yesterday was the first day above 10C this year and my Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach) plants are really growing fast. We used those in the picture together with thinned Allium scorodoprasum bulbs and shoots in a delicious home grown pea soup.
Yesterday it hailed on my collection of Hablitzia plants…and today they were covered in a white blanket:
The daughter Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) was self-sown in the middle of what was where we parked the car and now where I store plants until they’re ready to plant out. It is now almost as big as its mother which is at the back, now about 18 years old!
I’ve often noted that Hablitzia plants grow slowly the first year or so, but under ideal conditions (more warmth than we get outdoors here) they can grow fast…
I sowed seed in February, stratifying first for 10 days in the fridge and they germinated quickly in the living room. I grew them on indoors (it was too cold to put them out) and for lack of space I planted together with newly planted taro (Colocasia esculenta) tubers in a large pot. They grew quickly and they were about to start flowering yesterday when I dug up the plants and moved outside!
Hablitzia as a weed!
While researching Hablitzia tamnoides for my book Around the World in 80 plants (2014) I found the following simple entry in a 19th century encyclopedia of ornamental plants:
The author was clearly not impressed…..
Further Frederik Christian Schübeler (1815-1892) who was professor of botany and manager of the Oslo botanical garden at Toyen in Oslo from 1866-92 also noted from northern Norway that
“At Maalselvdalens Vicarage (69 deg. 10 min. N), where it also grows very well, it reaches 8 feet (2.5m) and doesn’t only give mature seeds, but spreads even in the garden as a weed.”
I found this difficult to believe and thought initially that it had been confused with good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) which can be very weedy in a garden. I only had one plant at the time and I struggled to get more than a couple of seeds from it. Introducing a second plant, suddenly there was a lot of seed and seedlings appeared around the mother plants.
Nowadays it appears in many parts of the cultivated parts of my garden spread by the low friction seeds blowing around on ice in the winter and through my compost. Small plants often turn up as a weed in pot plants indoors which have been fed with compost. This is a plant which germinated in a pot with a bay tree (Laurus nobilis) some years ago. When the bay died, I let the Hablitzia grow on and it now uses the bay as a climbing frame!
Nevertheless, Hablitzia seems to depend on naked earth to establish itself here and there are no reports of it escaping into nature approaching 150 years after its introduction as a garden plant here.
Yesterday, I was weeding Hablitzia from newly emerged carrot seedlings!
Last night we made a green pea soup and apart from the Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), I used perennial vegetables growing in a wild part of the garden. With little or no help from me there’s a bounty of wild edibles in this area under wild hazels (Corylus avellana) and this made for a delicious pea soup with masses of greens.
Campanula latifolia is documented as used in spring soups in the 16th century in my area in Norway and Heracleum shoots are also a tradional soup ingredient, in particular Russian borsch now thought of as a beetroot soup was originally made with hogweed shoots.