The first veggie food I ate was macaroni cheese and chips at Edwin Jones (now Debenhams) in Southampton, a treat when we Mum took us shopping back in the 60s…
Most years since I’ve followed this tradition on or near my birthday, no chips this year as the potatoes have run out and nowadays the macaroni cheese is mixed with masses of green stuff both from the garden and, yesterday, fiddleheads harvested on the Homla walk. This is more or less the only time in the year I have dessert and the only time I eat sugar…in rhubarb crumble, also with family roots back to the 60s :)
rhubarb crumble, also with family roots back to the 60s :)
An article in Norwegian about my first experiences with ostrich fern (strutseving). From the magazine of the Norwegian Useful Plants Society, Våre Nyttevekster (Our Useful Plants). Link to download below:
This week I gave a couple of talks for the first time on the subject of “Perennials: Attractive and climate friendly city vegetables” ….covering everywhere from roof gardens to shady backyards to city farms, including Slottsparken – the park around the Royal Palace in Oslo which is in reality a productive forest garden ;) (full of Hosta and ostrich fern / strutseving)!
On the way up the mountain at Alvastien Telste I found a particularly fertile ostrich fern with 30 fertile fronds! This is the edible wild plant equivalent of a moose with antlers with many points ;)
These much shorter fronds which carry the spores are one of the most important distinguishing features of ostrich fern (the taller fronds don’t have spores).
My second unsuccessful attempt to find ramsons (ramsløk) at its northernmost natural site at Ramslia in Nord Trøndelag (on the other side of Trondheimsfjord from my place). Neverthless, it was a great day out with one of my ex-OCEANOR work colleagues Jarle Tronstad who owns an old mountain farm in the area!
The first time my garden was featured in a book was in former Norwegian TV gardener and gardener for the King, Tor Smaaland’s 2004 book “Din drømmehage”. The book was based on Tor’s travels around Norway visiting gardens and their owners. I remember his visit well as he was like a whirlwind almost running around the garden and talking at full throttle…he told me that he was a landscape architect and new little about plants and then he was gone again…so quick was he that I didn’t get a single picture of his visit! Most of the text about the plants was written by me (see pdf at the bottom of this page!).
I loved his amusing description of me and my garden (first in Norwegian below and then translated): «Hage til å spise opp: Som Norges kanskje eneste moderne ikke-munk har engelskmannen Stephen Barstow brukt de siste tiåra på å anlegge et slags fri klosterhage ved Malvik utenfor Trondheim med noe mellom 1500-3000 planter, avhengig av hvordan vinteren har fart over hagen. Her er 30 av hans favoritter – og ganske uventet bruk av dem» ;) (Garden to be eaten up: As perhaps Norway’s only modern non-monk, Englishman SB has over the last 10 years created a kind of free style monastery garden in Malvik outside of Trondheim with somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 plants, dependent on the ravages of the winter. Here are 30 of his favourites and their rather unexpected uses)
You will notice quite a few of the plants that finally ended up in my book and many of which I now call Edimentals; for example: variegated ground elder (variegert skvallerkål), nodding onion (prærieløk), seiersløk (Allium victorialis), udo (Aralia cordata), giant bellflower (storklokke), daylilies (dagliljer), Hosta, golden hops (gulhumle), Malva (kattost), ostrich fern (strutseving), Bath asparagus (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum), bistort (ormrot), rubber dandelion (gummiløvetann), bulrush (dunkjevle) and nettles (nesle).
Almost exactly 6 years ago (is it really that long ago?) I was delighted to have a visit from BBC gardening presenter and Guardian writer Alys Fowler. After we finished photographing the garden I took her on a tour to Vennafjellet, the closest mountain to home and we also stopped at Nævrahølet, a local swimming “hole” under a small waterfall! It was a glorious hot day in “paradise”. It’s now known as Alys’ Pool and a picture of her swimming here features in her book the Thrifty Forager!
6 years on I did the same trip with the group of Danes who have been learning about permaveggies in my garden! It was a much colder day, but two of us did venture into the water. It wasn’t as bad as feared! One thing I hadn’t noticed on Alys’ visit was that there were several plants of Mountain Queen (Saxifraga cotyledon) hanging in full flower around the waterfall!
See the video of Ostrich Fern Island below: