Tag Archives: The Edible Garden

Persian Shallot harvest

One of my favourite perennial onions are persian shallots, Allium stipitatum and I’ve blogged about them several times in the past: 
https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=persian+shallot
This is one of the earliest onions to appear in the spring and they flower and die down in the course of June. July is the best time to harvest the bulbs (I’ve often harvested them too late when they¨¨’ve already started sprouting in autumn). I harvested one plant this week and the bulbs were in perfect condition. I was once again struck by the yield (although it is probably two years since I harvested this plant). I replanted 3 of the largest bulbs. I usually dry the bulbs as they do in Iran, but this time I ate some fresh. They are surprisingly mild tasting and I used them fried in an omelette. 
Below the pictures is a Norwegian article on the persian shallot which I wrote in 2021.

Please download this Norwegian article on persian shallots:

Download (PDF, 1.41MB)

The wildest garden

Around the World in 80 Mac-Cheese

Many thanks to all who sent birthday wishes as I transitioned to become a bonafide pensioner ❤
As usual, my celebration dinner was a green macaroni cheese (https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=macaroni), this year an Around the World in 80 Mac-Cheese with 80 different perennial greens harvested from the garden, some for the first time!

The sun is back

I noticed this morning sun shadows on the wall behind my back in the living room! YES, the sun is back. A whole week of cloudy weather after the sun was due to rise again above the southern horizon, so it wasn¨’t until today we could finally be sure that the sun was back, but there was only a small break in the clouds and it was soon gone again. However, spring is definitely in the air and two great tits (kjøttmeis) have been singing in the garden the last two days and a blue tit (blåmeis) joined them a couple of times! Good times!

January storms

This January has been a stormy month here in this area with a series of severe weather systems moving past, one (Gyda) with a name, resulting in many trees down, flooding, landslides and avalanches, but my rocky hillside has escaped lightly with just a few branches ripped from trees. With winds largely blowing from the west it’s also been mild with snow coming and going and no frost in the soil. Higher up, there¨’s been large amounts of snow accumulating. 
The latest extreme weather system has given a forecast of very high waves on the Norwegian coast with a deep 960 hPa low located off Eastern Greenland and extensive strong wind fields between there and Norway. Due to the limited fetch lengths in the fjord (maximum about 20 km across the fjord) significant wave heights above 1.5 to 2m are rare. With very strong winds from NE blowing across the fjord and the right stage of the tide, there were some impressive waves in the bay earlier this week. The second video shows a woodpigeon (ringdue) hunched up against the wind. 

 

Celebration 40 genera salad

40 years ago this month I came to Norway to find a place for us to live as I was to start work at Institutt for kontinentalsokkelundersøkelser (IKU; Continental Shelf Institute) in Trondheim in October 1981. The flat I found was here in Malvik kommune (Torp). 
To celebrate 40 years in Malvik I made a salad with 40 different genera. The names of the genera are below the pictures!

The 40 genera:

  1. Begonia
  2. Anethum
  3. Salvia
  4. Lactuca
  5. Chrysanthemum
  6. Raphanus
  7. Apium
  8. Coriandrum
  9. Oxalis
  10. Tilia
  11. Tropaeolum
  12. Hablitzia
  13. Hosta
  14. Stellaria
  15. Alliaria
  16. Phyteuma
  17. Melissa
  18. Malva
  19. Lavatera
  20. Allium
  21. Lunaria
  22. Arabis
  23. Alchemilla
  24. Scorzonera
  25. Tragopogon
  26. Sanguisorba
  27. Campanula
  28. Primula
  29. Taraxacum
  30. Rumex
  31. Viola
  32. Lepidium
  33. Claytonia
  34. Ligularia
  35. Fragaria
  36. Osmorhiza
  37. Barbarea
  38. Hemerocallis
  39. Crambe
  40. Myrrhis

Norway spruce in my garden

This is a long post to document the importance of Norway spruce, gran in norwegian (Picea abies) in my garden. All pictures shown are taken in the garden.
Milder weather has arrived with strong southerly winds and the garden around the twin spruce trees was covered in fallen spruce needles (video below), something which is only obvious when there’s snow on the ground. Norway spruce (Picea abies) needles live for only a few years before being shed. 

Pairs of spruce trees had been planted by the previous owners in the 1940s-1950s in four different parts of the garden and about 5 others have appeared,  presumably self-sown from the original plantings, although gran (Norwegian name) is a common forest tree in this area and an important economic species. Only one of the original pairs still exist as I felled them to make room for a  diversity of fruit and berries and because of an area of the garden had been attacked by an aggresive form of honey fungus (honningsopp) (see below). Despite finding honey fungus on the roots of the oldest two trees maybe twenty years ago they still seem to be in good health. On my exposed hilltop they’ve survived extreme winds, particularly Storm Dagmar at Xmas 2011 which felled large numbers of trees also in this area. The film below was put together from a series of still pictures some hours after the storm peak that destroyed my greenhouse; see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18189

This Google Street view picture from before Dagmar in 2010 shows the intact greenhouse and the pair of remaining oldest spruce trees and a couple of younger self-sown trees to the right (the yellow shed is in the neighbour’s garden).

Drone picture of the garden with the spruce trees on the far left (picture taken by Andrew McMillion on 30th July 2020)

There used to be two spruce trees to the south east of and quite close to the house but they were felled when I was terracing below the house in the 90s. We found that the trees were growing on an old rubbish tip with a lot of organic material as nettles grew prolifically here. 
…and one of original two on the western boundary next to the outhouse:
Large numbers of wood mushroom / snøballsjampinjong (Agaricus sylvicola) and a few blushing wood mushroom / blodsjampinjong (Agaricus sylvaticus) have grown under these spruce trees for many years. They are saprobic, living on decaying and dead spruce needles. The best trees were those by the outhouse (last picture above), but we had to take this one down as the neighbour was afraid it would fall over their house or the power cable. They also grew in large amounts around the remaining two spruce trees (pictures below) but I haven’t seen them for several years at the same time that hedge mustard / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata) invaded this area and I wonder if the allelopathic chemicals in this plant have impacted and killed the mushrooms. I have therefore been systematically removing the hedge mustard from the this area in the hope that the mushrooms will return. It’s amazing to think that those fallen spruce needles that we started with can transform into delicious food for us!

Invading Alliaria petiolata in the dry soil under the spruce trees.


Another edible fungi associated with spruce once appeared in the garden; Lactarius deterrimus (false saffron milkcap / granmatriske):

The Ethnobotany of Spruce
There are numerous food uses of Norway spruce to be found in the ethnobotanical literature. The inner bark has been used to make bark bread in the past in bad years; the immature cones have been cooked, the seed  have been eaten by children raw, the young shoots have been used to make tea and beer (and in modern times to make a sweetened drink), the needles have been used in the French/ Swiss cheeses Vacherin d’Abondance/ Vacherin Mont d’Or and the resin or gum (kvae) has been used as a chewing gum:

 

Other uses
I’ve used the wood of the felled trees of course to heat the house and the ash has been used for various purposes. A stump has also served as a chopping block for many years. I’ve also used branches to insulate and stop leaves from blowing away from areas of the garden like my sea kale bed that need winter protection:

Spruce used to keep leaves in place (my blackberry is underneath)
Used for splitting firewood

The importance of spruce for birds in my garden
The  two oldest spruce trees are also extremely important for many bird species both as an excellent song post, the top being the highest point in the garden, and a place with a good view of approaching predators. Both chffinches (bokfink), robin (rødstrupe), blackbird (svarttrost), dunnock (jernspurv), nuthatch (spettmeis), greenfinches (grønnfink), brambling (bjørkefink), redwings (rødvingetrost), chiffchaff (gransanger; the Norwegian name meaning “spruce singer”), various tits, notably coal tit (granmeis; again litereally meaning “spruce tit”)  and others sing from these trees. Here’s one video of a brambling singing and various links below to other posts I’ve made over the years of birds on these trees..

Spring gathering of starlings (stær) in one of my trees

Treecreeper and goldcrests are sometimes seen foraging in the spruce trees in winter, hosting favourite hiding places for numerous insects.  Here’s a recent blog post of a winter goldcrest: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=27332
Some birds cache nuts and seeds for winter in trees like spruce and others may accidentally discover this and raid the caches.
On warm winter days, waxwings (sidensvans) can often be seen hawking after insects from the tree tops. Various species also nest in my spruces, most obviously magpies (skjære) and hooded crows (kråke).

A blackbird (svarttrost) above showing off its improvisational and mimicking skills atop a spruce tree this morning! It’s been a bit too cold for much song activity over the last couple of weeks, but it’s slightly warmer today with a maximum of 7C this first day of May.

Woodpigeon (ringdue) enjoying the view

Below is a video of a redwing (rødvingetrost) in full song at 1 am on 7th June just 2 weeks away from the longest day!


Then there are specialist species like common crossbill (grankorsnebb) that turn up in “cone years” and of course great spotted woodpeckers (flaggspett) are common visitors, particularly in winter, both eating the seeds.
More videos of birds in my spruce trees:
Robin singing https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22735
Siberian nutcracker juggling with a nut https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23661
Dunnock https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=21847 and https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=17325
Nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker on top https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=16566
Nutcracker and greenfinch  https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=12720

The first dunnock of 2021 atop one of the spruce trees in song this morning (17th April):


Flowers, cones, seeds to fungi 
An album of pictures showing the whole life cycle of flowers to pollen to cones to seed and the afterlife of cones and fallen needles colonised by fungi that give us and other creatures food:


Stumps
Stumps of spruce trees left to rot are also fascinating to follow through the years as they break down slowly helped along the way by fungi and colonised by mosses:

 

Hepatica
I’m also fortunate having a wild population of Hepatica nobilis (blåveis) and they often grow in dry soil below younger spruce trees: 

In the foreground are the three-lobed leaves of Hepatica nobilis

In a sunnier spot, Hepatica can flower profusely in early spring

Storage
Under the spruce trees is also a good spot to store pea and bean stakes as it’s dry.

Stakes for garden use are pretty dry under the shelter of mature spruce trees; small slow growing hazel (picture) and rowan grow closest to the spruce.

Growing out of nothing
It’s always amazing to see how such large trees grow on hardly any soil and I’ve noticed how, when removing stumps, how the tree itself has broken up the rock to create deeper soil over time. At the bottom of the garden, the lower two trees grow on even shallower soil and here you see large roots clambering over rocks in search of deeper soil:



Assorted celestial and other spruce pictures through the years
A final set of pictures featuring my wonderful spruce trees over the years in various poses with the moon, the sun and a rainbow.