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!
10 years ago today I had my first celebrity visit, from the UK! On 10th April 2010 I received the following email message entitled Permaveggies: “I am a garden writer based in Birmingham, England. I came across your work via an interview with you on a website and am very interested in learning more about your garden. I also share a love for unusual edibles that can be used in an ‘ornamental setting’. I suppose my garden has one foot in the forest garden camp and the other in a cottage garden. The greatest majority are edibles (everything from your typical vegetables to the more unusuals) with the rest being useful plants for medicine, feeding the garden or pollinators. I suppose the interesting part is that it’s a typical row terrace garden that’s about 60 ft long- cramped in is one way of looking at its design principles. I’ve written a book about it called the Edible Garden with it in conjunction with a programme on BBC2. Anyhow I would love to talk more about your work and what you’ve discovered. I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely Alys Fowler” The interview was the one published on my friend Telsing Andrews’ blog, The Veggie Patch Reimagined (see https://veggiepatchreimagined.blogspot.com/2010/02/stephens-edimental-oasis-interview.html). As part of this BBC series, permaculture had just been featured on 7th April 2010. The BBC crew visited Tim and Maddy Harland’s (my publishers) garden and were bowled over by their mature forest garden full of food and wildlife. In my reply I jokingly wrote “Stop by next time you’re in the area”! Little did I know that she would do just that a few months later! It turned out that she was researching her book “The Thrifty Forager” and was “looking for people to interview who boldly eat what others might not think to…”! Alys’ book The Thrifty Forager was published the year after but my book with Introduction by Alys took another 3 years! She devotes a whole section to my garden, its plants and The Modern Monk (guess who?) :) In the foreword to my book, there’s a picture of Alys reading my old coverless copy of Cornucopia II in the garden! Below are 4 albums of pictures taken by Alys’ cameraman Brian Wheeler! I have fond memories of this visit during a really hot period after the coldest June since the 1960s. The first album are pictures from the garden, the second from a forage and swim in the fjord, then a trip up to a local mountain Vennafjellet , via a second swimming spot, Nevrahølet (we were finished quite quickly with the pictures and interview in the garden due to the wonderful weather) and finally some pictures from Trondheim! Alys was also a presenter on BBC’s Gardener’s World and writes a gardening column for the Guardian!
19th June 2020: Video update from the Allium (Chicago) garden at the NTNU Ringve Botanical Gardens in Trondheim. The heat wave has brought many species into flower and the garden’s looking great! The official opening of the garden, planned for August, has been postponed to 2021. We are working on plant signs which will hopefully be added later in the summer. The garden currently contains some 300 accessions including around 100 Allium species and many old Norwegian onions collected over several years from all over the country and funded by Norsk Genressurssenteret and Landbruksdirektoratet. The signs for the garden are in part funded through a gift from Skjærgaarden (https://www.skjaergaarden.no) to KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) who have decided to use the gift at Ringve (see https://www.facebook.com/skjaergaarden.no/videos/2972781459487864)
The first evening of KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) weekend event in Trondheim and Malvik, we visited KVANN’s first “nyttevekstreservat” (inspired by Lawrence Hills’ proposal for vegetable sanctuaries across Europe as a reaction to the loss of our vegetable diverity in 1979!) at Væres Venner Felleshage (a new communiy garden in Trondheim). KVANN have already started work on a Verdenshage (World Garden) and another area currently being used as a holding bed for a future diversity garden, including walnut, hazel, sea buckthorn and other fruit trees to be planted elsewhere..
Afterwards, Sølvi Kvam took us to nearby Presthus Gård, a farm which has until recently been threatened by nearby housing developments. It will now be developed with many activities and KVANN are also welcome to make suggestions!
Day 3 of the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) meet was at the Ringve Botanical Garden Open Day in Trondheim. The day started early as I drove one of the participants to the station in Trondheim and then spent a couple of hours collecting some of the ingredients for a multi-species salad. Including plants collected on a walk, talk and forage for KVANN members, we managed 111 ingredients in the salad! Thanks to all who helped make it a very successful and fun weekend!
It was the first time I cycled to my office at the Ringve Botanical Garden today and I took the opportunity to see how the new Væres Venner community garden was looking (starting this year east of Ranheim at Være) . The snow had gone! At the entrance to the garden (Væres Venner) we will plant our World Edible Garden (Verdenshage) – large circular bed with the centre representing the north pole and mainly edible perennials distributed according to where they grow or are used in the Northern Hemisphere (see the first video below, where you can see an inner circle where we planted temporarily some 60 different plants in the autumn…and some are still ALIVE)!!
We have also purchased a couple of hardy walnuts and various hazel cultivars which will be planted along with many other fruit and berry bushes! I’m helping to design and develop the garden with a great group of enthusiasts and I hope that it will be formally adopted as one of KVANNs Vegetable Sanctuaries (KVANN=Norwegian Seed Savers)
It seems as though it’s a good life being a botanist. It was my second day at work today and it ended at 2:30 in the afternoon with bubbly and double helix clipping ;)
Accessions go back as far as Bishop Gunnerus in the 1760s.
Horseradish tree (Moringa oleifera) is one of 13 species in the genus Moringa from Africa. The genus name is derived from the Tamil word for drumstick, one of the alternative names in English, referring to the long immature pods which are used as a vegetable (I first came across it as an Indian vegetable on a market in Fiji in the early 90s where it was called horseradish tree). However, it has multiple uses also including leaves (as a protein rich vegetable), for its flowers, immature seeds, roasted or fried mature seeds (an oil is also extracted), roots (tastes like horseradish) and also seed sprouts! Different cultivars have been developed for different uses. There are other species which are also used, including Moringa stenopetala and M. ovalifolia.
Although it’s a tree that can grow to 12m tall, it can also be grown as a cut-and-come-again house plant, which is the way I’ve grown it (for the leaves) in my old office in Trondheim (see the album of pictures below)! In fact, it is also grown commercially as an annual.
Join me at Trondheim’s Kosmorama Film Festival’s Gourmet Cinema on Thursday March 9th at 1600! You will see a special screening of Michael Pollan’s documentary “In Defense of Food”, experience among other things a multi-species dish showing off the incredible abundance of food available to us in Trøndelag, even early in March. The food will be a collaboration between myself, gourmet restaurant Credo in Trondheim (Heidi Bjerkan) and the organic farm they work with, Skjølberg Søndre (Carl Erik Nielsen Østlund and Elin Östlund). There will also be a Food Talk after the film between us 3 (Heidi, Carl Erik and myself) together with producer and director Michael Schwarz! This will be a fun evening (English)…
In addition, I’m taking part in the so-called Kulinarisk Kino which is the screening of the film NOMA – My Perfect Storm followed by dinner at Credo, which I hope will include a very special Nodic perennial vegetable served for the first time in a restaurant in Norway :)