Second visit from Pine Grosbeaks

Two years ago there was an irruption of pine grosbeaks (konglebit) in Norway and I finally got to see this species in the garden for the first time although only briefly (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23766). Yesterday, they turned up again, a flock of 17 birds (there’s an invasion again across the country). I thought initially they were bullfinches (dompap) to which they are closely related (bullfinches also feed sometimes on rowan). Poor light conditions as the sun was still below the horizon and -10C. As I was filming a couple of the birds flew to about 1m from me (they are unafraid of humans). Then, five minutes later they were gone.





Root Chicory Trials 2021 at Være

One of the experiments this year in the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) trial gardens at Væres Venner in Trondheim has been a comparison of different root chicories. These have 3 main uses:
Witloof (literally “white leaf”) or forcing chicories used for producing chicons, also known as Belgian or French endive (forced from the roots in the dark, usually in winter. to reduce the bitterness);
Root chicories where the root is used as a vegetable, popular in winter in Italy;
Coffee chicories are also in the group root chicories and sometimes the same varieties harvested more mature and used as coffee surrogate (ground and roasted).
There are hundreds of varieties of chicories with multiple other uses. Common for all here in the north is that they are relatively easy to grow with few pests and diseases, thus easier to grow organically than for example the cabbage family. However, they are almost never used here in Norway. In Norway’s largest FB group on vegetables “Grønnsaksdyrking i Hele Norge” with 36,000 members there is only one mention of chicory)(sikkori) and that more as a wild plant than something you would cultivate. 
This is partly because most have been selected for a very different (Mediterranean) climate and some go to seed (bolt) in the first year which significantly lowers yields. Witloof chicories have, however, largely been improved further north (Belgium and France) and my experience has shown that these varieties only occasionally bolt (out of several hundred plants grown this year, none bolted!).

The chicory bed just before harvest. There are 9 varieties along the 1.2m wide raised bed.

I sourced different varieties of root chicories from the German genebank IPK Gatersleben with the objective to select a good variety in the two main groups for my area (I had previously had reasonably good experience growing witloof chicories for forcing in winter; see the picture below). I wanted also to explore if it is possible to be self-sufficient in seed. As part of the seed saving process, roots need to be overwintered and grown to flowering in the second year. Hardiness of chicories varies a lot between varieties and I therefore overwinter roots in my cold cellar, but plan also later to test winter hardiness outside. Some chicories can also perennialize like the wild species and this is a secondary project to select high yielding perennial and hardy chicories. Another great characteristic of chicories and side-effect of seed saving is that the beautiful chicory flowers are very popular with pollinators and a number of selections with different flower colours are also available for growing as an ornamental. This is indeed a great combination plant that I term an edi-ento-mental (edible, good for the pollinators and ornamentally valuable too).
See the various flower variants I’ve grown in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18650

Winter forced Witloof chicons from my cold cellar in mid¨-February

Chicory in flower in my garden

I was pleased with the yield, which was better than I’ve experienced in my shady garden at home. The fact that the roots are irregular in size is probably at least in part due to the fact that the spacing between the roots was a little irregular (I will try for a more even spacing next year).

Witloof chicory Prezo RZ performed well
Witloof chicory Extra Vroege Mechelse had a lot of forking roots


We’ve grown 4 varieties of Witloof forcing chicories including Witloof Prezo RZ, Witloof Extra Vroege Mechelse (Early) and Witloof Dobbel Blank. In the video there are 9 varieties shown and the Witloofs are #2, 7, 8 and 9. There are some nice size roots and I plan to grown on the largest 20-25 or so roots for seed, which will then be made available to KVANN members.

Nice sized roots of the edible root variety Radici di Soncino

The root chicory Radici di Chiavara 

There were two varieties of root chicory and both gave good yields. I will probably grow again next year in larger quantity (the descriptions are taken from Stephen Facciola’s Cornucopia II)
Radici di Chiavara (Chiavari)
Grown primarily for its root, although the leaves are also used and have a good flavor. The root is thick-collared, creamy white and uniform. Grows over a long season, from early spring until late fall. To prepare, scrape and boil the root until tender. Slice thinly and serve with vinaigrette, or it can be rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried and served with lemon and parsley.
Radici di Soncino(Radison)
Long, narrow roots with creamy white skin and flesh; rather bitter. May be harvested anytime from autumn until the following spring. Popular in Italy where it is considered very healthful and is cooked and eaten in many ways.

Below is a video showing all the harvested roots:

Late Fresh Berries

I love the seasonality of fruit and berries and one group of berries that can be harvested in October and November are particularly valuable when you only eat fresh and, later in the winter / spring, dried fruit and berries. The blackberries (bjørnebær) are finished now and we will be eating fresh stored apples now until at least April. This week after the first heavy frost I was able to continue harvesting Worcesterberries (a selection of Ribes divaricatum) at the bottom of the picture, Aronia prunifolia (purple chokeberry) at left and autumn olives / Japansk sølvbusk (Elaeagnus umbellata)

A real Oca yield outside at 63.4N

Two days ago, the latest first frost date was registered in Trondheim for 130 years! This has allowed my oca (Oxalis tuberosa), one of the Lost Crops of the Incas, to develop properly for the first time! This is a short day plant, tuberising late in the season! These were grown in the World Garden at the community garden Væres Venner, one of the gardens in @kvann_norwegianseedsavers Schubelers Network.
An apparent new variety has also turned up and as far as I know no seed has been involved, so I guess it’s a genetic mutation, seemingly halfway between the other two varieties. Of course, I will be replanting this one next year (see the third picture)!
My other pot-grown ocas were moved into my porch extension just before the frost and will be grown on for Xmas harvest as usual.

Rose-ringed parakeet

Finally, having heard the bird for several months, a rose-ringed parakeet / halsbåndparakitt (blue mutation) finally turned up in the garden today and sat eating apples in good view of the living room for some time! It’s known to be an escaped cage bird and several attempts have beem made to capture it. 

Extreme 66 ingredient November Salad

The Extreme Salad Man has been quiet recently. He was inspired to make this 5th November salad by a 10 year old Facebook memory of a salad he made (last picture below). Like 10 years ago, we¨’d  had a very mild autumn (we may have the first frost this weekend). By chance the number of ingredients equalled the number of years I’ve been on this beautiful planet (66). For the recipe with the full list of ingredients (many are perennials), see the bottom of this post. It took less than an hour to forage around my garden and put together!


THE RECIPE or how to make this at home?
Harvested first around the living room a few Basella alba leaves, lemony flowers of two Begonias, leaves of the Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor), a couple of flowers of blackcurrant sage / solbærsalvie (Salvia microphylla v. grahamii), Ragged jack kale (grønnkål) leaves, leaves of chopsuey greens / kronkrage (Glebionis coronaria), four different perennial kales / flerårige kåls (Brassica oleracea), leaf shoots of Egyptian onion / luftløk (Allium x proliferum), a few leaves of common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus), perennial rocket / flerårige rucola (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), parsley / persille leaves (Petroselinum crispum), leaves of Chicory / sikkori variety “Catalogna gigante di Chioggia” (Cichorium intybus), berries of black chokeberry / svartsurbær (Aronia melanocarpa), flowers of hollyhock mallow / rosekattost (Malva alcea), flowers of two varieties of hollyhock / stokkrose (Alcea rosea) – black and pink, hedge mustard / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata), mouse garlic (Allium carinatum), two varieties of dandelion / løvetann (Taraxacum spp.) including moss-leaved, flowers of Japan thistle (Cirsium japonicum), leaves of Allium senescens, a few of the last blackberries / bjørnebær (Rubus fruticosus), berries of black nightshade / svartsøtvier (Solanum nigrum), flowers of Allium mairei, flowers and leaves of anise hyssop / anisisop (Agastache foeniculum), flowers of two varieties of hardy Fuchsia / Magellan-tåre (Fuchsia magellanica) “Alba”og “Tricolor”, Autumn olive / Japansk sølvbusk (Elaeagnus umbellata) berries, radish / reddik (Raphanus sativus)flowers and unripe seed pods, flowers and flower buds of mustard greens / sennepsalat (Brassica juncea), a flower of marigold / ringblomst (Calendula officinalis), new shoots of curled dock / krushøymol (Rumex crispus), leaves and bulb of nodding onion / prærieløk (Allium cernuum), flowers of two varieties of nasturtium / blomkarse (Tropaeolum officinale), two varieties of spring onions / vårløk (Allium cepa), a few leaves of two varieties of sorrel / engsyre (Rumex acetosa), flower buds and flowers of chives / gressløk (Allium schoenoprasum), two leaves of chicory / sikkori variety “Rossa de Treviso” (Cichorium intybus) on the edge of the salad bowl, leaves of perennial chicory (Cichorium intybus), leaves of horned violet / hornfiol (Viola cornuta “Alba”), leaves of Rumex scutatus “Silver Shield” (buckler-leaved sorrel / Fransksyre), a flower of a reflowering variety of strawberry / jordbær (Fragaria x ananassa), flower shoot of scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica), seen in the centre of the salad, a flower of Begonia “Double White, a Dahlia (georginer) flower, oca leaves (Oxalis tuberosa), tomato / tomat “Ida’s Gold” (Lycopersicon esculentum), berries of Physalis “Indian Strain”, two varieties of celery / selleri (Apium graveolens), berries of Ribes divaricatum “Worcesterberry”, carrot / gulrot, turnip / nepe and garlic / hvitløk!
Put the flowers and other colourful ingredients to one side for the topping, wash, cut (I use scissors) and mix everything else for the main body of the salad, add the salad dressing (olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar with crushed garlic) and mix, then use the artist in you to decorate the salad!

Unusual October veg

A few unusual vegetables this October from the Edible Garden and House:
1. I’ve been trialling around 20 different chicories this year from seed from the German seed bank IPK Gatersleben. This is one of the best producers, Sugar Loaf (Accession CICH 350) which ended up in yesterday’s Basella and Chicory pizza! I remember years ago on a work meeting in Venice enjoying a chicory pizza.

2. Gunnera tinctoria is the representative for South America in my book Around the World in 80 plants. Sadly, it is not very hardy and mine grows in a large pot half submerged in my small pond and is moved into the cellar for the winter where it goes to sleep for most of the winter. The edible leaf petioles don’t reach the size of plants grown outside and are therefore a bit more fibrous. Their crunchy texture and sweet-sour taste was nevertheless a good addition to a mixed salad earlier in the week.  
3. This summer was the first time I’d grown Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor). I cut it down earlier this week and used the leaves in the mixed salad together with the Gunnera. It’s the variety with red undersides to the leaves. Thanks to my friend Kim Jacobsen who leads KVANNs Stueplantelaug (Norwegian Seed Savers’ (Edible) House Plant guild) for sending me cuttings. It looks and tastes good!

4. I also grow Basella (Ceylon spinach) inside and it always produces berries and seeds for the following year and for sharing. This was used with the chicory (above) in the pizza.


5. Autumn is also the time that the perennial kales resprout and provide an abundance of greens. Here’s a video of the perennial kales in the Edible Garden this week. I have another similar sized plot at the community garden.

6. One of my favourite wild edibles is common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus), although I deliberately cultivate it. However, apart from posts by myself, this is a plant that isn’t mentioned in Norwegian foraging groups in Norway. Is this because it needs some preparation in order that it’s merits can be properly understood, the bitterness maybe putting people off at first taste? This is a plant I devote several pages to in my book Around the World in 80 Plants and I document how this is an important wild edible worldwide. My introduction to its merits was in the book Native Edible Plants of New Zealand by Andrew Crowe and on a work trip to that country in the early 2000s I could see for myself how important this plant is for the Maori people with over 1/3 of all the vegetable stalls selling this plant. Known as puha to the Maori, it has become a so-called cryptocrop* of the Maori vegetable gardens, an annual “weed” introduced by the Europeans with a similar taste to the traditional perennial endemic sea-cliff inhabiting puha (Sonchus kirkii). Annual puha is encouraged in between the main crops as it has a cash value and increases the yield of the land. It has also been suggested that the large consumption of annual puha by the Maori (hardly used by people of European descent) protects them against some forms of cancer. I was so inspired by the story of how a plant much hated worldwide could at the same time be a superfood appreciated by the Maori and all the other peoples around the world who are in the know, that I introduced it to my garden and it is now become my most important vegetable from late July to the first frosts! From it becoming a burden to weed out this coloniser of open soil, I now weed this “weed” leaving only a few plants to grow strong on the edges of my vegetable beds….and hate is turned to love! Much more in my book!
*Crytocrops: a distinction has been made between cryptocrops
from weeds by Diego Rivera et al. in a 2006 paper: “This led us to distinguish cryptocrops from weeds. Both are not cultivated plants living in crop fields and competing with the main crop. The fundamental distinction is the intensity of gathering by man”.
7.  I have a special fascination for vegetables that are superstars in one part of the world but hardly known in their area of origin and one of those is garland chrysanthemum or crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria, early known as Chrysanthemum coronarium). This is a wild and extremely common flower of early spring in Mediterranean countries, often growing in large quantities, and commonly available in supermarkets in Japan where it’s known as shungiku. See more on this blog post Shungiku soba (a standard offering in soba restaurants in Japan): https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22710
There is a legend that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy from China. In an article “Fra Malta til Japan og tilbake” (From Malta to Japan and back again) that I wrote 15 years ago for a Norwegian herbal magazine Grobladet in 2006, I suggested that Mr. Polo gave chopsuey greens in return (see and download the article here https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3493).
When I first wrote about shungiku in 2006, I could only find one reference of its use in the Mediterranean for food. Since then, there have been carried out numerous ethnobotanical studies throughout the Mediterranean and a quick search carried out now revealed that this plant has been used traditionally throughout the area, although by no means a common wild edible:
In Turkey: numerous studies (leaves, young shoots and stems are used) have recorded this plant used as summarized in a paper from 2019 by İsmail Şenkardeş and others: “An Ethnobotanical Analysis on Wild Edible Plants of the Turkish Asteraceae Taxa”
In addition, it is recorded in two studies in Spain, in Morocco, Palestine and in Sicily it was both cooked and used in salads.
This plant fits nicely into my diversity cooking as it produces new shoots in smaller amounts throughout the summer from July to the first frosts and they are usable even after the plant has flowered and produced seed.
There are many cultivars with different flower colour, double and single and serrated and whole-leaved forms. I’ve grown some 10-15 different cultivars this summer, the seed from the collections at IPK Gatersleben in Germany.





Beetroot harvest and “blood” burgers for dinner again

This week I harvested the beetroots and being more or less 100% self-sufficient in vegetables, seasonal food is the thing! My favourite way to use beetroot (both red, yellow and white cultivars) is to make vegetarian beetroot burgers (patties), known in our household as blood burgers!
The beetroot is first steamed (I used the wood stove), then grated and mixed together with fried Egyptian onions (luftløk) bulbs and garlic with Himalayan balsam / kjempespringfrø (Impatiens glandulifera) seed. Chili, salt and pepper and golpar /ground seed of any Heracleum / hogweed species (instead of cumin) are then mixed in with eggs and 100% wholegrain emmer wheat flour (or any other grain) to bind the patties. Finally, we fried the patties in butter! Good wholesome slow harvest food!

Parakeet in Malvik

For a couple of months I’ve heard a bird call locally that reminded me strongly of the rose-ringed parakeets in London. I’ve never seen the bird and finally managed to make a recording of it yesterday (I heard it the day before at dusk down in the bay, probably spending the night there). I’ve now seen pictures from somebody that took pictures of this species just a few kilometres east of here, no doubt the same bird.



Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden