On 9th April 2016 I was staying with my new friend Tei Kobayashi in the mountains in a lovely village, Nogura, above Ueda in Nagano Prefecture. I was put in touch with Tei through a mutual friend in Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN), Caroline Ho-Bich-Tuyen Dang, when I put out a call for an interpreter when visiting the farm with the underground udo forcing caverns in Tokyo: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8284 and https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=7499 Tei had kindly agreed to travel down to help out! She took me to see udo (Aralia cordata) being grown on a small farm in her village with a villager who had knowledge of sansai. The new shoots were just appearing through a thick layer of rice husks. Here’s a video and some pictures of this beautiful place! Thanks again to you Tei for your hospitality without which this would never have been possible! There will hopefully be more posts from the visit with Tei as soon as time allows! Tei starts talking about another use of rice husks, in nukazuke, fermented vegetables in rice bran (nuka), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nukazuke
Showing us Chengiopanaxsciadophylloides (koshiabura) which had yet to emerge:
I’ve started work on a local landrace of runner beans / blomsterbønner (Phaseolus coccineus). I sowed yesterday 15 varieties that are the earliest varieties I could find from commercial suppliers and the German genebank IPK Gatersleben! Runner beans are marginal here, only ripening with warm frost-free autumn weather, preferably against a warm south facing wall!
Thanks to Raphael Maier who told me that the IPK Gatersleben have phenological data for part of their collection of over 400 runner beans. I therefore looked for early flowering and early ripening data when selecting varieties.
The assumption is that it will eventually get warm enough to plant them outside at the community garden Væres Venner where I will run the trial! Currently still only maximum 8C and the 10 day forecast shows much of the same with low pressure dominated weather and only a slight increase to 10C.
On Tuesday 23rd May I spent a great few hours together with Eva Johansson and Annevi Sjöberg from Sweden in my 3 gardens. They were on a fact-finding mission in connection with the project ”Främja fleråriga grönsaker i svensk matförsörjning” (Promoting perennial vegetables in the Swedish food supply). The project Främja fleråriga grönsaker i svensk matförsörjning is financed with funds from the Swedish Agency for Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) within the framework of the Swedish food strategy (den svenska livsmedelsstrategin). The project runs until Dec 2023. The Skillebyholm Foundation manages the project. Jen from Nottingham in the UK was visiting this week to help and learn, thanks to an RHS bursary! She joined us on the trip and can also be seen in the pictures below!
My attention was drawn today to two articles in which my word Edimentals featured (made up in the late 2000s): EDIMENTALS AT CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW
“Edimental plants that are both edible and ornamental have emerged as a star of the Chelsea Flower Show.”
The article from the Daily Telegraph about this year’s Chelsea Flower Show can be read in the 3 pictures! The second article had actially been published last year on the BBC Food site. Here’s the link to “The low-maintenance edible garden for lazy gardeners” which both mentions Edimentals and credits me with the word!
My only post on last weekend’s big news item. This memory came up on my feed this morning. In October 2015 I talked about my book Around the World in 80 plants at the Walled Kitchen Garden Network Forum weekend at the National Trust Property Croome Court in Worcestershire, England. As usual I joked about Prince Charles having the most productive Forest Garden in the UK as he had a national collection of large-leaved Hostas in woodland at Highgrove. Little did I know that the Prince’s head gardener was sat near the front. After the talk, he introduced himself, astonished that Hosta were edible. I thought quickly and presented him with a copy of the book and signed it “To HRH Prince Charles, Good luck with your Hosta eating!”. I had known of the Prince’s good works within the organic gardening movement since the 70s and indeed Highgrove is managed as an organic farm.
I was surprised to receive this letter later that winter and it resulted in a correspondence about Hosta cuisine which lead to me being invited to Highgrove to talk more and see the Hosta collection (sadly, there are no pictures of that day as cameras are strictly forbidden nor was I allowed to see the pictures the staff took). I had a hope that the Prince might turn up, but he had a lame excuse that it was his Mum’s birthday…..and now I’ve had to modify the slide about Hostas and Highgrove (see the comments).
Being the focus of an art installation wasn’t something I ever imagined, but since February an installation has been exhibited at the Trondheim Art Museum Gråmølna based on my January winter vegetables and very nicely put together it was too, by a group of international artists working on the Meatigation (get it?) project through the MOREMEATLESSMEAT exhibition. This was designed to stimulate debate on why it is difficult to get Norwegians to reduce their meat consumption in the face of climate change. They visited me in January filmed me harvesting in the cellar, in the living rooms and outside and took away about 30 of my winter vegetables that were then scanned and exhibited with narrative provided by yours truly: JANUARY HERBARIUM For those that don’t know me, I am more or less 100% self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit all year round without using a greenhouse, additional heating or light (we use far less heating than most) and not owning a freezer.
Last Sunday (30th April 2023) between 14 and 16 the closing event focussed on the myth that one cannot avoid importing vegetables in winter here in Norway through the UNPACKING THE EDIMENTALS HERBARIUM event. It was fittingly also the #internationaldayofthedandelion a plant I eat most days year round (forced from roots in winter in my cellar and living rooms). To accentuate that vegetable diversity is possible even in cold Norway in winter, with snow showers outside the venue, at a time of year known as the Hungry Gap (I call it the Full Gap as it really can be the time of greatest abundance!) I (#extremesaladman) prepared my most diverse winter/spring salad ever (and probably anywhere) with 163 botanical species, 199 different plants (including cultivars) and in total 211 ingredients (includes different plant parts, such as flowers and leaves from the same plant). I prepared two different looking salads from the same ingredients! The list of ingredients can be found at the bottom (a list was also hung up on the wall so that the participants could read what they were eating!)
The second salad:
I was asked a series of questions and gave answers supported by various plants I’d brought with me: Allium cernuum (nodding onion / prærieløk) Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) (both are available most of the winter outside) Allium pskemense x fistulosum (Wietse’s onion / Wietsesløk) Allium stipitatum (Persian shallot / Persisk sjalott) Vicia faba (dried broad beans / bondebønner) Beta vulgaris “Flavescens” (swiss chard / mangold) Angelica archangelica “Vossakvann” (Voss angelica / Vossakvann) Taraxacum spp. (dandelion / løvetann – demonstrating dandichokes / løveskokker and dandinoodles / dandinudler)
The questions were: BIODIVERSITY: Why is agricultural biodiversity important? PRESERVATION: Why preserve heritage varieties of edible plants?EMOTION: Why joy, pleasure & humor in food and farming? WINTER: What could we eat in the winter? Preservation & fresh. FUTURE: What could a Norwegian food future taste like if plants were at the center?
There were of course also many questions from the participants about what different plants were in the salads. I mentioned that the salads were originally not just the result of a slightly mad collectomanic’s work in Malvik but also had an important message. My second and still current world record salad was made 20 years ago in August 2003 (see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=294). It had been inspired by the Mediterranean diet, where ethnobotanical studies on the back of the discovery of the low levels of cardiovascular disease in people eating traditional diets had revealed a huge diversity of plant species used in the Mediterranean region (over 3,000 species). Not only that, but traditional multi species salads, soups, calzones etc., often with over 50 different species had been discovered – more in my book Around the World in 80 plants). This week just 4 days before the event national broadcaster NRK had published an article once again pointing to the Mediterranean Diet as being the healthiest one! See NRK article.
The previous winter / spring record with 140 ingredients was made for Credo Restaurantat the Kosmorama Film Festival in 2017.
PREPARING THE SALAD ON MY BIRTHDAY The pictures below show me collecting the salad ingredients the day before which was my birthday, what better way of spending the day :)
On the way to the event, waiting at the bus stop with salad and plants as the snow came down!
Pictures from the event (taken by Anne Maisey from TKM Gråmølna):
Many thanks to Liz Dom who lead the event and project leaders Cat Kramer and Zack Denfeld and Anne Maisey from the museum, who took part remotely from Porto in Portugal at the start, for a great collaboration!
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) has self-sowed numerous times in my garden but only up to now on cultivated beds with naked soil. Now for the first time I noticed one had popped up in dry soil under my two oldest Norway spruce trees (Picea abies; gran) which are probably in their 80s. There are a number of Hablitzia plants in a bed about 8m above this site (I believe that the shiny seeds of Hablitzia can disperse by falling on icy snow and are blown by the wind). This is an area which had been invaded by hedge mustard / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata). I’ve been systematically removing this plant from this area and other parts of the garden where it was rapidly taking over. Incidentally, another climber, Bryonia alba, appeared in the same location in 2010, but died after a few years (last picture). It wil be interesting to see if this plant manages to establish here. No, I don’t think Hablitzia has the potential to be invasive!
Last year’s birthday dinner was the Around the World in 80 Mac-Cheese, this year’s green mac-cheese contained 68 Hablitzia shoots, 68 ramsons (ramsløk) leaves, 68 ground elder (skvallerkål) leaves and 68 stinging nettle (brennesle) shoots, with opium poppy seeds and nutty alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils on top! The video shows me collecting the Hablitzia shoots!
I’ve been growing Hablitzia tamnoides, affectionately known as Habbies, for over 20 years and this is the first registered mortality. On a shallow bed under a birch tree, plants lift during winter as if to walk off to take over the world (OK, probably just frost heave as also happens with parsnip roots), and one of them is now no more, a dead Norwegian habby :(
Here’s a few more that are going the same way of I don’t rescue them:
…and below is a nice little edible community where both self-sowed Siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are growing happily in company with Hablitzia tamnoides!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden