MACROGREENS I harvested dandelion roots in November and stored them in the cellar until mid-January when we moved it into the living room and the first leaves were harvested just a few days later: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=27183 Since then, we’ve been eating a few leaves for lunch every day. A few days ago, the first flowers appeared and I took my pet dande-lion for a walk in the garden. In the cellar, even though it’s only +3C they’ve also been sprouting…
You’ll find old man’s beard or tysk klematis in Norwegian (Clematis vitalba) in Italian foraging books as the young cooked shoots are popular there in spring (they shouldn’t be eaten raw). There’s a very narrow time window for harvesting this, so I seldom eat much of it. However, it doubles as being an exceptoionally popular plant for pollinating insects (hoverflies and drone flies in particular) when it is in flower for a long period from late summer to autumn when there are few other flowers out. lt cilmbs up onto my balcony which makes photography easier! I started this from seed collected on the chalk downs of Hampshire (in the area where I grew up) about 25 years ago.
A few days ago I harvested my yacon (Polymnia edulis). My season outside is a bit too short to get good yields outside, so I grow in large pots which I move in to the living room in autumn and grow on for 2-3 months. This year I was a bit late and one of the plants had been cut right down by an early frost and the other was badly damaged. Both sent up new shoots when they came into the house. The first harvest of 2021 or the last of 2020?
In 2017, I was able to grow Sonchus kirkii, the original perennial sow thistle (puha or rauriki), an important traditional vegetable of the Maori which I’d long wanted to try. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to overwinter it. It grows in coastal New Zealand and isn’t adapted to freezing winter temperatures and no doubt stays green all winter. I had been hoping to overwinter it and try the spring shoots, but I didn’t get the opportunity then. I relocated the original seed packet this spring, and the seed was still viable and the plants started flowering now in October and with unusually mild weather so far this winter with no serious frosts, I finally got round to trying some of the top growth in the tradional way to eat Sonchus oleraceus in Mediterranean countries, fried with garlic and chili in olive oil and added to scrambled eggs. The raw leaf was surprisingly mild, much milder than perennial Sonchus arvensis, which I’ve experienced as unpleasantly bitter in the past (young shoots in spring).
There is an account in my book Around the World in 80 plants of this species and annual super(healthy)weed Sonchus oleraceus which replaced it in Maori kitchens! Variously known as puha, shore puha or New Zealand sow thistle (syn. Sonchus asper var. littoralis), its habitat is described by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network as http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=205: “Coastal. Usually on cliff faces in or around damp seepages where it often grows with the blue green alga Nostoc and fern Blechnum blechnoides. This species has a distinct preference for base rich rocks such as basalt, calcareous mudstones, siltstones, limestone or apatite-rich greywacke faces. On some offshore islands this species extends up into coastal scrub and herbfield. It occasionally grows on stabilised sand dunes. Indications are that this species once occupied a wider range of habitats but has retreated to those less suited to other faster growing introduced weeds.” NZPCN states that it is “Easily distinguished from all the other naturalised Sonchus species by the very large, glaucous, non-spinose leaves” (this includes Sonchus arvensis – perennial sow thistle and annuals Sonchus asper and Sonchus oleraceus). The first picture shows a comparison of the autumn leaves of the two growing in my garden:
This is the harvest of 6 varieties of Scorzonera at our community garden (Væres Venner) last week two years after I sowed seed (I was surprised by an early hard frost and didn’t get round to harvesting it). The following accessions Libochovicky (Czechoslovakia) (IPK Gatersleben SCOR5) ‘Peter Schwarzer’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR3 and SCOR 6) ‘Schwarzwurzel’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 7) ‘Einjaehrige ‘ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 8) Wild accession 1653 from Bundesgarten Wien (I had hoped to include other varieties from the Nordic gene bank in this trial but those were sadly not available) Einjaehrige gave as expected the biggest yield (this is a variety selected to be grown in one year…traditionally it would take two years for roots to be big enough. I will grow this one on as a perennial for seed to supply seed as a root variety. The biggest roots of the other accessions apart from the wild accesion which gave as expected the smallest roots (planted now in the World Garden) will be grown on to investigate differences in production of Scorzonera lettuce (spring shoots) and Scorzonera scapes (the sweet flower stems). Scorzonera is not only one of my favourite must have perennial vegetables but also a popular plant for pollinators flowering right up to the first frosts.
A year ago, on 22nd September 2019, Joe Hollis had invited me to do a walk and talk with him at his Mountain Gardens in North Carolina! Before the event he took me around the woodlands to show me the woodland flora. I made a short video at most of the plants to help me remember what they were. I’ve now put them together into one video (see below). Joe talks briefly about the following plants: Disporum spp. (trachycarpum?) (medicinal) Medeola virginiana; Indian cucumberroot Hosta sieboldiana (self-seeding) (food) Panax quinquefolius; American ginseng Prenanthes trifolioliata; Gall of the earth (Food and medicine) Smilax rotundifolia; common greenbrier (Food and medicine) Acer spp.; maple Castanea spp.; chestnut Sassafras albidum; sassafras (Medicine and beverage/spice) Cacalia delphinifolia? (Far Eastern edible and medicinal) After the video is a gallery of photos taken on the same tour. Will post more from the walk and talk later. This is one of several blog posts about my visit to Joe. See more by searching here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=joe+hollis
Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium) has a more southwesterly distribution in Europe than my favourite giant bellflower C. latifolia and replaces the latter species in the south of England, France, Italy, Spain and North Africa and eastwards into West Asia. It has also widely naturalised in northeast North America. Like C. latifolia, it has edible sweetish tasting roots that contain the carbohydrate inulin like Jerusalem artichoke, good for diabetics, but can give flatulence. I suspect, however, that it takes several years to get to a usable size. I’ve been digging over an area of the garden into which Polygonum alpinum (Alpine knotweed) had invaded this week and there were also many self-seeded bellflowers with good sized roots, so I put them to one side to use in a delicious zucchini-bellflower curry which we ate last night!
Nettle-leaved bellflower has similar habitat requirements to the giant bellflower, inhabiting open woodlands and hedgerows and grows well in complete shade on the north side of my house amongst the Hostas. It has a preference for alkaline soils and grows well on clay. It is therefore an excellent plant for the forest garden, although given the choice I would prefer the giant bellflower as the spring leaves of trachelium are coarser and hairier and therefore less good in salads, but nevertheless fine finely chopped in mixed salads. It has been used traditionally in Italy in mixed species spring soups such as minestrella (see page 59) and is one of the ingredients in pistic (boiled and fried, see page 59 of my book Around the World in 80 plants).
There are a number of ornamental forms available in the trade which you might like to try, including a single-flowered white form (var. alba), which has naturalized in my garden. The double white (‘Alba Flore Pleno’) form and “Snowball” (https://dorsetperennials.co.uk/product/campanula-trachelium-snowball) haven’t come true from seed for me. ‘Bernice’ is another deep purple-blue flowered cultivar.
After many years trying, I finally had a taste of home grown myoga or Japanese ginger (Zingiber mioga) this week! I think it was in the garden of my friend Frank van Keirsbilck (of http://www.thevegetablegarden.be) in Belgium that I first saw this plant. I bought a plant from Edulis nursery in the UK in 2010 and planted it in my garden, hoping it would be hardy enough. It survived for 3 years, but grew weakly and emerged in the spring later and later every year, before disappearing for good. Determined to have a taste, Frank sent me a starter in 2016 and, now, 4 years on my pot grown plant kept indoors in a cold bedroom all year finally produced a flower bud, the main part eaten. We made a Japanese style soba (buckwheat pasta) dish to which the shredded myoga was added! A very pleasant mild ginger taste, making it all worth while. I will now move it to a larger pot.
I’ve been busy planting up a bed that I’ve been renovating. It’s part of a bed I’ve called “Pond Bed North” since I constructed it in the late 80s after felling several birch trees (the previous owners liked even more shade than I do). However, it had become overgrown with unwanted inedibles… Here’s a video of the bed and the plants and below a picture and hand drawn map of the bed with details of everything I planted for those wanting more details. You’ll see various Japanese edibles, two new Zanthoxylums, Aster scaber (new accessions) and right at the end an exclusive edible, Taraxacum californicum (California dandelion). This information will be added to my master garden Excel sheet in the winter.
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden