Category Archives: Perennial vegetables

Seven Vegetable Dishes

In Denmark’s major ethnobotanical work, Brøndegaard’s Folk og Flora (1978-80), ground elder (skvalderkål; Aegopodium podograria) is one of seven different greens used in a once common health-bringing springtime dish, skærtorsdagssuppen (skærtorsdag=Maundy Thursday) and I included this in my book as a number of perennials were among the ingredients as they are at their best around Easter when this dish was served:
The number 7 is considered lucky in different cultures around the world and is often seen as highly symbolic. This Danish dish is related to the northern England dish Dock Pudding, which has very similar ingredients (see Easter Ledge Pudding in my book Around the World in 80 plants).

After my book was published I came across another seven vegetable dish from Japan, nanakusa, which contains an unusual mix of edible plants (see the first slide below – from my talks over recent years) including perennial Oenanthe javanica (seri) and as fate would have it, on my study tour to Japan, organised by my friend Aiah Noack, I was taken to a farm where they were actually producing several of these herbs (pictures below). Greenhouses full of common chickweed (Stellaria media; vassarve) was a sight I won’t forget easily! Today, 7th January, is the Festival of Seven Herbs or Nanakusa no sekku (Japanese: 七草の節句) and is the old Japanese custom of eating seven-herb rice porridge on this day. 

Oenanthe javanica (seri) greenhouse production (right) in Japan and edimental cultivars of seri available in Europe (left)

As I was writing this I wondered if there were other seven herb traditions  out there and, right enough, a quick google search revealed two others (please let me know if you know of others):
Seven vegetables on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year is eaten for luck and health, a tradition perserved by the Teochew or Chaoshan people in Southern China. The following five vegetables must be included, the other two are flexible: celery, garlic, green onions, coriander and leeks.
Seven vegetable couscous: Seven is a lucky number in Jewish tradition and a dish featuring seven vegetables is a New Year favourite among Sephardic Jews (early autumn). A recipe can be seen here: https://theveganatlas.com/seven-vegetable-couscous

 

Geeking out with Dandelions

Earlier this year I bought the Field Handbook to British and Irish Dandelions by A.J. Richard which contains descriptions, photos and keys for all 239 known UK and Irish species, a book written during Covid lockdown! I was curious to go deeper into the world of dandelions and to hopefully identify the various species I have in my garden and area around apart from the obvious moss-leaved dandelion (is this really Taraxacum sublaciniosum?), the pink flowered dandelion (Taraxacum pseudoroseum) and white-flowered species like Taraxacum albidum. And what about some of the historical cultivars such as the French cultivar “Pissenlit Coeur Plein Ameliore”. What species is this?
Inspired by the book, I set about taking detailed photographs of about 40 different dandelions at home and at the Væres Venner community garden with the thought to have a proper look and try to key them out during the winter months. I did try one species but it was daunting and they may not be species found in the UK. I have introduced quite a few cultivated and wild Taraxacum species in the garden over the years. I also joined a couple of specialist Taraxacum groups on FB. There I met Alex Prendergast in Norwich who kindly sent me seed of 25 mostly identified species! Having the answer for species that I could grow and have before me should hopefully help me keying out some of my species! I finally got round to sowing these dandelions today; see the album below. At the very bottom are detailed pictures for one species, the moss-leaved dandelion, which I’ve learned are necessary for dandelion identification. Detailed photos of the moss-leaved dandelion, so far known as Taraxacum sublaciniosum

“Delikatess”:



Grape leaves

I love it when edible plants find their own place in my garden! I planted a hardy grape species Vitis coignetiae from the Far East including Japan, Korea and the Sakhalin. At least, I think this is what it is as I don’t have any records of planting it. I think it originated in a plant sale or cutting from the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim who have a large plant covering the whole wall of a garage. This also produces small fruits which are being increasingly used for wines in Japan (and some breeding is also being done); see the Japanese wiki page: https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%A4%E3%83%9E%E3%83%96%E3%83%89%E3%82%A6. This species is dioecious (male and female flowers on different plants), so I guess there is more than one plant at Ringve and there’s little chance of mine producing fruit. 
I planted it originally in a shady spot at the corner of the extension (low roof in the picture) some 20 years or more ago. Today there are no leaves or vine above the original planting spot and a vine creeps about 5m from the root horizontally on the ground along the house wall, rooting, along the way, and climbs up into the yew tree I planted next to the house for the birds in winter. The grape has finally reached the top of the yew this summer and is the leaves are almost smothering the yew!

The vine running along the house wall!

I’m inspired by Eric Toensmeier’s work on the nutrition of perennial vegetables and specifically his article “The most nutritious perennial vegetables for cold climates” (see https://www.permaculturenews.org/2021/06/21/the-most-nutritious-perennial-vegetables-for-cold-climates) to use the leaves of my grape for more than the occasional wrapped dish. The taste of the leaf is good raw!
Eric wrote about cultivated grape leaves: “Grape leaf (Vitis vinifera). Worth eating for nutrition and not just because stuffed grape leaves are delicious. Extremely high in fiber, very high in calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin A, and high in Vitamin E.”
I did find a comment that the shoots of this species are eaten in Japan. 
See also the video in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23629

 

Flowering Aster scaber

September is the month when several Asteraceae are in flower including one of my favourite perennial vegetables and edimentals Aster scaber (yes, I know it’s officially Doellingeria scabra) or chamchwi in Korea where it’s cultivated commercially for Korean markets around the world (often sold dried). It’s also popular with pollinating insects as can be seen in the gallery taken this week here.

….and a parasitic wasp on the flowers:

 

See this page for more links to articles about this plant on this blog: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6080
It’s also one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants.

Sochan tops Mediterranean style

Thanks to Alan Bergo (@foragerchef) for reminding me to try sochan tops. This is Rudbeckia laciniata (cut-leafed coneflower) which in the double form is one of the most popular garden ornamentals here in Norway over the last 100 years and a plant that has been commercialised as a farm vegetable over recent years in Korea. I’d previously only eaten the spring shoots, but I was equally impressed by the tops which I used simply cooked with onion, garlic and  yellow zucchini from the garden, various fungi picked in the woods (saffron milkcap/matriske; hedgehog fungus / piggsopp and chantarelles / kantarell) and scrambled with eggs with a little chilim added (a classic way for preparing wild edibles in the Mediterranean countries. See the pictures below.
See other posts on this great vegetable which was introduced to me in one of Samuel Thayer’s books:
Appalachian Greens 
Cherokee Pizza 

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)

42 Pakora veggies

Here are this week’s largely perennial veggies made into a delicious and varied 42 variety pakora!
Picture 1 below (Roughly from left to right): Saxifraga pensylvanica (swamp saxifrage); Malva alcea (hollyhock mallow / rosekattost); Tragopogon pratensis (goatsbeard / geitskjegg); Campanula rapunculoides tops (creeping bellflower / ugrassklokke); Scorzonera hispanica ( scorzonera / scorsonerrot, svartrot); Houttuynia cordata “Chameleon” (kameleonplante); Fallopia japonica “Compactum Roseum” (Japanese knotweed / parkslirekne); Hosta spp.; Houttuynia cordata; Doellingeria scabra / Aster scaber (Korean Aster; Koreasters); Carum carvi flowering tops (caraway / karve); Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion / pipeløk); Allium victorialis (victory onion / seiersløk); Crambe maritima “Lily White” flowering tops (sea kale / strandkål); Hablitzia tamnoides tops (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde); Smilax lasioneura shoot (Blue Ridge carrionflower):



Picture 2 below (Roughly from left to right): Urtica cannabina; Rumex patientia flower shoot (patience dock / hagesyre); Asparagus officinalis (asparagus / asparges); Cardamine raphanifolia flowering tops; Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely / Spansk kjørvel) flowering tops; Aegopodium podograria (ground elder / skvallerkål); Allium ursinum (ramsons / ramsløk); Leucanthemum vulgare (ox-eye daisy / prestekrage); Parasenecio hastatus top; Brassica juncea (two cultivars) (mustard greens / sennepsalat); Urtica dioica ( stinging nettle / brennesle); Cryptotaenia japonica “Atropurpurea” (mitsuba); Allium scorodoprasum (sand leek / bendelløk); Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke); Allium pskemense x fistulosum (Wietse’s onion / Wietsesløk); Lepidium latifolium flower shoots (dittander / strandkarse); Silene vulgaris shoots (bladder campion / engsmelle); Cichorium intybus (chicory / sikkori); Bunias orientalis flowering tops (Turkish rocket / russekål); Mentha (two cultivars)
(mint / mynte); Taraxacum sublaciniosum “Delikatess” (moss-leaved dandelion; mosebladet løvetann); Ligularia fischeri (Fischer’s Ligularia; Koreanøkketunge):



Picture 3 below Hosta “Big Daddy” blanched shoots and Allium sativum (garlic  / hvitløk)




St. George’s, ramsons and red-leaved dandelion pasta with Hosta icicles

Earlier this week with little time to make dinner this was the unlikely result: St. George’s, ramsons and red-leaved dandelion leftover pasta with Hosta icicles in Japanese dip. 
Earlier in the day I had noticed a patch of St George’s Mushroom / vårfagerhatt (Calocybe gambosa) in the same spot it had turned up for the first time 3 years ago (see St. George’s Mushroom). They were then stir-fried with ramsons (ramsløk) and red-leaved dandelion (Taraxacum rubifolium) and some left-over wholewheat spelt pasta and were served with fried egg on home made garlic toast with a few prawns and some blanched Hosta “Big Daddy” shoots (Hosta icicles) as a side salad with an olive oil /soy sauce dip and the last bottle of St. Peter’s organic pale ale.  LIFE IS GOOD!

Bitter baccalao: roots and greens

No, I’m not vegan and have never been, I’ve been lactovegetarian with the occasional wild fish over 40 years. We always have some Norwegian dried cod (baccalao) at the ready in our cool larder. The usual way to make the dish baccalao here is to hydrate the fish for a couple of days and then layer potatoes, bulb onions, fish,  tomatoes, garlic with olive oil, pepper and chili in large saucepan. I’ve always added seasonal greens too and often use green onions of various types instead of bulb onion.  
Last night, we used the last of the potatoes from the cellar and as there weren’t many also used root chicory (di Sancino: an edible rooted variety that produces well here) and the last yacon roots, all still in perfect condition kept in the cellar in dryish leaves all winter! We also used a good bunch of nettles, tops of giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia) and sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) tops including the flowers. For the onions, sand leek (Allium scorodoprasum) and victory onion (Allium victorialis) were in perfect condition (beginning to flower). 
The verdict on our first bitter baccalao? Delicious, but probably not for everyone!

Some odds and ends this week in Malvik

  1. The best of vegetables ready to harvest this week: blanched sea kale (Crambe maritima), blanched lovage (Levisticum officinale) and nettles (Urtica dioica)! Delicious.
  2. IT’S DANDINOODLE TIME HERE IN MALVIK: one of the year’s many highlights!
    This is by far my earliest dandelion to come into growth in March. It was sent to me as seed from the Alps in Switzerland, following a talk I gave there and was supposed to be similar to the moss-leaved dandelion but the leaves weren’t similar at all. These are from one plant! I’m trying to fine out which species it is…

    3. Allium paradoxum var paradoxum isn’t a plant you’ll want in your garden as this form has bulbils which can spread invasively. I was sent this 20 years ago from a garden in Sweden as Allium triquetrum but it wasn’t that one. I never considered either of these invasive Alliums as hardy enough to be a problem here and this one has slowly colonised the space around my oldest Hablitzia tamnoides. With warmer winters I have started more aggressive harvesting of this one.I now harvest both the young leaves, the tops, in particular the bulbils to keep it under control. They are delicious both raw in mixed salads and cooked.