About 20 years ago I sowed some sweet chestnuts that I found in Southern England. One germinated and surpisingly to me it survived the first few winters. I therefore planted it out at the bottom of the garden. However, this area of the garden was overplanted and it became survival of the fittest (I didn’t really believe I would ever get chestnuts!)… It continued to grow slowly and survived one of our coldest winters ever around 2011 with only the tips freezing out (the whole root system down to the bed rock would have been frozen solid for 3-4 months). Seeing the exciting possibility of growing perhaps the furthest north chestnuts in the world, I gave the tree more space and planted a second tree (Marigoule) next to it (one tree can produce nuts, but yields are better with two). Then 3-4 weeks ago I noticed that the now about 5m high tree had produced a few male and female flowers which were opening at about the same time and I hope I now have a couple of chestnuts developing. However, it’s debatable if they will have time to mature in what has been a really cold summer here at 63.4 deg. N!
A week ago I noticed my oldest Pinus cembra was full of male flowers (pictures at the bottom) and yesterday it was shedding pollen as you can see in the videos. In cold climates pines are the best bet for nut production although I can grow hazels and walnuts here. I’ve told the story before as to how Siberian Nutcrackers “planted” (read: cached) pine trees in my garden from plantings of this species locally on Malvikodden in the 1970s which started bearing fruits in the 1990s. Because people have planted the food plant of Siberian Nutcrackers, there is now an isolated population of breeding birds in this area and the birds are actively spreading their food plant by caching the nuts for winter food. I’ve had one cone on my tree so far a couple of years ago
In April 2018 both myself and Joe Hollis were invited as speakers at The Potential of Perennials for Food System Resilience Symposium in Stans, Switzerland. I also had the opportunity to spend a great day botanising at two of Zurich’s Botanical Gardens with Joe, see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=17040
Joe said to me at the time that I should come visit if I was ever in the US. I already knew at that time I was invited by Sam Thayer and Melissa Price to the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival at the end of September this year, but Joe’s place seemed a long trek south, so I forgot the idea. Then this spring, I was asked if I would be interested to do a talk at the Atlanta Botanical Garden….and I managed to change my travel plans to do this…and looking at the map I noticed it wasn’t too far from Joe’s Mountain Gardens (aka as Paradise)! So I contacted him and he replied: “Good to hear from you and that is great news! I am very much looking forward to showing you around my garden and adjacent National Forest land, there is a lot to see”.
So it came to past that I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina on 21st September 2019 and picked up a hire car as Joe’s place was an hour or more up in the Black Mountains subrange of the Appalachians. Four hours later I arrived at my hotel, the Celo Inn (as for why it took so long see the album captions). It turns out that the Celo community is one of the oldest intentiona communities in the world (1937), based on ideals of cooperation between residents and care for the natural environment….and it turns out that a neighbour and old colleague back in Trondheim actually went to school here…small world!
The pictures below show the approach road to Mountain Gardens from the Celo Inn (only a 5-10 min, drive away) and my first look into the garden!
Entering the garden for the first time I spy what is probably the native North American devil’s walking stick Aralia spinosa in full flower. Does this species flower much later than Japanese Aralia elata? My A. elata had finished flowering at home.
The following morning I walked around the grounds of the Celo Inn on a warm sunny day with monarch and swallowtail butterflies on the ornamental Asters. The owners had quite extensive vegetable beds and the ripe chilis bore witness that the summers were hot even up here in the mountains.
I didn’t see what happened here until I replayed the video. A Siberian nutcracker (nøttekråke) at the top of a spruce tree must have had a hazel nut in its pouch, brings it up, juggles with it in its bill before pouching it again!
My first ripe walnut from Væres Venner Community Garden in Trondheim…the same year as I planted it! I should have removed it to allow the tree to gather strength. I didn’t notice the flowers, so was surprised to discover the walnut in the summer! It is one of the Loiko varieties developed by Dr. Loiko in Belarus…reckoned to be one of the world’s hardiest walnuts. The tree is only about 1m tall! Good to get confirmation in the first year that walnuts will ripen in our cold summers! I’ve had ripe Juglans mandschurica in my garden for almost 10 years, but previous attempts with Juglans regia have ended in failure (hardiness issues with young plants?)
The plantings at Væres Venner have been supported by KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers), the first of a network of gardens being developed across Norway both to take care of the genetics of old varieties of Norwegian useful plants, but also, as is the case here, to show what food we could be growing locally! The possibility of growing nuts locally makes it more realistic to eat a locally grown mostly vegetarian climate-friendly diet. I have a dream of walnut and hazel plantations in my area replacing the ubiquitous grain fields. http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23507
There’s a great little American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) just outside the office building at Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim where I work. This one has bloomed almost all summer.
The tree has separate male and female flowers, but there has to be at least two trees for pollination ….
I have 5 one-year-old trees from a northern provenance, Jefferson County in Washington State (via Chris Homanics in Oregon) and hope that Ringve would like to plant more eventually….I would love to see if the nuts would ripen here… and also help to preserve a tree species that is threatened with extinction by an imported fungal disease where it grows wild in eastern North America. In its homeland, this is one of the quickest to produce nuts from seed (as early as 5 years!)
Chris, one of my food diversity / preparedness heroes, wrote in 2016:
“Last month was spent collecting many distinct types of chestnuts from about 30 separate sites throughout Western Washington and Oregon. Some were even from old naturalized forests full of chestnut trees. Amassed it represents a diverse foundation stock for planting up, far and wide. In the face of growing droughts and the woes of climate change, I believe this plant will play a significant role in feeding people in the future as it has gone far back into the deep past. My hope is to help foster a revival of interest with the chestnut as a viable sustainable food source by offering a diverse collection of these nuts to the public to select and adapt to their local environment. ”
My other plants I’d like to plant in KVANN’s garden at Væres Venner Felleshage!
A couple of helpers cleared the sycamores and Norwegian maples that had grown up again along the lane at the bottom of the garden. Now you can once again see some of the other interesting trees and shrubs in this part of the garden, below the composting area:
At the opening of my garden as a Permaculture LAND centre in the spring, I was given a present of two sweet chestnut trees, a grafted Marigoule tree and a seed propagated Marigoule. Sadly, the grafted tree died but I planted the other tree yesterday next to another sweet chestnut that I think came from a woodland in Southern England in the early 2000s and was planted here in 2008. It has to my great surprise survived even a really cold winter when its roots were frozen solid for almost 4 months and temperatures below -20C:
Quercus mongolica (Mongolian oak or the Shandong silk oak)! Did you know that the Chinese not only produce silk from mulberry trees, but also from Mongolian oak trees? The Chinese oak silkworm, Antheraea pernyi, is the worker employed according to Food Plants of China! See https://academic.oup.com/jinsectscience/article/10/1/180/887115
The Mongolian oak nuts were also sometimes eaten and the leaves were used for tea, boiled with the fruits of Siberian crabapple, Malus baccata!
Kurrajong is an Australian tree, Brachychiton populneus, which along with other species of the genus make interesting house plants due to their interesting leaves. Kurrajong leaves resemble poplar leaves as the epithet populneus suggests. It’s a common tree of sandy plains in Eastern Australia. The seeds are remarkably nutritious and were popular Aborigine tucker (wild gathered food). It is unlikely I will ever be able to harvest seed of this tree in the Malvaceae (mallow family), but Rowan White on the Radix Root Crops FB group reminded me that the swollen roots of young trees could also be eaten. My tree wasn’t exactly young at 9 years (seed propagated along with Brachychiton acerifolius), when I first decided to have a go in 2012, at the same time as I moved it to a bigger pot…
There were 3 young roots worth trying so I harvested them and baked them in their skins together with potatoes. They seem to need a bit longer than potatoes. The skins peeled easily off after baking and they were crispy with a good mild taste. If you have a ready supply of seed, they can be grown and harvested a bit like carrots when quite young!
This spring the tree died (at 15 years old) with no sign of life in the above ground parts, but when disposing of the plant I noticed that the young roots looked healthy, so I harvested them and repotted the remainder of the root to see if it might resprout and after several weeks in the window sill it now has fresh leaves, so not dead after all!
I didn’t get round to eat the young roots…they were left inside for a month and looked withered and inedible, but cutting in to one it looked good inside and indeed it was tasty and almost free from fibre….so we ate it in a stir-fry dish last night!
Back in the pre-Facebook days, I remember there was a forum for unusual nut trees and the Norwegian monkey puzzle trees were considered to be the most hardy and I remember receiving a lot of requests from folk wanting seed from our provenience. I had to disappoint them as they weren’t easy to come by……but I did finally get a few seed via a contact from the botanical garden in Bergen who told me that a friend of hers had actually climbed a tree and harvested nuts!!!! Was her friend a monkey? The tree was located in Os, just south of Bergen. They germinated in spring 2007 and I attempted to overwinter outside in a plastic greenhouse open at the top and with a leaf mulch around the roots. I’d heard rumours that larger trees sold from a local nursery for an exorbitant price had survived (never confirmed for my area where winter temperatures can go down to -20C). They survived until mid-March 2008, when I took the picture, but it didn’t make it through a subsequent very cold period ☹ I didn’t try again.
A minimum of about -15C seems to be about the temperature limit here and this limits the area they can be grown to a narrow strip outermost along almost the entire Norwegian coast it turns out. One of the biggest surprises in my gardening life was to discover a monkey puzzle growing in Skavberg nursery not far from the arctic city of Tromsø close to 70°N!! Owner Bjørn Thon was also growing Maori carrots (Aciphylla spp.) from New Zealand and many other plants I’d never seen before in Norway. Bjørn has been a long-term collaborator of the Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden and had been on collection trips to South America. His monkey puzzle had actually been from nuts bought on the market at Puerto Montt in Chile rather than Norwegian trees. The botanical garden, located in a more exposed site than the nursery, also tried but failed, the young plants dying after a few years.
I also have a Brazilian monkey puzzle (Paraná pine) overwintered in my cold cellar without lights at about 3-4C and bring it up as a Xmas tree for a couple of weeks 😊 See http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=15467