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!
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!
Yesterday, I was preparing my talk for the Finnish Permaculture Association (see https://youtube.com/live/CYBqioWTr6U) and was reminded that I had mentioned in my book that Hablitzia could be used in place of spinach in Finnish spinach pancakes (pinaattiohukaiset). With my Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach; köynnöspinaatit) shoots having grown well recently, I decided to make these Finnish-style habby pancakes for lunch to get in the mood for the talk. I must admit, I didn’t look up a recipe and just improvised (recipes make cooking complicated in my mind!) using ingredients I felt should be in there. Apart from plentiful Hablitzia shoots I mixed in whole grain oat flour, eggs, garlic, chili and pepper and fried them in butter. It was served with a salad which also included Hablitzia! First, the quotation from Around the World in 80 plants (suggested by Jonathan Bates in the US in his article on Hablitzia):
I was showing a journalist around the winter edible garden and cellar this morning and dug up some nodding (Chicago) onions (Allium cernuum) and picked a few Hablitzia shoots, so why not turn it into lunch! I sliced an oca (Oxalis tuberosa) in with the vegetables. Scambled Habby Chicago eggs is simple gourmet midwinter food from garden to table in no time!
Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard / tysk klematis) is an important wild edible in Italy (young shoots which must be cooked) and also one of the most attractive plants in my garden for hoverflies and other pollinators! Saving seed this week from my 20+ year old seed propagated plant which provides me with a lot of entertainment (hoverfly watching on my balcony)!
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!
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
We are now rapidly approaching maximum Habby (Hablitzia tamnoides) harvest, so most meals now have masses of shoots of this amazing perennial vegetable. We make sourdough bread every two or three weeks (it stores well) and usually make pizza with some of the same dough. 100% whole grain with zero refined flour of course. Yesterday, I collected a large bowl of Hablitzia shoots and also used Allium scorodoprasum and a few dandelion leaves for the year’s first Habbizza!
The pizza was served with delicious raw urui (Hosta sieboldiana) with a roasted sesame seed / soya sauce dipping sauce:
Yesterday was the first day above 10C this year and my Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach) plants are really growing fast. We used those in the picture together with thinned Allium scorodoprasum bulbs and shoots in a delicious home grown pea soup.
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.
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden