Category Archives: Root crops

Nettle-leaved bellflower

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).

Campanula trachelium in the Jardin de Botanique, Paris at the best stage for harvesting tops and leaves
White flowered Campanula trachelium “Alba” has yellower spring leaves.
Campanula trachelium subsp aloha (in Kew Gardens)
Nettle-leaved bellflower thrives in shade together with Hostas

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.

Campanula trachelium in the background of emerging Allium wallichii flowers
Campanula trachelium flowers are edible and can be used to decorate salads
Naturalised blue and white forms in my garden
Nettle-leaved bellflower produces masses of seed

Hopniss at 63.4N

Hopniss (Apios americana), one of several plants known also as ground nut, is a clambering perennial legume and native american food plant of Eastern North America from Southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. For a good account of this as a food plant, look no further than Samuel Thayer’s book “The Forager’s Harvest”. Like many others I’ve tried and failed to grow this and no longer do so. However, it was fun trying and I did at least get  something to eat. 
I first planted this 20 years ago in my old unheated greenhouse in October 1999. Hillery Hanby who was a member of the Yahoo group Edible Wild kindly sent me a tuber. It grew weakly and didn’t produce anything. Then in early 2009, Hristo from Bulgaria, one of the active members of the Homegrown Goodness forum persuaded me to try again with his supposedly improved variety and I planted it in the greenhouse in spring 2009. This grew better and flowers were opening on 9th October 2011:

On 13th November 2011 I discovered I had a small yield (this is 3 year’s growth!). The tubers grow on a long string rhizome and Sam Thayer reports from 2 to up to 20 tubers on each.  He also reports that tubers (in the wild) can vary from size of a grape to a grapefruit and shape also varied considerably.

I also had a plant grown in two large pots which I also harvested and both had about 15 small tuberlets on the rhizome that was found winding aroud the base of the pots:

Then, a month later, disaster struck and the greenhouse look like this after  a major storm, Dagmar, devastated this area:

I had replanted some tubers which grew poorly under the new colder conditions without the greenhouse. I was therefore suprised to find my largest tuber “ever” two years later on 26th October 2013:

I suspect that I had missed this one in 2011 and this was one was therefore the result of 5 seasons of growth.    Then, in 2014, I took part in trials of new improved varieties.  Søren Holt in Denmark coordinated this trial of 4 varieties received from Gautam in New York. Both Søren, Åke Truedsson and myself participated.  Gautam wrote: “I have just received our latest batch of improved Apios americana, and am taking the liberty of sending you a very few tubers of our best “bunching” and “trailing” cultivars. Will send you the smallest sizes, for convenience in shipping, but not to worry. They come from excellent stock, with excellent size potential”. Here they are on arrival:

They were planted in a sheltered spot in the garden.  These improved varieties were far from improved enough for my climate and. despite having shoots ready on planting, two of the varieties didn’t even bother to grow and the second two grew so badly that I gave up the trial after a couple of years!
So that’s my experience of hopniss in Malvik. I guess I need to try at least one more time before saying it’s not worth it in my climate.
There is one other species, Apios priceana. This one produces one large tuber, but judging by its wild distribution it is unlikely to be more cold tolerant. I’ve only seen it once, at Joe Hollis’ Mountain Gardens in North Carolina last autumn.

 

 

 




Rice lily

Rice lily or riceroot (Fritillaria camschatensis) is a great hardy edimental, and exclusive root vegetable, although don’t expect large yields. The small (but many) sweet tasting tubers often lie right on the surface all winter! One of the hardiest plants found in Western North America from Oregon to Alaska, Northern Japan and the Russian Far East…and quite a common ornamental, grown for its almost black flowers (I’m still trying to establish the yellow flowered variant shown here in Gothenburg Botanical Gardens).  See also my blog post Riceroot and Hog Peanuts (http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=480).
It’s currently in full flower, so here’s a few pictures of my biggest expanding patch!

JA Quiche

Jerusalem artichokes (JAs / jordskokk) in quiche? Why not?
Yesterday’s quiche included JAs, Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), Aegopodium podograria (ground elder / skvallerkål), dandelion (løvetann), rehydrated dried chantarelles (kantarell), garlic and chili and poppy seed (opiumvalmue) topping. With a 100% whole grain Svedjerug (old Norwegian rye) and barley (bygg) crust.


Caraway root breeding and Karvekaalsuppe

I’ve been selecting caraway (Carum carvi) through 4 generations now for larger roots. I plan to have a larger number of plants from next year at our community garden (Væres Venner). I selected 5 plants for seed yesterday and they were quite a decent size. The remainder with the greens were used in a delicious karvekaalsuppe (caraway soup) yesterday with sand leek / bendelløk (Allium scorodoprasum). I plan to offer seed from this selection in KVANN’s (Norwegian Seed Savers) autumn catalogue!

Taro harvest

Taro (Colocasia esculenta) ia an important root crop in tropical and subtropical climates, but is also surprisingly hardy so that I can have it out in the garden the whole summer with temperaures close to zero. I’ve grown Taro as an attractive edible house plant for over 15 years and I harvest the edible corms about once a year! 

Yesterday, we cooked and fried in olive oil the largest corm and served with salt and chili:

Some years we also eat the leaves, and my Nepalese friends taught me how to prepare them here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6593
See more taro pictures from Malvik here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5738
It’s sadly less easy to grow it as a house plant these days as greenflies have taken a taste for it :(

Mauka in Malvik, Bergen and Belgium

(Norsk forklaring nedenfor)
Mauka (Mirabilis expansa) is a root vegetable grown, amongst others by the Maukallajta Indians in the Andes and I cultivated it for the first and only time outdoors in Malvik in 2012 with seed from Owen Smith … and it grew vigorously  laterally (therefore the epithet expansa) and I even got a harvest! Unfortunately, I can’t remember tasting the roots and think that they simply rotted in store before I could try them. But, I did eat the leaves in a salad.
Below you will find an album of pictures from my trial in 2012 (I later tried twice with seeds from Bergen Botanical Garden but did not get germination). In Bergen Botanical Garden, I saw a lush plant at Milde on October 22, 2014 (in the collection of vegetables from the Andes) and the next day I was surprised to find it in the rock garden at the Museumsplassen (pictures from Bergen are in a separate album below)!
Norsk: Mauka (Mirabilis expansa) er en rotgrønnsak dyrket bl.a. av Maukallajta indianerne i Andesfjellene og jeg dyrket den for første og eneste gang på friland i Malvik i 2012…og den vokste utrolig mye sideveis (derfor epiteten expansa) og jeg fikk faktisk noe å høste (jeg hadde ingen tro etter dårlige erfaringer med andre planter fra Andesfjellene)! Jeg kan dessverre ikke huske at jeg smakte på røttene og tror at de rett og slett råtnet før jeg kunne prøve. Men, jeg spiste bladene i en salat.
Nedenfor finner dere bilder fra mitt forsøk i 2012 (jeg prøvde senere to ganger med frø fra Bergen Botaniske Hage, men fikk ingen spiring).  I Bergen har jeg sett en frodig plante på Milde 22. oktober 2014 (i samlingen av grønnsaker fra Andesfjellene) og neste dag var jeg overrasket å finne den i fjellhagen på Museumsplassen (bilder fra Bergen i en separat album nedenfor!

I first saw Mauka in the “flesh” on 10th October 2008 when I visited Frank van Keirbilck’s garden in Scheldewindeke, Belgium (I met Frank and mauka through the Homegrown Goodness forum). I call his garden “Andes in Flanders)! Here are a couple of pictures from Frank’s garden that day:




Pictures from Bergen in 2014:




Parsnip men!

When my kids were young I made up a now legendary (in our family at least) story that I told them at bedtime about the Potato Men….potatoes that lifted themselves out of the ground at night in our garden and how they invaded the local area….
Well, it seems that there’s a parsnip men story in the making too….caught these in the garden about to escape! (or it could just be frost heave in the course of the winter!)

The winter’s first salad shoot salad

The first winter shoots were harvested from the cellar today. It is almost totally dark in the cellar and currently about +6C. The blanched shoots in the picture are (from L to R) dandelions (løvetann), perennial kales (flerårige kål) and catalogna chicory (sikkori). Otherwise you can see Korean celery (Dystaenia takesimana), perennial celery / fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), turnip (nepe) , carrot (gulrot)  and lemon balm (sitronmelisse).
The salad was decorated with Begonia flowers from the living room!