Category Archives: Food

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

 

Xmas diversity from the rhizosphere

Presenting this year’s 30 rhizosphantastic Xmas vegetables, all roasted in the oven, served as every year in the last 40 with nut roast, bedecked with the following seeds / bulbils: alpine bistort / harerug (Polygonum viviparum), Himalayan balsam / kjempefringfrø (Impatiens glandulifera), evening primrose / nattlys (Oenothera biennis) and opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The tubers are listed below the pictures.

The 30 tubers, roots and rhizomes in the picture are:
Solanum tuberosum (potato / potet: 11 varieties)
Daucus carota (carrot / gulrot)
Oxalis tuberosa (oca: 2 varieties)
Arctium lappa (burdock)
Scorzonera hispanica (Scorzonera / scorsonnerot eller svartrot)
Tigridia pavonia (cacomitl)
Pastinaca sativa (parsnip / pastinakk)
Beta vulgaris (beetroot / rødbete)
Tropaeolum tuberosum (mashua) 
Anredera cordifolia (Madeira vine)
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke / jordskokk :  3 varieties)
Brassica rapa (turnip / nepe)
Brassica napus (swede / kålrot) 
Dahlia (Dahlia / georginer)
Polymnia sonchifolia (yacon)
Sagittaria latifolia (wapato)
Allium cepa (onion)

Sweet cicely / chicory root scrambled egg

I had been asked if I had photos of the roots of chicory (sikkori) and sweet cicely (Spansk kjørvel) for a talk about wild edible roots. I therefore dug some from the garden. 
Inspired by traditional Mediterranean ways of preparing wild and cultivated vegetables, I boiled the roots and they were then stir-fried with onions and winter chantarelle mushrooms before being added to scrambled egg (see the pictures for more).
All the roots on the perennial chicory were far too fibrous to eat, but the sweet cicely roots were good (at least the younger ones!)
More or less any vegetable can be prepared this way!
Simple is best!

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)

Sweet Gigas stalks

Somebody asked me a few days ago if one could eat Angelica gigas (Korean Angelica) as you can Angelica archangelica (see my book Around the World in 80 plants for more about that). In my book, I do mention gigas as one of several other Angelica species used in other parts of the world, but until yesterday I hadn’t eaten it myself, partly as I¨’ve never had many plants and the flowering is wonderful!!


On the Korean wiki page, it simply states that “dangwi / dangquai’s petioles and tender stems are eaten raw or seasoned with herbs”. The root is also used medicinally along with Angelica acutiloba and Angelica sinensis.
You can find various instructional videos and recipes on Korean pages by searching
For example, the spring leaves and petioles are boiled and served with onions, garlic, sesame oil and sesame seeds.
As my plants were close to flowering (they darken quickly to deep red at this stage), I decided to go for using the flower stems in salad:I first took one of the thicker flower stems…
….and sliced off a bit at the base for a taste! I was taken aback by how sweet it was (flower stems of Angelica archangelica were in the past considered to be candy by Norwegians). This reminded me of other plants that have surprisingly sweet flower stems: Scorzonera hispanica (scorzonera / scorsonnerot) and Arctium (burdock / borre). I assume that as plants like these approach flowering they produce less insect repellent chemicals and transfer their energy to producing flowers and seeds. For the salad, I peeled off the outer layer as it is fibrous and sliced it into the salad.  Young seed pods of sea kale / strandkål were also available as were Scorzonera flower stems and buds.



As with most Apiaceae, Angelica gigas is very popular with the pollinators, so this one definitely fits into the Edi-ento-mental category (delicious, ornamental and popular with the pollinators – what more could you wish of a plant!).
Unfortunately, like Angelica archangelica this species dies after flowering.

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!

Wietse’s Onion Soup with Udos, Hosta, Ostrich Ferns, Sea Kale and Ramsons

The best of spring in one sitting. In celebration of the country Norway, we yesterday (17th May) harvested a small selection of the best blanched perennial vegetables (apart from the ostrich fern which had to be harvested or it would have been too late). This included three udo species (Aralia cordata, Aralia californica and Aralia racemosa), sea kale (Crambe maritima), Hosta “Big Daddy” together with delicious sweet blanched ramsons (Allium ursinum) . They were all eaten raw (apart from the fern which was steamed for 10 minutes) with a Japanese dipping sauce – olive oil (should have been sesame), tamari (soy sauce) and roasted sesame seeds. These accompanied an onion soup prepared with half of the leaves from one plant of Wietses Onion, a vigorous hybrid of Allium pskemense and Allium fistulosum!
It doesn’t get much better than this!  More information with the pictures: