Category Archives: Food

Today’s permaveggies

 Presenting the 14 permaveggies used in tonight’s Indian dal! 

Here are the ingredients:
Around the outside:
Blanched sea kale / strandkål (Crambe maritima)
Stinging nettle / brennesle (Urtica dioica)
Top left and anti-clockwise:
Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde (Hablitzia tamnoides
Hedge garlic / løkurt (Alliaria petiolata)
Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum)
Day lily / daglije (Hemerocallis shoots) 
Common wintercress / vinterkarse (Barbarea vulgaris
Giant bellflower / storklokke (Campanula latifolia)
Blanched lovage / løpstikke (Levisticum officinale)
Ground elder / skvallerkål (Aegopodium podograria)
Victory onion / seiersløk from the Lofoten Islands in Norway (Allium victorialis)
In the middle:
Great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) grows well in my garden and self-sows. It’s natural habitat is damp calcareous woodlands in Eastern North America.
Patience dock / hagesyre (Rumex patientia
Afterthought:
Moss-leaved dandelion / mosebladet løvetann (Taraxacum sublaciniosum “Delikatess”) – one entire leaf rosette with dandichokes and top of the roots)

 

Perennial Baccalao with victory onions

We occasionally eat wild fish and are particularly fond of baccalao (dried salted cod from Lofoten).
These were yesterday’s ingredients (list at the bottom):

Top left and clockwise: Dandichokes / løveskokker (the white blanched part which is under the soil surface and hence blanched) plus masses of green leaves; Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica) blanched shoots from the cellar; Victory onion / seiersløk (Allium victorialis); 7 varieties of heriloom Norwegian potatoes; Ramsons / ramsløk (Allium ursinum) at the top right; Cirsium canum tubers; Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (Scorzonera hispanica) roots; Sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel (Myrrhis odorata); blanched lovage / løpstikke (Levisticum officinale); stinging nettle / brennesle (Urtica dioica); Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde (Hablitzia tamnoides) and garlic / hvitløk and golpar spice (ground seeds of Heracleum spp.)
The greens are added at the end so as not to overcook.

Habby Mac-Cheese 2021

A wonderful birthday dinner again this week!
As is the tradition since I left home, my birthday dinner has been Macaroni Cheese with rhubarb crumble for dessert. Mac Cheese was the first veggie dish I ate back in the 60s – Mum took us to Edwin Jones in Southampton (the superstore of the time) where they served it in the restaurant, sadly no more as Debenhams that took over closed for good last year during the first COVID lockdown…  We loved it and it became a tradition for Mum to make this every Tuesday! Nowadays, we use whole grain spelt macaroni with masses of greens…Hablitzia or Caucasian spinach ( stjernemelde) and others (see this year’s list below). 
Dedicating this once again to my dear Mum…it’s after all her 66th birth day too!

Ingredients:
Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / Stjernemelde)
Rumex acetosa (Common sorrel / Engsyre)
Rumex patientia (Patience dock / Hagesyre)
Ligularia fischeri (Fischer’s Ligularia / Koreansk nøkketunge)
Allium nutans
Aegopodium podograria (Ground elder / Skvallerkål)
Urtica kioviensis
Myrrhis odorata (Sweet cicely / Spansk Kjørvel)
Campanula latifolia (Giant bellflower / Storklokke)
Allium hymennorhizum
Dystaenia takesimana (Giant Ulleung Celery)
Rumex acetosa “Abundance” (Non-flowering sorrel)Allium cernuum (Nodding onion / Prærieløk)
Crambe maritima (Sea kale / Strandkål)
Allium ursinum (Ramsons / Ramsløk)
Allium sativum (Garlic / Hvitløk)
Hemerocallis dumortieri shoots.
 


Perennial veggie saag and stuffed blue congo paratha

The favourite food of an average Englishman of my generation is Indian and I’m no exception.
Yesterday I was inspired to make perennial veggie aloo saag and stuffed blue congo whole grain paratha. It’s fun realising that it’s highly improbable that anyone has made this before!
First, here are the vegetables:

From top left: Ground elder / skvallerkål; two types of dandelion / løvetann; hedge garlic / løkurt; Ulleung giant celery (Dystaenia takesimana) (top right); (Bottom left) Allium hymenorrhizum; Welsh onion / pipeløk (Allium fistulosum); daylily / daglilje shoots; Siberian hogweed / sibirbjørnekjeks (Heracleum sibiricum); stinging nettle / brennesle; ramsons / ramsløk; common sorrel / engsyre (Rumex acetosa); Allium nutans; Catawissa onion / etasjeløk (Allium x proliferum); Victory onion / seiersløk (Allium victorialis); Mertensia ciliata; 2 Perennial kales / flerårige kål; Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde (Hablitzia tamnoides); Urtica kioviensis and Patience dock / Hagemelde (Rumex patientia) (Bottom right).

Next, potatoes were steamed on the wood stove and sliced into small pieces. The onions were fried with several cloves of garlic and then all the finely sliced greens were added and cooked gently adding the potatoes and assorted Indian spices (coriander, cumin, home grown golpar – ground seed of Heracleum – chili, salt and pepper with a piece of cinnamon stick and a few cloves). The greens release water so that no water is needed. This is the perennial veggie saag (there are many different saags made with different vegetables in India; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saag

I chose to make the parathas using a 100% coarse wholegrain spelt flour which are difficult to make perfectly as they tend to fall apart, but I don’t care as they are tastier in my opinion! For the filling I used cooked and mashed blue congo potato with various spices and chili mixed in. Put a blob of the filling on the rolled out paratha, fold the dough over the filling and roll out carefully trying not to let the filling show through (it did).

You then dry fry both sides on medium heat, then melt ghee on the top, turn over and fry in the ghee for a minute and one more minute on the other side again and dinner’s served (Hope there are no Indians watching as I’ve probably broken all the rules, but the important thing it tasted fantastic:



 

Habby pizza time with Urui shoots

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:

First Garden Forage of 2021

Most of the greens are now finished in the cellar, so time for the first harvest in the garden despite for the fact that it’s been snowing off and on over the last week and air temperatures haven’t risen much over +5C so far this year: 30 different greens plus two varieties of oca made into a diversity green pasta sauce! SO GOOD! Lucky us being able to harvest the best nutrition straight from the garden with little effort. Perennials are best! As usual, the Giant Ulleung Celery (Dystaenia takesimana) has come on furthest of my perennial vegetables! See the list of species used below the pictures.

Species used:
Allium senescens
Allium x proliferum (shoots)
Hablitzia tamnoides
Primula elatior
Allium ursinum

Allium oleraceum
Allium cernuum
Allium nutans
Allium sativum (shoots)
Dystaenia takesimana
Mertensia ciliata
Tragopogon pratensis
Rumex acetosa
Aegopodium podograria
Urtica dioica 

Allium paradoxum
Allium victorialis
Barbarea vulgaris
Allium x cornutum
Allium douglasii
Brassica oleracea (perennial kales)*2
Rumex patientia
Allium pskemense
Heracleum sibiricum
Hemerocallis dumortieri

Arabis alpina
Ficaria verna
Angelica archangelica “Vossakvann”
Allium cernuum
Laurus nobilis (inside)

 

Japanese Sansai in March

Almost exactly 5 years ago this week I was on a study tour to Japan to look at Sansai production. I’m doing a webinar talk about the trip for Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN) on 18th April. Although it’s open for all it will be in Norwegian. If there is interest for it I could repeat in English at some stage, but probably not before next winter. If anyone would like to organise it, please let me know. Otherwise, I may just organise it as the first Edimentals talk!  See https://www.facebook.com/events/1333421547030675
Sansai (meaning mountain vegetables, mostly perennials) are what are essentially previously wild foraged vegetables which are now produced on farms in the lowlands around the cities in Japan, often in greenhouses for all year production – roots are often frozen until they are needed). 
With a little planning one can extend the season for some of the best sansai vegetables by digging up roots in the autumn and planting them in soil in buckets which are stored in my cold cellar (just above 0C this winter), and ready to be brought up into the living room for forcing in winter / spring (they could also be left outside, protected by piling leaves or similar around them – the roots are more exposed to cold in a bucket). For blanching I use a second upturned bucket on top. I’ve now harvested three important sansai veggies which were forced (it took a couple of weeks);
Udo (Aralia cordata): peeled and sliced and eaten as a salad in a sesame oil and soy sauce with roasted sesame seed dressing
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris): steamed for 10 minutes
Urui (Hosta sieboldiana): The blanched shoots are deliciously crispy and mild tasting, perfect with a dipping sauce (sesame oil, roasted sesame seeds and soy sauce)
The sansai were served with fried veggie beetroot burgers (aka blood burgers) which are cooked and grated beetroot mixed with egg and wholegrain emmer flour (with grated onion, garlic, chili, salt and pepper).




 

Winter stir-fry

People are always asking me for recipes. I rarely follow recipes as my ingredients vary so much and I just use what I have available. However, I do follow a number of basic, mostly lacto-vegetarian recipes which I’ve evolved to my liking over the years. For instance, last night I used
a) Pea shoots (erteskudd), harvested about 25cm high (before they get too coarse to use; I don’t cut them right down to the soil as they will then resprout once or twice before giving up; to do this, they must be grown in a bucket or similar in deep soil); the peas were a mixture of about twenty home grown varieties, including several heirlooms such as Norwegian Jærert and Ringeriksert).
b) Swiss chard / mangold (it’s been too cold for this to regrow in the cellar where it’s planted in soil)
c) Chicory “Catalogna gigante di Chioggia” (sikkori) (this had resprouted in the cellar from the roots)  
d) Leeks / purre (also stored in soil in the cellar)
e) Yacon (sliced tubers)
f) Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (sliced tubers)
g) Oca (oka) (Oxalis tuberosa)
h) Garlic / hvitløk
i) Chili / chili
j) Bulb onions / kepaløk
k) golpar (ground seed of various Heracleum species;  bjørnekjeks / Tromsøpalme)
The roots are stir-fried first (in olive oil), then the onions are added and at the end the greens for 5-10 minutes, finally mixing in chili, salt and pepper. Served either over whole grain spelt pasta or mixed as a risotto (I use barley normally for a barlotto) with strong cheese or parmesan. 

The roots are stir-fried first (in olive oil), then the onions are added and at the end the greens for 5-10 minutes, finally mixing in chili, salt and pepper. Served either over whole grain spelt pasta or mixed as a risotto with strong cheese or parmesan. 

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