Category Archives: Food

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

Runner Bean harvest

As I wrote earlier, it looks like we may have a glut of runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) this year, the first time for many years. Runner beans are borderline here and last year we only managed to get a few beans before the first frosts. This year, we could have made a first harvest a week ago, but I wanted to keep the first beans for seed for the next couple of years. Yesterday we had bread dough ready and therefore made a pizza with runner beans and a mix of fungi picked in the woods (separate post). The dough was 100% coarse whole grain rye, spelt and emmer (sourdough)! Delicious as always!

A Taste of Myoga

After many years trying, I finally had a taste of home grown myoga or Japanese ginger (Zingiber mioga) this week!
I think it was in the garden of my friend Frank van Keirsbilck (of http://www.thevegetablegarden.be) in Belgium that I  first saw this plant. I bought a plant from Edulis nursery in the UK in 2010 and planted it in my garden, hoping it would be hardy enough. It survived for 3 years, but grew weakly and emerged in the spring later and later every year, before disappearing for good. Determined to have a taste, Frank sent me a starter in 2016 and, now, 4 years on my pot grown plant kept indoors in a cold bedroom all year finally produced a flower bud, the main part eaten. We made a Japanese style soba (buckwheat pasta) dish to which the shredded myoga was added! A very pleasant mild ginger taste, making it all worth while. I will now move it to a larger pot.

Mallows in season #2

…and my second best mallow is the hollyhock mallow or greater musk mallow / rosekattost  (Malva alcea), hardy and reliably perennial, here with perennial kale “Daubenton”, flower buds and stems of Scorzonera hispanica, Johannes’ shallot (Allium x cornutum; see  https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22601) and annual chopsuey greens or shungiku (Glebionis coronaria, formerly Chrysanthemum coronarium).

Mallows in season

Mallows (Malva spp.) are now in season for harvesting and will from now until autumn be an important source of greens and edible flowers. The best part are the flower buds with surrounding leaves. We started earlier in the week with musk mallow / moskuskattost (Malva moschata), a reliable perennial here that also self-sows in just about the right quantity. Traditionally, Malvas were often used in soups, so it was a good addition to pea soup along with 
Hybrid onions (Allium senescens x)
Rumex acetosa (mixed Russian cultivars); sorrel / engsyre
Campanula trachelium tops (nettle leaved bellflower / nesleklokke)
Myrrhis odorata unripe seed pods (sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel)
Origanum vulgare (oregano / bergmynte)

Hostas, scapes and broccolis

Last night’s greens included all my 16 Hostas, Allium scorodoprasum (sand leek / bendelløk) scapes; broccolis from sea kale (strandkål), ornamental sea kale (Crambe cordifolia) and Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis); and flower buds of two daylilies Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus and Hemerocallis dumortieri!

Norwegian quinoa and swamp greens medley

13th June 2020 perennial greens were stir-fried and served with quinoa and served with Allium ursinum flowers.
Allium validum (swamp or Pacific onion) with flower shoot
Saxifraga pensylvanica (swamp saxifrage)
Gunnera tinctoria
Asparagus officinalis (asparges)
Crambe maritima (sea kale / strandkål broccolis)
Perennial kale “Walsall Allotments” (flerårig kål)
Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke)
Aster macrophyllus (big-leaf aster)
flowering shoots of various Russian Rumex acetosa cultivars (sorrel / engsyre)

The greens were stir-fried with chili and garlic and served with Norwegian organic quinoa with ramsons (ramsløk) flowers:

SO/TR Pizza

I have a feeling that no one else had this pizza last night! SO/TR? Sherpa Onion/Turkish Rocket of course, better known (to the botanist) as AW/BO or Allium wallichii/Bunias orientalis two of my June perennial vegetables, the young shoots of the onion (one of the latest Alliums to show it’s still alive in the spring) and the delicious broccolis of Turkish rocket. We turned it into pizza as we were making Danish sourdough rye bread (using the 24 hour bake at 70C method) and had made extra dough.