Category Archives: Food

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

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)