Misty mornings are getting more common here:
There were crazy fiery skies towards the east where the village of Hell is this morning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Norway). Sorry, but trouble is brewing!
One of the easiest seed to save is cress /karse (Lepidium sativum). You can grow a lot of seed in a small space, it dries well on the plants and is easy to process, rubbing the seed pods between your fingers in a bowl and then blowing the chaff away outside. I sprout the seed inside during winter and also sow it outside in spring to harvest the young plants for salads and lunch. leaving a few to grow big for seed.
A female blackcap (munk) feeding on ripe elderberries (svarthyll; Sambucus nigra). With no heavy frosts so far well into November, two flower clusters have appeared on the tree!
Unusual combination of elderflowers and a kayak on the fjord in November:
In 2017, I was able to grow Sonchus kirkii, the original perennial sow thistle (puha or rauriki), an important traditional vegetable of the Maori which I’d long wanted to try. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to overwinter it. It grows in coastal New Zealand and isn’t adapted to freezing winter temperatures and no doubt stays green all winter. I had been hoping to overwinter it and try the spring shoots, but I didn’t get the opportunity then. I relocated the original seed packet this spring, and the seed was still viable and the plants started flowering now in October and with unusually mild weather so far this winter with no serious frosts, I finally got round to trying some of the top growth in the tradional way to eat Sonchus oleraceus in Mediterranean countries, fried with garlic and chili in olive oil and added to scrambled eggs. The raw leaf was surprisingly mild, much milder than perennial Sonchus arvensis, which I’ve experienced as unpleasantly bitter in the past (young shoots in spring).
There is an account in my book Around the World in 80 plants of this species and annual super(healthy)weed Sonchus oleraceus which replaced it in Maori kitchens! Variously known as puha, shore puha or New Zealand sow thistle (syn. Sonchus asper var. littoralis), its habitat is described by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network as http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=205: “Coastal. Usually on cliff faces in or around damp seepages where it often grows with the blue green alga Nostoc and fern Blechnum blechnoides. This species has a distinct preference for base rich rocks such as basalt, calcareous mudstones, siltstones, limestone or apatite-rich greywacke faces. On some offshore islands this species extends up into coastal scrub and herbfield. It occasionally grows on stabilised sand dunes. Indications are that this species once occupied a wider range of habitats but has retreated to those less suited to other faster growing introduced weeds.”
NZPCN states that it is “Easily distinguished from all the other naturalised Sonchus species by the very large, glaucous, non-spinose leaves” (this includes Sonchus arvensis – perennial sow thistle and annuals Sonchus asper and Sonchus oleraceus). The first picture shows a comparison of the autumn leaves of the two growing in my garden:
This is the harvest of 6 varieties of Scorzonera at our community garden (Væres Venner) last week two years after I sowed seed (I was surprised by an early hard frost and didn’t get round to harvesting it). The following accessions
Libochovicky (Czechoslovakia) (IPK Gatersleben SCOR5)
‘Peter Schwarzer’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR3 and SCOR 6)
‘Schwarzwurzel’ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 7)
‘Einjaehrige ‘ (IPK Gatersleben SCOR 8)
Wild accession 1653 from Bundesgarten Wien
(I had hoped to include other varieties from the Nordic gene bank in this trial but those were sadly not available)
Einjaehrige gave as expected the biggest yield (this is a variety selected to be grown in one year…traditionally it would take two years for roots to be big enough. I will grow this one on as a perennial for seed to supply seed as a root variety. The biggest roots of the other accessions apart from the wild accesion which gave as expected the smallest roots (planted now in the World Garden) will be grown on to investigate differences in production of Scorzonera lettuce (spring shoots) and Scorzonera scapes (the sweet flower stems).
Scorzonera is not only one of my favourite must have perennial vegetables but also a popular plant for pollinators flowering right up to the first frosts.