Red shiso

Perilla frutescens var crispa f. purpurascens (red or purple shiso) is looking good on the window sill in front of my desk! This is an important crop in the Far East both used as a flavouring, a dye plant, as wraps (the seeds, seed oil and seed sprouts are also used). I’d love to use the leaves to colour pickled chinese artichokes (chorogi), as shown on the Backyard Larder blog (see https://backyardlarder.co.uk/plants/chinese-artichoke), but the chorogi aren’t ready until November. Maybe I’ll try drying some leaves!
I grow this annual indoors as it’s generally too cold outside here in summer. It’s also difficult to save seeds as it doesn’t start flowering until late autumn and usually dies rather than producing seeds, a dead end for me, but now and again someone offers me seed for trading as in this case!
Perilla is also of course commonly used as an ornamental in warmer areas like Southern England, but I’ve also seen it outside in Gothenburg in Southern Sweden.
Perilla is in the mint family and it’s also easy to make more plants by taking cuttings (like basil).
I most often use shiso in my mixed salads.




Siberian Nutcracker feeding young in the garden

I’ve written several times of our new breeding bird species, Siberian Nutcracker (nøttekråke), that is colonising the forests around Trondheim as a new breeding species as a result of widespread planting of Pinus cembra in the 1970s, one of the sources of pine nuts and an important winter food for this species at home in Siberia.
I’ve heard their characteristic call over the last few days and was able to film them this afternoon! To my great surprise, it was an adult bird accompanied by two young which can be seen begging for food, something I’ve never seen before! They have presumably bred in the forest nearby and have come down to richer feeding grounds in the garden!
ENJOY!



 

Allium atroviolaceum: Caucasian Turkish garlic

Allium atroviolaceum is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental. I’ve been growing it for some 15 years now and it is admittedly not very productive as an edimental under my conditions, but it’s nevertheless a beauty and it is currently coming into flower both in my own garden and the Allium garden at the Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim, where the pictures below were taken.  Its wild distribution is in the Crimea, Caucasus, Middle Asia (Mountainous Turkmenistan, Syr-Darya foothill areas) and Iran.

 

In the Armenian Highlands in Eastern Turkey, there are several ethnobotanical studies documenting its use in local food, presumably wild collected, although there are indications that it might also be cultivated for food including:
1) In otlu peyniri, a herbed cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk. it is used as a flavouring along with many other species (from Wikipedia):
Ranunculus polyanthemos L.(Ranunculaceae)
Nasturtium officinale R. Br. (Brassicaceae)
Gypsophila L. spp. (Caryophyllaceae)
Silene vulgaris (Maench) Garcke var. vulgaris (Caryophyllaceae)
Anthriscus nemorosa (Bieb.) Sprengel (Apiaceae)
Carum carvi L. (Apiaceae)
Anethum graveolens L. (Apiaceae)
Prangos pabularia Lindl. (Apiaceae)
Prangos ferulacea (L.) Lind. (Apiaceae)
Ferula L. sp. (Apiaceae)
Ferula orientalis L. (Apiaceae)
Ferula rigidula DC. (Apiaceae)
Thymus kotschyanus Boiss. et Hohen. var. glabrescens Boiss. (Lamiaceae)
Thymus migricus Klokov et Des. – Shoct. (Lamiaceae)
Mentha spicata L. subsp. spicata (Lamiaceae)
Ziziphora clinopodioides Lam. (Lamiaceae)
Ocimum basilicum L. (Lamiaceae)
Eremurus spectabilis Bieb. (Liliaceae)
Allium schoenoprasum L. (Liliaceae)
Allium fuscoviolaceum Fomin (Liliaceae)
Allium scorodoprasum L.subsp. rotundum(L.)Stearn (Liliaceae)
Allium aucheri Boiss. (Liliaceae)
Allium paniculatum L. subsp. paniculatum (Liliaceae)
Allium akaka S. G. Gmelin (Liliaceae)
Allium cf. cardiostemon Fisch. et Mey. (Liliaceae)
2) In another study, the young shoots are used in various dishes and as a flavouring with yoghurt. It us used both boiled and raw. The bulbs are used to replace garlic in food.
Local names in Turkey include sirmo, körmen, and yabani sarimsak.




Kiwi blossom in Malvik

It was probably over 25 years ago I sowed some seed of a kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa) from the supermarket just for fun! Little did I know that it would be flowering in my garden in the year 2020. The seed germinated and I accidentally left the plants in a pot in the garden all winter. I had lost the label and I didn’t recognise the plant when it leafed out in spring. A gardening friend (Alvilde) visiting that summer did recognised it and I recalled having sowed those seeds. It also showed that it was much more hardy than I imagined. I therefore planted two plants in the warmest spot I could find in the garden against the south side of the house. Unfortunately, one of the two plants died and you need two to get fruit….not that I had any pretense of ever eating my own kiwis (I’d read that Actinidia deliciosa needs temperatures over 20C for 3-4 months to ripen fruit). Some summers, we only have 10-20 such days! I carried on growing it more of a curiosity than anything else…a plant one doesn’t expect to see at 63.5N! Then in 2007, I had a visit from a Swedish gardening club (STA). I told them about the kiwi and one of them commented that it was flowering. I hadn’t noticed the two flowers:

I never saw a flower again, until just a week ago when I lifted one of the branches and discovered a couple of flowers well hidden under the leaves. On closer examination there were about 10 flowers altogether! A mild winter followed by record temperatures in June had stimulated it to flower “profusely” (of course, I could have missed the odd flower in the past).  I didn’t round to taking pictures for several days by which time the flowers were over (see below). Given that I will never have my own fruit, I wonder if other parts of kiwis can be eaten. I found one reference to the leaves being edible on a kiwi web site. Can anyone confirm? There are references in the literature to both Actinidia arguta and Actinidia polygama shoots being eaten.