Tag Archives: Caucasian spinach

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.
 


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:

Hablitzia: from seed to flowering in 4 months

I’ve often noted that Hablitzia plants grow slowly the first year or so, but under ideal conditions (more warmth than we get outdoors here) they can grow fast…
I sowed seed in February, stratifying first for 10 days in the fridge and they germinated quickly in the living room. I grew them on indoors (it was too cold to put them out) and for lack of space I planted together with newly planted taro (Colocasia esculenta) tubers in a large pot. They grew quickly and they were about to start flowering yesterday when I dug up the plants and moved outside!

Hablitzia as a weed!

Hablitzia as a weed!
While researching Hablitzia tamnoides for my book Around the World in 80 plants (2014) I found the following simple entry in a 19th century encyclopedia of ornamental plants:
The author was clearly not impressed…..
Further Frederik Christian Schübeler (1815-1892) who was professor of botany and manager of the Oslo botanical garden at Toyen in Oslo from 1866-92 also noted from northern Norway that
At Maalselvdalens Vicarage (69 deg. 10 min. N), where it also grows very well, it reaches 8 feet (2.5m) and doesn’t only give mature seeds, but spreads even in the garden as a weed.”
I found this difficult to believe and thought initially that it had been confused with good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) which can be very weedy in a garden. I only had one plant at the time and I struggled to get more than a couple of seeds from it. Introducing a second plant, suddenly there was a lot of seed and seedlings appeared around the mother plants.
Nowadays it appears in many parts of the cultivated parts of my garden spread by the low friction seeds blowing around on ice in the winter and through my compost. Small plants often turn up as a weed in pot plants indoors which have been fed with compost. This is a plant which germinated in a pot with a bay tree (Laurus nobilis) some years ago. When the bay died, I let the Hablitzia grow on and it now uses the bay as a climbing frame!

Nevertheless, Hablitzia seems to depend on naked earth to establish itself here and there are no reports of it escaping into nature approaching 150 years after its introduction as a garden plant here.
Yesterday, I was weeding Hablitzia from newly emerged carrot seedlings!

Garden wild green soup

Last night we made a green pea soup and apart from the Hablitzia (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde), I used perennial vegetables growing in a wild part of the garden. With little or no help from me there’s a bounty of wild edibles in this area under wild hazels (Corylus avellana) and this made for a delicious pea soup with masses of greens. 
Campanula latifolia is documented as used in spring soups in the 16th century in my area in Norway and Heracleum shoots are also a tradional soup ingredient, in particular Russian borsch now thought of as a beetroot soup was originally made with hogweed shoots. 

Floppy Habby

It’s that time of year that Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach / stjernemelde) goes all floppy and needs help to go upwards rather than sideways! The floppiness you see here has nothing to do with the weather which habby loves although it’s never expereienced being snowed on for 5 days in a row in the middle of May in its short 18 year lifetime!



Green Ostrich Pasta

I noticed yesterday that the ostrich ferns (strutseving) in the forest garden had put on a spurt despite the cold weather and were almost past the harvesting stage. This is the main disadvantage of this great vegetable. The harvesting window is very narrow. I quickly harvested some, taking care not to take more than 1/3 of the shoots. Together with Hablitzia tamnoides (Caucasian spinach), a bit of sea kale (strandkål), ramsons (ramsløk) and sand leeks (bendelløk) this made a delicious green pasta sauce.  
See the video before I picked below!