Tag Archives: Sonchus oleraceus

Perennial puha, Sonchus kirkii in Malvik #2

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:

No thanks no dig

Before I go any further, I should say that 2/3 of my cultivated area is almost 100% no dig (perennials is the ultimate no dig) as I grow perennial vegetables, fruit, berries and nuts. I rarely dig in these areas at all as I only plant once and don’t disturb the plants for years. I do still grow annuals on my raised beds…beds which are about 1.2m wide and are never walked on. I add compost on most of the beds each spring and lightly dig over to incorporate the compost and, surprising to most folks, to encourage the weeds to germinate.
There’s one weed in particular that I’m encouraging, Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle / haredylle). As I’ve written before (also in the 12 page essay in my book on the sow thistles), this is my favourite summer leafy green vegetable which I eat most days from July to September. It grows quickly and is actually more nutritious than standard greens. It’s also rich in antioxidants and I love it’s slightly bitter taste which goes well with pretty well any dish I might prepare, always mixed with other “vegetables of the day”.  We ate it tonight in a pea soup and, yesterday, in a green pasta sauce and the day before that in pizza…
Yesterday, I weeded my second crop broad beans which were growing in a sea of “weeds” and as I weed I selectively allow the sow thistle to grow on between the beans and on the edge of the bed (you can think of this as “WEEDING YOUR WEEDS”). The video and pictures show the broad beans with the young self-seeded sow thistle plants in between. These will grow up quickly in the next 2-3 weeks and I harvest just before they start flowering. This doesn’t interfere with the growth of the broad beans which take much longer to mature to harvest. Later on, the next wave of sow thistle will be allowed to grow on the edges of all the beds where it doesn’t interfere with the main crops, a method used by the Maori of New Zealand which inspired me to introduce Sonchus oleraceus to my garden. Eating your weeds can significantly increase your yield. I must admit that I love weeding, a quiet time in the garden observing wildlife around me…….similarly, I love washing up, both quiet times contemplating. There’s even a name for weeds that are cropped…it’s a cryptocrop. Cryptocropping has been practised by many other peoples around the world.
Any nutrients or soil which might be washed out from my annual beds during periods with naked soil ultimately end up in my forest garden and perennial plantings below, so are not lost! However, there isn’t much loss as my soil is high in humus after over 35 years adding compost!
I’ve tried no dig in the past, but I would need a much bigger area to produce sufficient material for mulching and I also found that in my shady cool garden the soil heated up much too slowly and slugs were also a bigger problem.
In the video, I zoom into the low growing young sow thistle plants between the taller broad bean plants:

Pizza Hemerocallis

Tonight’s pizza ingredients found on a random forage in the garden: 3 different day lily species flower buds, including the first yellow Hemerocallis altissima, H. citrina (in the middle) with Malva moschata and M. alcea, second flush nettles, Campanula trachelium (new leaves after cutting down), Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle) and broad beans, with shallots, garlic, chili, oregano and topped with the year’s first poppy seed!

Sonchus and Basil Pesto

Common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) is now in season in my garden another plant categorised by most as a weed, but for me one of the most important vegetables in my garden from now until autumn. It even saves me work as the only thing I have to do is NOT weed it!! It is at its best when the leaves are shiny:

I made a sow thistle basil pesto last night together with basil grown in my office at the botanical gardens! I’m an office basil grower of over 40 years, having started when I was a student in 1978 (see  http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=5221, where I made pesto and Allium wallichii, the Sherpa or Nepal onion)
Last night I used garlic and more Johannes’ shallots (Allium x cornutum; see http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22601)

Emmer multispecies tempura

Tonight’s dinner was the first tempura of the year, made with Emmer wheat….delicious!
With Mustard “Giant Red”, dandelion, Hosta flower shoots, assorted lily flowers, ground elder, Daubenton and Daubenton variegated perennial kale, Rosa spp., ragged jack kale, Crambe cordifolia flowers and buds, broad bean tops, Houttuynia cordata “Chameleon”, Calendula officinalis flower, Sonchus oleraceus, giant bellflower flower buds, Allium cernuum flower, Allium senescens flowers, Allium rubens flowers, Diplotaxis (perennial rocket), grape leaf, mustard broccolis, various lettuces, Hablitzia tops, Scorzonera flower stems and buds etc.

Perennial puha, Sonchus kirkii in Malvik

Sonchus kirkii is the original perennial sow thistle (puha) of the Maori which I’ve long wanted to try (see the 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! Probably not hardy here, I overwintered it inside having finally layed my hand on some seed! 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.”
I will hopefully eat it for the first time next summer!
NZPCN states that “Easily distinguished from all the other naturalised Sonchus species by the very large, glaucous, non-spinose leaves” (this includes S.arvensis –perennial sow thistle and annuals S. asper and S. oleraceus)
Meanwhile, here are a few pictures:

Sonchus “Custard in Greens”

Those that follow this blog will know that I consider common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) to be a super weed in the sense of its importance as a food and (protective) medicine plant for Homo sapiens. Inspired by the Maori tradition of “cultivating” … or tolerating this weed on their vegetable plots due to its market value…. I actually introduced this plant to my own garden and it is probably now my most used vegetable from July to September!  I wrote 10 pages about it in my book Around the World in 80 plants ;)

There is, however, an ornamental sow thistle called “Custard-in-Greens” (or as the RHS spell it: “Custard ‘n’ green”). I traded seed of this with an ornamental gardener in Holland in 2003, but despite my best efforts to encourage it, its offspring were mostly not variegated. One single plant appeared in 2009, but it didn’t go to seed and I haven’t seen this form since…. I can’t find a source of seed either, so maybe it’s lost :(    (Admittedly, it’s not the most ornamental plant out there, but I love the unusual, so please let me know if you know of a source!)

In summer 2009, I was invited by Sortland Gardening Club in North Norway to come and help them celebrate the fact that they had won the Norwegian Gardening Club of the Year Award.  I composed a salad, mostly from my garden and transported to Sortland in a cold box.  It was decorated with 4 flowers of the almost black-flowered hollyhock Alcea rosea “The Watchman” (as Sortland means Blackland!).   It contained Custard-in-Greens in the ingredients list (see the bottom of this page) which is how I found it!
(from http://miamariashage.blogspot.com/2009/08/stephens-medbragte.html?_sm_au_=iHVtKTV0jncQ500M )

Sortland_salat_2009
The Sortland celebration salad was made from 209 varieties of edible plants, including 131 botanical species, 50 flowers and 23 berries and fruits. Dressing: Olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and juice from boiled mixed horseradish, chili, pelargonium, lemon verbena, sage, summer savory and oregano, salt and pepper. See the bottom of this page for the full ingredients list!

See also the following blog posts on sow-thistles:
COMMON SOW-THISTLE – SUPER WEEDY FOOD AND GOOD GLOBALISATION!

http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=2271

MORE WEEDO WIERDO PESTO
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=1993

A SONCHUS OLERACEUS VARIETY?

http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6741

I love this video featuring Sonchus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hp7CNzKUss

10 years ago I wrote this article in the Norwegian Useful Plants Society magazine (in Norwegian)
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8504 (Sopp og Nyttevekster)

Ingredients list in the 2009 Sortland salad:
Part used Botanical name Norwegian name

Leaves Aegopodium podagraria Ground elder
Leaves Aegopodium podograria variegata Ground elder
Leaves Agastache anisata Anise Hyssop
Leaves Agastache anisata alba Anise Hyssop
Leaves Agastache rugosa “Golden Jubilee” Korean Hyssop
Leaves and flowers Agastache urticifolia
Leaves and flowers Alcea rosea “Peach” Hollyhock
Leaves and flowers Alcea rosea “The Watchman” Hollyhock
Topset onions Allium ampeloprasum “Elephant Garlic” Elephant Garlic
Leaves and bulbs Allium ampeloprasum “Sand Leek”
Leaves and flowers Allium angulosum Mouse garlic
Leaves and flowers Allium carinatum pulchellum
Leaves Allium carinatum pulchellum album
Leaves and bulbs Allium cepa/fistulosum Spring onion (5 varieties)
Leaves Allium cernuum “Pink Giant” Nodding onion
Leaves Allium cernuum album Nodding onion
Leaves and flowers Allium ericetorum
Leaves Allium hookeri, Hooker’s onion
Leaves and topset onions Allium longicuspis Wild garlic
Leaves Allium nutans Siberian nodding onion
Leaves Allium nutans “Slizun” Siberian nodding onion
Leaves, bulbiller Allium oleraceum “Geirlauk from Tautra” Wild onion
Leaves and flowers Allium paniculatum “Dwarf Selection”
Leaves Allium ramosum
Onions Allium sativum “Alexandra” Garlic
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum Chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum “Pink Flowered” Chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum “Wallington White” Chives
Leaves and flowers Allium schoenoprasum alpinum Chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum Ex-Forescate Chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum ssp. sibiricum Siberian chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum v. alpinum album Chives
Leaves Allium schoenoprasum v. alvarense Alvar-chives
Leaves Allium senescens “Sierui”
Leaves and flowers Allium senescens glaucum
Leaves and flowers Allium senescens montanum German garlic
Leaves Allium senescens v. petraeum
Leaves Allium spp. Ex-Råneå Norrland onion
Leaves Allium tuberosum Chinese chives
Onions Allium victorialis Victory onion
Leaves and flowers Allium wallichii Nepal onion
Topset onions and leaves Allium x proliferum Topset onion
Topset onions and leaves Allium x proliferum “Catawissa Red Top Set” Topset onion
Topset onions and leaves Allium x proliferum “Mc. Cullar’s White Topset” Topset onion
Leaves Althaea officinalis Marshmallow
Fruit Amelanchier alnifolia “Alvdal” Saskatoon berry
Fruit Amelanchier alnifolia “Thiessen” Saskatoon berry
Leaves Anethum graveolens Dill
Leaves Anredera cordifolia Madeira Vine
Leaves Anthriscus cerefolium Garden chervil
Stalk and Leaves Apium graveolens Celery (3 varieties)
Seed Apium nodiflorum Perennial celery
Root Armoracia rusticana Horseradish
Root Armoracia rusticana variegata Horseradish
Berries Aronia melanocarpa “Moskva”
Leaves Artemisia dracunculus sativa French tarragon
Leaves og umodne frø Atriplex hortensis Green Garden orach
Leaves og umodne frø Atriplex hortensis rubra Red Garden orach
Leaves Balsamita major (syn. Tanacetum balsamita or Chrysanthemum balsamita) Balsam
Leaves Basella alba
FlowerBorago officinalis Borage
FlowerBorago officinalis alba White borage
Leaves Brassica “Tree Collard”
Leaves Brassica oleracea “Ragged Jack” Kale
Leaves Brassica oleracea var capitata “Nero de Toscana” Cabbage
Flower Brassica oleracea var italica Broccoli
Leaves Brassica oleracea var sabellica “Hungry Gap” Kale
Leaves Brassica oleracea var sabellica “Red Russian” Kale
Leaves Brassica oleracea var sabellica “Siberian” Kale
Root Brassica rapa Turnip
Flower Calendula officinalis “Citrus Cocktail”
Flower Calendula officinalis “Double Mixed Colours”
Flower Calendula officinalis “Dwarf Mix”
Fruit Capsicum frutescens Chili
Bulbils Cardamine bulbifera (syn Dentaria bulbifera)
Leaves Cardamine hirsuta Hairy bittercress
Leaves Carum carvi Caraway
Leaves Chenopodium album “Magenta” Fat hen
Fruit Chenopodium foliosum Beetberry
Leaves Chenopodium quinoa Quinoa
Flower Cichorium intybus “Red Rib” Chicory
Flower Cichorium intybus var. Chicory
Flower Cryptotaenia japonica Mitsuba
Fruit Cucumis sativus “Passandra F1” Cucumber
Fruit Cucurbita pepo pepo “Partenon F1” Zucchini
Leaves /dressing Cymbopogon flexuosus Lemon grass
Flower Dahlia “Wild Forms”
Flower Dahlia pinnata
Root Daucus carota Carrot
Flower Dianthus barbatus nigrescens “Sooty”
Leaves Diplotaxis tenuifolia Perennial rocket
Leaves Foeniculum vulgare “Purpurea” Fennel
Fruit Fragaria vesca “Alpine Strawberry”
Fruit Fragaria vesca “Fructo albo” Strawberry
Fruit Fragaria vesca “Pineapple” Strawberry
Flower Fuchsia magellanica “Globosa”
Leaves Hablitzia tamnoides Caucasian spinach
Flower Hemerocallis cult Day lily
Flower Hemerocallis fulva ”Kwanso Double” Day lily
Flower Hosta sieboldiana Hosta
Leaves Lactuca sativa (4 varieties) Lettuce
Leaves Lavatera arborea variegata
Leaves/Flower Leucanthemum vulgare Ox-eye Daisy
Leaves Levisticum officinale Lovage
Leaves / dressing Lippia dulcis
Fruit Lycopersicon esculentum “Black Cherry” Tomato
Fruit Lycopersicon esculentum “Sungold” Tomato
Fruit Lycopersicon esculentum “Tante Ci’s” Tomato
Fruit Malus domestica “Aroma” Apple
Leaves and flowers Malva alcea “Fastigiata” Hollyhock mallow
Leaves Malva crispa Curly mallow
Leaves, flowers and young seeds Malva moschata alba Musk mallow
Leaves, flowers and young seeds Malva moschata rosea Musk mallow
Leaves Malva sylvestris Common mallow
Leaves Melissa officinalis Lemon balm
Leaves Mentha (7 variieties) Mint
Leaves Mentha aquatica Chickweed
Flower Monarda “Squaw”
Flower Monarda didyma “Adam”
Flower Monarda didyma “Croftway Pink”
Flower Monarda didyma “Schneewitchen”
Flower Monarda fistulosa var menthifolia
Leaves Montia sibirica (syn. Claytonia sibirica) Siberian purslane
Leaves Myrrhis odorata Sweet cicely
Leaves Ocimum basilicum “Large Leaf” Basil
Flower and young seeds Oenothera biennis Evening primrose
Leaves Origanum vulgare “Aurea” Oregano
Leaves and flowers Oxalis spp. (2 varieties)
Root Pastinaca sativa Parsnip
Leaves Pelargonium “Attar of Roses”
Leaves Pelargonum odoratissimum
Leaves Petroselinum crispum *3 Persille
Leaves Petroselinum crispum *3 Persille
Leaves Petroselinum crispum *3 Persille
FlowerPhaseolus coccineus “Painted Lady” Stangbønne
Fruit Phaseolus coccineus “Streamline” Stangbønne
Flower Phaseolus coccineus “White Lady” Stangbønne
Fruit Pisum sativum “Hurst Green Shaft” Ert
Fruit Pisum sativum var. Ert
Leaves Plantago major GroLeaves
Leaves Polygonum virginianum variegatum
Bulbils Polygonum viviparum Harerug
Leaves Portulaca oleracea Portulakk
Fruit Prunus cerasus “Fanal” Surkirsebær
Seed pods Raphanus sativus “Rat’s Tail” Radish
Fruit Rheum x rhabarbarum “Glaskin’s Perpetual” Rhubarb
Fruit Ribes divaricatum
Fruit Ribes divaricatum “Worcesterberry”
Berries (fresh and dried) Ribes nigrum Blackcurrant
Fruit Ribes petraeum biebersteinii Black redcurrant
Fruit Ribes sativum “Hvitrips” (Prob. Hvit Hollandsk?) Redcurrant
Fruit Ribes uva-crispa Gooseberry
Fruit Ribes x culverwellii Jostaberry
Fruit Rubus fruticosus Bjørnebær
Fruit Rubus idaeus “Apricot” Raspberry
Fruit Rubus idaeus “Stiora” Raspberry
Fruit Rubus idaeus “Varnes” Yellow raspberry
Fruit Rubus idaeus “uknown” Raspberry
Fruit Rubus occidentalis Black raspberry
Leaves Rumex “Shchavel” Sorrel
Leaves Rumex acetosa “Blonde de Lyon” Sorrel
Leaves Rumex acetosa “Non-flowering variety” (proliferum?) Sorrel
Leaves Rumex acetosa lapponicus? “Beitostølen” Sorrel
Rumex acetosa variegata Sorrel
Leaves Rumex acetosa vinealis Wine sorrel
Leaves Rumex acetosella Sheep’s sorrel
Leaves Rumex sanguineus ssp. sanguineus Bloody sorrel
Leaves Rumex scutatus Buckler-leaved sorrel
Leaves Rumex scutatus “Silver Shield” Buckler-leaved sorrel
Leaves Salvia officinalis Sage
Leaves Sanguisorba minor ssp. minor Salad burnet
Leaves Satureja hortensis Summer savory
Tuber Solanum tuberosum “Blå Congo” Potato
Tuber Solanum tuberosum “King Edward” Potato
Tuber Solanum tuberosum “Russepotet” Potato
Tuber Solanum tuberosum “Shetland Blue Eye” Potato
Tuber Solanum tuberosum “Yellow Finn” Potato
Leaves Sonchus oleraceus Common sow thistle
Leaves Sonchus oleraceus “Custard in Greens” Common sow thistle
Leaves Spilanthes acmella “Gul” Toothache plant
Leaves Spilanthes acmella “Rød” Toothache plant
Root Stachys sieboldii (syn. affinis) Chorogi
Leaves Taraxacum rubifolium Red-leaved dandelion
Leaves Taraxacum kok-saghyz Rubber dandelion
Leaves and flowers Tradescantia occidentalis
Leaves and flowers Tradescantia ohiensis
Leaves and flowers Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium
Leaves Urtica galeopsifolia Marsh nettle
Berries Vaccinium myrtilus Bilberry
Leaves Valerianella locusta “Dunkelgruner Volherziger” Cornsalad
Leaves Veronica beccabunga Brookweed
Fruit Vicia faba Broad bean
Flower Viola Canadensis Canadian violet