the world around

Aiah Noack with Hablitzia

Naturplanteskolen, a new permaculture plant sale opened Friday. It is perhaps the smallest regular plant sale this year, but with a unique plant selection, some I have never before seen on the market. So far the opening hours are Fridays 12-20. Aiah Noack, who owns Nature nursery, is occupied with permaculture, natural plant breeding and art. For years she did plantbreeding in South Africa.

I came home with two cultivars of allåkerbär (Rubus × stellarcticus) (it takes two varieties for a good pollination), Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) and a large piece of weed fabric in the professional quality.

Danish billberry, Vaccinium myrtillus

Typical for the exquisite plant selection, it is billberry of Danish origin, not Swedish or American, on sale. Not that there’s anything wrong with the others, but of the nursery sells the plants they think is best to grow in this environment, not what can be ordered in bulk from the Netherlands.

Daubenton kale flowers rarely, allowing it to live for years

It was fantastic to see the beautiful Daubenton cabbages. Aiah got a cutting from me, which she has propagated and sell. This kale originates in France. It must be maintained by cuttings. I got a cutting of Stephen Barstow, who lives in Norway, near Trondheim. Great to see that it is now accessible to ordinary gardeners in the district.


Hawberry (Crataegus laevigata og Crataegus monogyna)

There are plenty of hawberries on the commons, in hedgerows and scrubs. This year I couldn’t resist to pick some of them. When I got home, I found a recipe for ketchup based on hawthorn on Jonathan Wallace’s blog Self-sufficient in Suburbia.

Since I always have to try things a little different than stated in the recipe, I ended up making ketchup from: Hawthorn, kombucha, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, garlic, black pepper, paprika, chilli and tarragon.

Hawthorn Ketchup

The result was 4 glasses of hawberry ketchup. The taste is great, quite similar to tomato ketchup. This is the first time I’ve used hawberries. With this experience, I could not dream of growing tomatoes for ketchup. It is easier to go out on a nice day and pick the small berries, than it is to grow a similar number of tomatoes from seeds, taking care of them spring and summer.

The process is simple. Rinse the berries, cover them with half vinegar and half water (here I used kombucha and a little vinegar). Gently boil them 30 minutes and press them through a sieve. Kernels and stem residues remain in the sieve, out comes a beautiful red mass. The spices are added and the ketchup boiled again, then poured on scalded glasses. I immediately turn the glasses, to let the heat of the content pasteurize the lids.

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A couple of garlic braids

Garlic competition is over. It was an exciting day at Hvidløg & Vin (Garlic & Wine).

We were not that many, perhaps because of the weather this season. A table was put up in the barn, so we sat next to this years big garlic harvest drying in an air ventilated big box. Interesting to see how the professionals do the various phases of garlic cultivation. Great to be in a center for garlic!

Bottom up ventilation of the garlic harvest

Lotte Ravn Lei gave a speech on their cultivation of garlic. There are some quite different considerations when growing garlic for so many people. For example they grow no hardneck garlic, as the high and rigid flower stalks make field operations more difficult. It is hard enough, because there are so many processes where each garlic must be handled by hand.
With regard to soil, they experience the clay soil to be ideal for garlic. They fertilize the soil with composted chicken manure in autumn, before they set the garlic. They tell that it is important to look after the soil, so that the earthworms thrive. They provide the best soil structure for the garlic.

Which garlic is whitest?

Awards were amazing this year, as Ejner had donated his garlic drawings.

In the competition Kirsten had the largest garlic, an Estonian Red weighing 132 g.
Then came:
Inchelium Red 114 g (Kirsten)
Susan Delafield 111 g (Merete)
Transsylvanian 111 g (Merete)
Vigor 100 g (Kirsten)
Thermidrome 97 g (Lotte)
Bodil’s French Market 82 g (Søren) -Yes, I still haven’t grown the largest garlic :-)

The whitest garlic was cultivated by Lotte. The variety is unknown as it was an off-type, differing a lot from the other garlics from same batch of garlic sets. Several of the garlic was probably just as white, but Lottes garlic had the largest white surface.

The reddest garlic

Merete won with the darkest red garlic. There was no doubt. The variety is Estonian Red.

Finest garlic garlic braid was made by Ejner, the huge braid with many varieties, each labeled with variety name (see top photo). The biggest garlic braid we’ve seen yet our competition.

Garlic cookie

We also had coffee and cake. Lotte provide drinks, while Kirsten had baked two delicious cakes. I brought some garlic cookies. You probably should be very crazy about garlic, to eat cake with garlic in. There were some who ate more than a single cookie. Myself, I’m pleased with my garlic cookies.

Thanks all you happy people who participated!

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Demonstration for free seeds in Brussels

Palm Sunday and the following Monday I was along with other seed savers in Brussel. We took part in Sunday’s and Monday’s demonstration and seed sharing.

The days were arranged in the network

Never have I seen so many seeds being shared in a single day

Sunday was a cornucopia of seeds. There were free seeds to everybody. It was great to experience the warm generosity among people. The event was open to all, being a good opportunity to fill empty seed bags.

Personally, I was so overwhelmed that I hardly didn’t take any seeds. I mostly just got the seeds kind people put in my hand, as they said things like “these will be perfect for you”. Thank you, I’m sure they will.
One interesting portion seeds, however, I rejected. It was a Belgian “Princess” bean, which looked like our old Danish Princess Bean a lot. So much that I’m sure the two would be mixed up if I started sharing the Belgian with Danish seed savers. It could end up with the loss of the old Danish princess bean.
The Belgian did look as a good and exciting bean – I hope my rejection is understood.

Belgian Kokopelli, Ariane

Most of us from Denmark stayed with Ariane, Marc and their 3 boys. They were incredibly hospitable – thank you. It gave an insight into the lives of an ordinary family in Belgium.

Ariane is active in the Belgian branch of Kokopelli, an association with origins in France, which has branches in many countries. Kokopelli challenge EU seeds directive by selling seeds via their website. Nice that some take a stand, breaking a way to make changes to the directive. There must not only be room for the industrial cultivars, but also be room for the wide variety of other cultivars, and room for small players in the market who might just do a little seed in their own fields, to sell through their website. Small sale should be legal. It would undoubtedly be an inexpensive way to preserve the old varieties. Maybe with a remark that they are not included in EU variety list, so we as consumers know what we are buying and not buying. Some consumers will no doubt see it as a sign of quality, if a variety is not listed in the catalog – personally I will not go that far. But I can not see how the variety list meet the need of ordinary gardeners. We private gardeners have different needs from farmers and commercial vegetable growers, and there is nothing wrong in this. We prefer a long harvest period, and many old varieties meet our needs.

Steph and Patrick, Amsterdam

It was a wonderful mixture of people present. Activists, mountain farmers, seed savers, garden bloggers, scientists, and … well, I can not remember all. There were mainly people I did not know, but I also met people I know from the blogosphaere, like Steph and Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots, people I have swapped seeds with like Lieven David from de lusthofin Belgium.

Demonstration for free seeds

The demonstration was colorful and happy. Click on the image, you can see more pictures on my Flickr photo page.

Banner in Portuguese

It was a pleasure to hear (and read) many languages.

Support the free seeds (click), sign the petition

Read what Patrick writes

Frøsamlerne (Danish seed savers) exchange list 2011

Again this year the list is long and interesting: Danish Seed Savers exchange list

See eg. the exciting Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides), originating from the Caucasus, and with history of cultivation in Scandinavia, mostly in manor gardens.

In my garden I have a few frozen pots with seedlings of Caucasian Spinach, from the seeds I got last year from a seed savers. When spring comes, I’ll transplant them near a tree or shrub in the shade, where it may otherwise be difficult to grow vegetables.
On facebook, there is now a Group, Friends of Hablitzia tamnoides, the Caucasian Spinach

The old Danish Prinsesse bean

Prinsesse bean is a classic on the exchange list. It’s live Danish heritage, preserved by a vegetarian family for generations. 100 years ago it was a well-known cultivar, mentioned in gardening books as the earliest bean to grow. Now used mostly as dry bean, and then it’s a lovely name!
It is also spelled with c: Princesse

Do I need to translate the name: Princess it is in queens English :-)

I was very happy, as I stumbled upon this site, giving the breeding work of Tom Wagner a new platform to connect with the world. Go visit them to see for yourself.

I met Tom Wagner in autumn 2009, when he gave plant breeding workshops in europe:  2009 Tom Wagner workshop


Seeds and tubers for food self-sufficiency and food security for backyard gardeners, homesteaders, and small farmers. This is where you will find seeds and tubers for crops like potatoes, wheat, triticale, and soy that you can actually live on. If you are looking for the former Tater-Mater seeds, look here.

New World Seeds & Tubers

Youtube is full of wonderful tutorials. The is the one you need right now, if your garden like mine is covered in deep snow. Please notice the accuracy in sowing depth!

Thanks a lot to (and go visit them!)

Hovedkoordinat-analyse af gamle danske ærter
Principal coordinate analysis of old Danish peas
(Click on picture to see more clearly)

Finally I finished writing a small report (in danish) about the old peas in the laboratory.
The report is located here: 2010 Resultat af ærteforsøg (DNA)
I had google translate this version, with a bit of my help: 2010 Pea results

When reading the results, so it is vital to understand that this investigation can determine whether some of the peas are genetically different, but can not determine whether they are genetically identical! We have investigated only some small bits of the total DNA.
The peas that look similar, are either identical or different, we do not know!

At the top is shown the principal coordinate analysis. It gives a good visual picture of the distance between our varieties. Some old Swedish varieties was blended in, as they have been studied previously. It gives some reference points to past studies.

The principal coordinate analysis is based of course, on some very concrete data, namely the length of the micro-satellites we tested.

Table. Displays length of each micro-satellite.

Micro-satellites we have measured have letter names. A9 – D21 – AC58 – C20 – AA5 – AC75.
We investigated 6 different, but one would not work, the second was identical in all varieties, and therefore uninteresting. The last four showed differences. Each micro-satellite was measured twice.

I end up concluding:

So there are varieties that we now know is different from all others in this sample.
There are also groups of varieties we should check for phenotype differences. It is a great advantage that it is now clearly delineated the varieties to be compared by cultivation experiments. There is probably also varieties that are identical with each other. It is not something that can be resolved by this trial, which is only suitable to detect differences in the 4 areas (micro-satellites), we got useful results from. Whether they are identical in many other micro-satellites, we can not know before we make a new attempt!

Read in the google translated report: 2010 Pea results

If you can take a bit more, this is the excel file we were sent after the course: Diversity analysis Pisum

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Pee shoots of heirloom varieties in the laboratory at Department of Agriculture and Ecology, Copenhagen University (Copyright Ingrid Nolde)

Last weekend I joined the Danish seed savers at the laboratory at the Department of Agriculture and Ecology (Copenhagen University). Gunter Backes and Jihad Orabi led us through a study of our heirloom pea collection. It was a fantastic and educational weekend!

In preparation, we had grown peas for 3-4 weeks, so they were ready for analysis. We had to use leaves that had not been given too much light. Chlorophyll can make it difficult to extract DNA material from the rest of the leaf tissue. For safety’s sake, we were two cultivating the same peas. It went well and we only used one set.

Test tubes on ice (Copyright Ingrid Nolde)

We were divided into four groups. That way we could manage to work with all the varieties we had brought. After a brief introduction to laboratory work, to use gloves and gowns – take them off when you leave the lab, we started slicing the pea leafes.
Once cut, the natural enzymes in the leaves activates. To inhibit them, we set all tubes in a tray of ice. Millimetre small pieces were placed in the tubes, a solution of caustic soda were added and the tubes were boiled for 1 minute to denature the proteins. Then we blended the boiled leaves with the tip of a plastic stick and added a resolution that brought the pH down to a desired level. To separate DNA from the rest of the leaf broth, test tubes were centrifuged.

Pea leaf broth bottom, DNA located at the top in the clear part of the liquid (Copyright Ingrid Nolde)

Now we could move the purified DNA into new tubes, still set in ice.
Then it was time to mix liquids with primer for the DNA fragments we searched for. We looked at 6 different micro satellites. Micro satellites are good to tell the difference between varieties of a species. A primer is the DNA sequence immediately before the micro satellite, leading the DNA strand to be cut at the desired location. We used a primer for each end of the micro satellite, because it must be “cut” at both ends. To the liquid is also added Taq DNA polymerase, an enzyme that replicates DNA at specific temperatures.

We used pipettes for several hours. Even with multi pipettes there was plenty to do (Copyright Ingrid Nolde)

Next the test tubes are undergoing repeated temperature changes between
94 °C, where DNA strand separates
64-55 °C, where the primer binds to the DNA strand, and
72 °C, where Taq DNA polymerase copies the DNA strand from the primer and forward

By the repeated changes in temperature, we multiplied the selected micro satellite exponentially. The first cycle gave very little DNA material, but for each cycle, there was more copies. Just like reproduction of yeast in a bread dough.

Finally, we let an electric field pull micro satellites through a viscous liquid in capillary thin tubes. A dye was coupled to micro satellites, for a photocell at the end of capillaries to detect how quickly they passed by. Small micro satellites migrate faster through capillary tubes than larger.

First presentation results

The photo shows the horizontal bands, each representing a pea variety. The small vertical bands are micro satellites. The red vertical band marks a scale, so we know how long the micro satellite strands are.
Jihad and Gunter did the analysis work Sunday morning, before we all met up – thank you!

It was best to group the peas in 7 groups

The results will soon arrive in my Inbox. I look forward to delve deeper into the results. I might have a more to write about then.

Big thanks to both Gunter and Jihad for a learning and rewarding weekend :-)

PS: I’m just a happy amateur. Feel free to comment if I’m wrong in some of the techicalities :-)

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Three beautiful garlic braids

Frøsamlernes (Danish Seed Savers) garlic competition took place in August. Luckily some bloggers are more up to date than I am for the time being. ‘Vild med have’ wrote a great post already next day – and I enjoyed it! Now time has come for my version.

Scoreboard for the largest garlic – 1 point each. gram

Four classes in the garlic competition

Biggest garlic won by a “DR Friland”, grown from Merete.

Whitest garlic won by a “Grethes Supermarked” cultivated by Kirsten.

Darkest purple garlic won by a “Bodils Fransk Marked” cultivated by Søren.

Most beautiful garlic braid won by a “Nettos Ekstrahvide” braid by Ejvind and girlfriend.

We compete with a twinkle in our eye, and it is clear when it comes to colors and braids. As the scale was in use, great care was shown. Stems were carefully cut to 4 cm, roots to 1 cm, brushed clean of soil with an old toothbrush, and every single garlic head was discussed. It was not easy to cheat!

Until now, ‘Estonian Red’ was the only variety that could compete in size. This year a new player joined the game, “DR Friland”, and beat the nearest ‘Estonian Red’ with 9 grams. They resemble each other so much that I suspect that it is the same clone. It will be exciting in future to see, if “DR Friland” can keep ahead.

The attentive reader has already discovered it – my ‘Estonian Red’ garlic is on top of the scoreboard, but is the second smallest garlic. Yes, indeed, all others had larger garlics than I (some put up with two garlics). There is a long way to go from 100 grams up to something that can win, here a twinkle in the eye comes in handy ;-)

Tasting the garlics

This year we agreed to taste the garlics. The selected varieties were ‘Estonian Red’, ‘Red toch’, “Alexander Tjetanov”, “Nettos Ekstrahvide” and Meretes home pickled garlic. To cleanse the mouth between the different varieties we had bread, olive oil and parsley. The raw garlic was cut into thin slices, so you could spear a slice with a toothpick.

Garlic tastes differently. But so different was a surprise to me. We also experience the taste very individually.

This is my sorting, from mild to strong.
“Nettos Ekstrahvide” – Extremely mild garlic – disappointingly mild.
‘Red toch’ – Mild and nutty, great depth of flavour – some experienced this as a very strong garlic
‘Estonian Red’ – Lovely strong and clean flavour
“Aleksander Tjetanov” – At first strong, followed by a mild break before it burned through with a very strong crystal clean garlic flavour. It almost made me cry :-)

We were fortunate enough to get the whole range in the bulbs taste!
Personally, I was lucky to get a bulb of ‘Red Toch’ to grow next season.

Big thanks to our hosts, Merete and her husband.

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