Yesterday there was again frost in the morning. I hope it’s over for now until October.
I found these ice crystals to be incredibly long and beautiful. I also noticed that the crystals grew differently depending on the plant species. On a feverfew right next to the the greater celandine, crystals were all tiny.
May 4, 2013
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Yesterday there was again frost in the morning. I hope it’s over for now until October.
October 7, 2012
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.
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.
April 25, 2012
Almost every year I pick ramsons in the wood and pickle them in salt, as I learned Siberia. They use a different species, alpine leek (Allium victorialis), but I know that in the European part of Russia they like to use ramsons, and the result is hard to tell apart.
When picking ramsons, take only the leaves, so the bulb can survive. In Siberia, where people forage in the deep forest, they are most particular about only taking the leaves, leaving the onion, and only some of the leaves, to let the plants grow on, and tolerate another picking the following year.
First I chop the leaves, then I weigh them, and add 2-4 grams of salt per 100 grams of ramsons.
The chopped and salted ramsons will now be squeezed, so that the cell walls are broken apart and the juice becomes visible. I started out using a wooden pounder, but it came to my mind that I always end up using my hands. It’s faster, easier and more comfortable by hand, but I could not take a photo at the same time. After this process, the leaves have become quite dark and covered with its juice.
As with sauerkraut, the ramsons must be packed airtight. I used a zipper-lock plastic bag and apparently it worked great. There was less residual air left than when I pack in glass. But the very next day I had to recognize that plastic bags are not aroma proof. The whole fridge smelled intensely of ramsons, even on entering the house you could notice the smell of ramsons.
The solution was to pack the salted ramsons in small roe glasses. Now they can be stored in the refrigerator without any leak of aroma.
I call the result for Cheremsha (Черемша in Russian), as they name it in Siberia. The aroma is even stronger than in the fresh ramsons, so a little goes a long way. The intense chemical sense on opening a glass should not upset you, as it is how it should be. Once it gets mixed with sour cream or other ingredients, the wonderful flavour comes out, a true delicacy. Cheremsha is also used in meatballs and other recipes with minced meat.
I think the salt pickling process enhance the umami component in the taste of ramsons.
Where I pick my ramsons?
It’s a secret, but I can reveal, that they are very common in woods around Copenhagen – just keep off my little spot of ramsons
Here’s a YouTube from Khabarovsk in Siberia (jump 2½ minutes ahead):
July 28, 2010
Last weekend I attended Danish Seed Savers relict plant excursion with botanist Bernt Løjtnant.
Relict plants are plants that once was grown, and which since has survived in the environment surrounding the original growing sites. The plants grow only around human settlements or ruins, as they have not been able to invade the forest or field. Therefore, we searched for them around the old manors Holsteinborg and Borreby, in the old fishing village Bisserup and at port and village on island Agersø.
There is also a time factor in the concept of relict plants. The plants must have survived since medieval times, i.e. before Columbus. Therefore no plant originating in America is recognised as a relict plant. Plants originating in America can have great cultural value, but they are not as old as the true relict plants.
Relict plants was originally grown for a purpose, typically food or medicine. I was surprised to meet Gobo, an exotic root crop. All commercial varieties are of Japanese origin as far as I’m aware. It is a medieval vegetable that we have forgotten to use. Both roots and leaves were cooked. It is not impossible that we could find better varieties among our relict plants (for our climate) than the ones we find commercially. Some of the burdocks were much higher than I!
Every time we were presented with a medical plant, Bernt Løjtnant had an earnest word to us. They are toxic – very toxic! They contain not one but several poisons. The contents of toxins varies greatly from plant to plant, from leaf to root, from season to season. They are very capricious in use. White Bryony is one of them. We must not use them medically. Those who are not outright dangerous he considers to be ineffective, such as German Chamomile (extensively used in danish households).
I don’t entirely agree, either entirely disagree.
I love to use my Calendula tincture internally, can’t imagine having to do without it. But it might not be effective. I believe in it and that’s enough for me. I prepare it my at home, so it is cheap. If it doesn’t help my health, it brightens my life anyway
Goji berries have become fashionable as a power food. I knew that it is wolfberry, that grows wild in Denmark, but I thought they were imported as late as in the 1800s. So it was exciting to hear Bernt Løjtnants explanation on the use of wolfberry in eelgrass fences in the countryside in Denmark back in the medieval times.
I captured Bernt Løjtnant explanation on wolfberry and rural fencing in Denmark. Sorry, I didn’t have time to dub the video, language is Danish.
November 22, 2009
In the spring I grafted an exiting wild apple on my old apple tree. Unfortunately the grafting has died, although it seemed to grow callus and connect in early summer. Did I store the twigs for grafting under bad conditions? Did I do a technically lousy grafting? Did some happy little bird clean its beak and break the graft? I don’t know, and it shall not keep me from grafting some other time. It’s funny, and does a grafting take on it’s great.
I’ve been told, that some professionals now have grafted this wild apple, to learn if it deserves to be grown in plantations or gardens. If it is a healthy tree, I’m sure we will get access to it for our gardens, at least from some of the specialised nurseries.
October 3, 2009
In the hedge grow a small wild elderberry. Only few berries this autumn, inspired me to do an elderberry vodka. I cleaned the berries, dumped them in a less than half full bottle of russian Stolichnaya vodka. Then I thought it might become rather insipid without a lot of sugar. But wouldn’t the health benefit be lost with a lot of sugar added? I imagine a little chili heat might balace the elderberries and vodka. In the garden I picked two spanish chilies, but in the end only added one. I want elderberry to taste, not to be overpowered by the chili. The chili is Guindilla, Anselmo in Spain send me seeds for it last winter – thanks a lot Anselmo!
The elder is not a named variety, just one of these small trees that willingly grows as a hedge weed in my neighborhood.
September 17, 2009
Frøsamlernes (Danish Seed Savers) annual meeting started with a visit to an ecological market garden Gartneri Toftegård south of Copenhagen. Lene Tvedegaard explained with great knowledge about their huge number of chili, pepper, tomato and herb varieties. She told us, how often it happens that the chili and peppers cross pollinate in their large greenhouses. We probably should pay more attention to the fact, that some insects might acquire a taste for the nectar in our chili/pepper flowers, thus crossing them. In a row of large greenhouses like here, the insects are of course much more likely start visiting the flower, than in a garden with just a few plants.
We tasted a lot of tomatoes and chilies, though we had a tight schedule, and we like always had hundreds of questions to ask We know how to extract a lot of knowledge in no time from the wise people we visit!
Lene Tvedegaard shows a small physalis with pineapple taste, her favorite. Interesting, as people where I stood was very divided in their opinion. Some were enthusiastic about it, others like myself, prefer other types with different taste. This is also a reason for growing a great number of varieties within the different crops.
From Toftegård we drove to the allotments in Ishøj. It was exciting to see how much can be grown, when 100 sq.m. is exploited intensive. Ishøj is know for its large immigrant community. The allotments is a cultural melting pot, where people with very diverse cultural heritage meet each others gardening culture. Some are faithful to their origin, others are more curious, letting themselves getting inspired to grow new crops and grow in new ways. The joy of gardening prevail, almost every gardener there seems to share it. Almost, because here like every where some people with good intentions are not able to keep the garden from growing in to weed and wild trees. But in this allotment they are willingly helping if allowed. An old man kept his garden very well, but has fallen ill this summer. Those who can keep his garden for the time being. He probably helped others in need at times.
Anna, who grow one of the gardens, showed us around. She has a great knowledge of the individual gardens and the culture they represents, and could point out where inspiration had crossed garden fences and cultural borders. The quiet cultural exchange.
Garden with, as far as I remember, afghan roots. Note the large bed with coriander, this amount is not yet consumed by any old danish families. Also beds with tiny leek-like plants – could it be tareh? Anna have tried to ask, but have not been able to communicate with the family, as she and they have no language in common. Tareh is a small leek, grown like chives, cut several times above ground.
Sunday we had a relict plant excursion with Christina Løjtnant (Top photo). She know her plants, and willingly went in to our discussions on how old history a plant should have before we can call them relicts, and when is it really a relict from former cultivation, not the same species escaped a garden in recent times. She explained, that it is not the individual plant that proves to be a relict, but the pattern in which you find formerly cultivated plants around ancient churches, villages, monasteries and other places with traces of intense human activities. She pointed to the fields and meadows – out there relict plants are very rare, only found as single plants, not in populations like in this old village.
Common Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), formerly a classical relict plant, has for some unknown reason transformed from a relict plant surviving around old castles to an invasive species, no more restricted to specific areas where it was originally introduced.
June 9, 2009
On a trip to Jutland I had a chance to visit the garden of Inge Lise and Brian. Brian have two garden websites, Gourmethaven (in danish) and Potager.dk – Ornamental Kitchen Garden.
The beautiful bed with sandleek on top of chives touched my heart – I’m rather easily touched by any Allium. The garden is a heaven for both parents and three children, with lawn, flowerbeds, kitchengarden and two greenhouses.
The garden is full of small practical details. I noticed the solar lamp in the kitchengarden. Very convenient when looking for greens for the kitchen in the dark autumn afternoons. The compost pile is located in the middle of the garden, easily accessible from all over the garden. No hiding away. A statement of the value of garden compost. More of us ought to use the compost pile as a garden centerpiece, a fine signal to the community around.
The specialty most admirably in the garden right now is the Caucasian Spinach. It is a perennial very hardy climber from Caucasus. The leaves taste more gentle and fulfilling than ordinary spinach. The plant is very difficult to find, but the danish seedsavers Frøsamlerne offered it on their members exchangelist this year. It grows very well in Inge Lise and Brians garden, it is not allways growing this well in danish gardens. It was grown as a vegetable hundred years ago, but was forgotten. The garden culture was continued in Estonia, from where it has spread to Finland and Scandinavia, including Denmark.
Caucasian Spinach is related to mercury / Good King Henry, as one can see in flowers and leaves. The seedlings could be taken for mercury seedlings. It originates in mountains of Caucasus, where it climbs up in trees, having the root in shadow.
The yellow flag are in a dry spot. This bogplant reacts by growing shorter leaves, thus giving a much better show-off of the flowers. Inge Lise and Brian have used their knowledge on the nature of the boggy yellow flag in an opposite way of what most of us would have done. A copy could be considered
Thanks for a great garden visit!
June 6, 2009
I have to realise, that the to me so familiar Sweet Cicily is not the normal type, because it is utterly smooth. If I look it up in the Danish Flora by E. Rostrup, I read it should be downy, just like in the garden of Rie and NO.
In the district where I was born, I never saw any but smooth Sweet Cicily. Now I’ve been looking around in that area again, in my brothers garden and in the garden of Merete and Ejner, only the smooth version is known. It seems the smooth version is the only known in that area, nobody have heard of a downy version. And where I’ve met the standard downy version, people have never heard of a amooth version !
How is your Sweet Cicily ??? Please let me know !
My question is, wether the smooth Sweet Cicily is a variety or a different species? Apparently there is only a single species in the family of Myrrhis, it ought to be a variety (or could I be mistaken by the family Myrrhis ?) Could it be a type imported to the monastery gardens in catholic times, and from there spread to apothecary gardens, vicarage gardens and cottage gardens ?
In the kitchen I find the smooth version more appealing, as it washes more readily.
Did you know, that Sweet Cicily is effective againt fungal infections like Candida albicans ?
May 24, 2009
As many other people, I´m very fond of ramsons (Allium ursinum), I even had them in the garden (and maybe still have). Ramsons are invasive where they thrive. They went under the raspberries, to keep them down, but I’ve had second thoughts and given the plants I could detect away. The good thing about ramsons is that you in short time have a lot of them to eat, and no matter how much you pick (or weed) them they just continue growing.
Some years ago I had victory onion from several sources. It is much larger than ramsons, and where ramsons defoliate in the summer, victory onion keeps the leaves into the autumn. The very best is that it spreads very slowly, like a peony, and selfseeding is no problem. Only some of the seeds will sprout, and in the years they need to grow mature, they are very sensitive to animals activities. In other words – I have plenty of time to weed any volunteers if any should come.
It is actually quite difficult to grow from seed in open ground, due the the many mishappenings that are likely to hit small seedling in an ordinary garden in a span of five years. I haven’t succeded yet.
My first encounter with victory onion was in Siberia 1993. At most of the meals in private homes was served a sidedish черемша (cheremsha or tjeremsha), salted victory onion in smetana. I immediately became a fan of cheremsha! I love caviar, but this is even better. For years I tried to convince somebody in Siberia to send me seeds or plants, they only laughed at me and tried to make me understand that their victory onion can’t grow in gardens, they grow in the taiga and only there!
Stubborn or persistent? I started a search on the internet. Found Stephen Barstow in Norway, who send me some seeds of victory onion. I couldn’t get them to grow, but then I made contact with a friendly japanese woman in Sapporo in Japan. I had seen her photos of Allium victorialis in her garden. She send me seeds, and some of them sprouted after 6 months. Unfortunately they were all destroyed by animals passing my gardens in the next three years, although I did try to protect them with chickenwire. Time is a serious factor in the culture of victory onion.
Stephen Barstow has written about victory onion (seiersløk).
The seedy failures didn’t change me being stubborn/persistant. A dutch bulbcompany N.C. Nijssen offered two clones – ofcourse I had to buy both. Now I had a clone from Kemerovo in western Siberia and one from Cantabria in Spain. The one from Kemerovo is almost half size of the cantabrian one. A year after this “victory”, I saw some norwegians writing in a webboard about a local variety, grown in gardens on some of the Islands in Lofoten. I made contact with a norwegian woman on the island Vestvågøy, who send me a victory onion from her garden. Interestingly it seems, that her plant is the one that grows best in my garden. Investigations in the genetics of this victory onion shows, that it is likely to have come from Caucasus, where it once was in garden culture, and brought to Vestvågøy by vikings 1000 years ago.
Victory onion clone from Kemerovo has been very willing to flower and produce seeds. I’ve collected the seeds and shared them with other seedsavers, telling them about the challenge.
Stephen Barstow visited danish gardens in the summer 2008, I was lucky – he passed by my garden. He even brought me gifts: Allium victorialis spp. platyphyllum and Allium ochotense. The first is the same kind as the one I tried to grow from seeds from Japan, the other one is a synonym for Allium victorialis spp. platyphyllum. I wonder if they will look just alike. There could be differences, as it is not the same clone. And if I should decide to collect seeds, it’s a benefit to have parent plants that are not the same clone. They are both from far east asia, although I formerly wrote in this post that the latter was from Estonia. Well it passed through Estonia on its way to my garden. It probably passed a lot more countries, since departure from it’s original habitat.