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Moat and gatehouse at Borreby near Skelskør in Denmark

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.

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Greater Burdock, Gobo (Arctium lappa)

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!

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White Bryony (Bryonia alba)

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 🙂

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Borreby near Skelskør

More photos at Flickr (click here)

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Wolfberry, Goji (Lycium barbarum)

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.

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