flowers


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From left: Cherry plums with French tarragon in kombucha, Syrian rose (Hibiscus syriacus) buds, Cherry plums pure, Cherry plums with beetroot pieces, cherry plums with French tarragon

For some years, I have wild fermented unripe cherry plums, and been utmost satisfied with the result. This year, I repeat the process, now with some variations. I try to put some raw beetroot pieces into one of the glasses for red-coloured plums ferment. I put French tarragon in two glasses, one of which is fermented in kombucha.
Since I had to cut my Syrian rose slightly, I searched for it on the web and found, that it is edible. The buds are about the size of cherry plums, leading me to wild ferment a batch of them. Never read about anyone fermenting Syrian rose, could be wonderful.

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Cherry plums wild fermenting in boxes

My recipe for success:

Lactic acid fermentation. Prick the Cherry plums with a fork. Add herbs or beet pieces and cover it all in a cold 5% saline brine. Now, keep it a warm room temperature to start the wild fermentation. Let it bubble happy for a week or two, then relocate to a cool pantry. Fermentation develops gases that have to escape. In glasses release the lid shortly on a daily base (at longer intervals, when little gas is released). When I use plastic boxes (food grade), I use an extra box as lid an weight. It works very well, keeping the Cherry plums (or other ferments) neatly under the fluid, leaving a narrow space where gasses can escape. The bubbles seems to make enough turmoil to prevent mould from growing in the first most microbial active weeks. When I transfer them to a glass later, I can pack cherry plums closer, it saves space. And I don’t have to release the lid so many times.

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Cherry plums fermenting with beetroot for a nice red colour

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Cherry plums with French tarragon in kombucha

Fermenting in kombucha will probably be shorter than the lactic ferments. As I close the lid, only releasing pressure once a day there will be little oxygen available. I expect the kombucha culture to only develop a little under these conditions, enough to make a thin SCOBY on top, as a kind of interior lid. This may cause, a secondary fermentation, either alcoholic or lactic. The first time I saw a secondary wild fermentation, I was a little frightened. It was the spring shoots of Hosta. But the result was good and mild tasting. Now I have to wait and see how the plums in kombucha develops.

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Flower buds of Syrian rose (Hibiscus syriacus) fermenting with the box-method

When wild fermenting flower buds of Syrian rose, I decided to use the box method. From the taste of the raw flower buds, I guess they are very nutritious. All this nutrients can feed a powerful fermentation, with lots of gasses, a stormy fermentation. With the box-method no gasses will build up, but are continuous released.

Now my patience is put to test – I want to taste, but must wait.

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Eggplant Solanum melongena

Today the first eggplant flower showed colour. This year is a repeat of last year, where I didn’t get any seeds – it was too cold. I’ve just mixed the seeds a bit different, not so many of the line that didn’t set fruit last year, and more of those that did. In this way last years disaster get used to grow better eggplants in future. (If I can get seeds this year)


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Konjac Amorphophallus konjac

It was not planned, but happened anyway – the Konjac came in to flower. The corm has rested dry in a cupboard since autumn. 3 weeks ago the bud started growing, very rapidly. Yesterday the flower opened and took on the deep red colour. When I returned after work, I had to cut the flower immediately, and carry it out door into the snow. It has a penetrating odour like decaying flesh, probably perfect to attract the flyes needed for pollination in it’s native habitat.

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I’m impressed, that a flower can grow this rapidly from a corm, given no soil or water. All its nourishment and liquid was stored in the corm.

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The corm

The corm is huge. In Japan they cook a delicacy, konnyaku, from it. It’s a kind of jelly, supposed to be healthy and a joy to eat. It’s also employed by the European food industry. It is labelled E 425. See if you can find it in the supermarket!

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The flower I cut from the corm. I placed it in the snow in front of the kitchen window, and brought the corm inside the house again. The rest of the stem on top of the corm will soon wither away, and after a few months I can expect a single large leaf, shaped like a palm. I grow the Konjac for the beautiful leaf.

Last time I had a Konjac in flower was in 2008.

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Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) seedhead

It was about the time to make a new harvest of “Vild dansk” salsify, originating from Christiansø, a small island in the tiny archipelago Ertholmene in the baltic sea. It grows wild on the island, presumably bewildered from the small gardens around the naval fortress in times long past.

The seedhead looks like the dandelions miniature parachutes, ready to spread by the wind over a great distance. But I find it a bit slow to clean the pappus (parachute) from the seed. This year, inspired by SESAM, the swedish seed savers, I tried to cut off the pappus before the seeds matured. Indeed, it was an easy way to clean the seeds, for a private gardener that is.

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Salsify flowers open between 10 and 12 am.

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In the time between flowering and seed maturation it’s time to cut off the pappus. The pale yellow milk sap runs out and cover the injury. I cut quite low, where the shape goes from broad to narrow.

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The result is immediately clean seeds, to pick when the seed head opens, just in need of proper drying before they can be packed in paperbags.
A simple operation saving a good deal of work under garden conditions. I used a kitchen scissor, but a short beaked scissor would probably do a better job avoiding the neighbor stems when cutting.

This method could probably also be used for other members of the composite flowers, like lettuce and chicory. If it’s usefull with artichokes I don’t know, I ought consider it – they are slow to clean.
One thing to be aware of is the birds reactions. Do they see the cut seedhead as an invitation to eat all the seeds? With salsify the seeds were ready to harvest same day as the seedhead opened, hardly any time for birds to feed on them before I’m home from work to pick them all.

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Salsify between flowering and seedmaturity

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Alice in one of her brassica beds

Alice grow her garden to harvest green leaves during winter. She’s very consistent in this, more so than I’ve seen by other gardeners. This makes her garden a very interesting wonderland. She grows a lot of brassicas, and select hardy varieties. The hardiness is naturally selected, as Alice save a lot of the seeds in her own garden, year after year.

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Savoy Cabbage sown in autumn

Alice shared her knowledge on autumn sowing of cabbage for an early harvest next year. About being dependent on the autumn weather after sowing. If it’s too warm, the cabbage grow to a size where the low winter temperature induce flowering in the spring. If you try avoiding this by sowing later, the seeds might not sprout until spring, and you will not harvest earlier than if springsown. This spring half the savoy cabbage have gone to flowers, but the other half very soon form big heads. Alice tells she avoid saving seeds from these early bloomers. I didn’t ask, but I guess she harvest the savoy heads when mature, and then leave the roots and stalks to form flowers and produce seeds.

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Most plants grow where nature let the seed meet the soil

As Alice produce a lot of her own seed, there is a lot of seed scatter. In spring they germinate, and Alice has to sow very little. Instead the best volunteers are transplanted or eaten at the babyleaf stage, and the rest treated as weed. In the photo is among other vegetables a row of spinach beet she will harvest during the next winter.

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Italian Winter savory (Satureja montana), or would it be a kind of thyme (Thymus sp.)?

The Italian Winter savory was remarquable. First I thought it was an unusual lemon thyme, a bit similar to my own. A green carpet, an aromatic herb with a note of thyme. The Italian Winter Savory she found at a local greengrocer as and ordinary kitchen windowsill herb years ago. She is not really sure, if it is a Winter savory or perhaps a weird kind of thyme. It sets no seed, although there is both ordinay Winter savory and thyme in the garden to interbreed with. It’s an efficiant groundcover – Alice tells a little plant will cover a square meter in a year, it flowers in may and is perfectly hardy in Denmark, even in clay soils. I got a bit of it, and now it has to be kept within its boundaries, either by me or neighboring plants!

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Alice’s frontgarden

The frontgarden is full of romantic flowers, a flowering meadow. It seemed to have flowers for all seasons. This peticular day the columbines, geraniums and veronicas were the super stars. It must have taken a lot of years to find the right balance between the many species, and Alice told, that the Thalictrums tended to take over, so every year she will pick out a lot of them.

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One of the many small nurseries in the garden

Alice is a generous woman, and here and there in the garden you will find a little nursery. She is potting up a lot of plants, giving them tender loving care, until they leave for the right home. No reason to fear the killerslugs, though they live in the neighborhood. She use nematodes, and no plant seems to leave the garden without a douche of nematode water. The garden lies next to a meadow and a lake. Even if she keep the killeslugs at stake so they don’t bother her, they reinvade her garden again and again from the meadow.

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Alice sets out to clean seeds of Musk-mallow (Malva moschata)

Alice is a routined seed saver. It’s a pleasure to see her clean a large batch of Musk-mallow seed in no time. The dried seeds are in the barrel. She rub and turns the seeds vigoriously a few minutes. Then she dives to the bottom retrieving hands full of released seeds. She sift them through old outworn kitchen sieves with different mesh sizes. In this way she first get rid of the rough debris, then the fine debris smaller then the seeds. The final touch is blowing the last debris ower the edge of a flat tray. All done in five minutes!

Thanks for a great garden experience.
Slightly changed on 9th. of july 2009, as Alice gave me feedback.

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Sandleek (Allium scorodoprasum) on top of Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

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.

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Kitchengarden in raised beds

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.

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Inge Lise and Brian next to their Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides)

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.

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Caucasian Spinach with a flowerspike

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.

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Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus)

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!

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Corydalis cava

Suddenly I saw it there, between my iris. My old wish for this corydalis in my garden was suddenly fullfilled, with no human help! I know it from the woods, where it in places cover the ground here in april. It isn’t edible, but cheers my heart immensely 🙂 – thus can’t be a weed.

A happy moment for a lazy gardener.

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