herbs


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Home grown Greater Galangal Alpinia galanga

Like many a tourist, I bring home souvenirs. I have a preference for the botanical, non endangered kinds. Two years ago I brought greater galangal and lemon grass home from Thailand. They have both grown well since, but this post is only about the galangal.

In the early 1980’s I saw forests in Himalayas crowded with cardamom plants in the forest floor. These conditions I’ve visualised, when growing my greater galangal. Warm, shadow, nutritious, humid, but not wet. I’ve transformed it into a large pot, 23cm across, could have been even larger. Soil recycled from used growing bags from the greenhouse. The galangal never get direct sun. In winter I keep it withdrawn from the windows in the living room. In summer in the shade of the tomato plants in the greenhouse.

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Peeled galangal

What to do with the root of greater galangal? It is always the problem when growing something exotic (to you that is) – how can I make use of it in a pleasing way?
Galangal soup tasted delicious in Thailand. But I’ve never learned to cook Thai food. Really I was just re-potting the plant, never expected a harvest!
A quick search on the internet: Galangal is sold frozen in Asian shops.

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Sliced greater galangal ready for the freezer

The galangal was thinly sliced in a hurry, spread in a thin layer in a zip lock food grade bag. This way, we can pick a few pieces at a time to use in our cooking. Hope we learn to use greater galangal in our food.

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Galangal going into the bottle

The annoying end pieces shouldn’t be wasted…what to do…..Oh-yes..I cut them in tiny cubes, in a little bottle, cover with vodka and a dog tag around the neck:

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Greater Galangal Vodka

Now patience, let the galangal and vodka rest some months.
Will be a joy to sip in the midsummer nights.

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Artichoke Cynara scolymus Serridslevgaard

Now it is finally thaw. The snow has melted for two days, giving me an opportunity to look for some of the plants in the garden.
Have they survived the frost? In January and February, I have been quite calm. It is usually the sun in March, which burns my plants to death when the evergreen stands with frozen roots. These day I keep an eye on where the sun hits evergreens. Are there any plants to shade from the sun through the month of March?

Artichoke Serridslevgaard looks fine inside its little tunnel. But has the heart been damaged by frost, I shall not see it until later, when the leaves rot from the bottom. However, I have no reason to be pessimistic. The snow has lain in 2 ½ months, but it has not been extremely cold and the snow has isolated, so the ground has probably not been colder than in average winters.

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Chusan palm Trachycarpus fortunei

The Chusan palm does not look good. Again this year, much of the foliage from last summer is damaged. I’ve got a sensitive individual? As long as the heart survives, the entire palm will survive.

Chusan Palm in Snow
Same Chusan palm Trachycarpus fortunei one month ago

Note that the snow has covered the palm hearts. The heart is the point at the top of the stem from where the leaves extends.

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Kale Brassica napus Red Russian

My Red Russian kale has just today poked head up through the snow. It is a long time since I saw it last. It looks a bit weathered, but if I will not harvest more leaves from it, I’ll still get some tasty flowers shoots. Flower shoots I enjoy, for me it is the main reason to grow a little cabbage in my small garden. They come early, before there is much else to pick the garden. They can be prepared quickly in a little oil in a frying pan and taste fantastic. My favourite is stir fried with scallops and baby bulbs of bronze fennel.

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Bronze fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Bronze Fennel has grown below the snow. If we get a couple of weeks plus degrees, I’ll start to picking some of the baby fennel bulbs. Taste of individual bronze fennel plant vary. The plant in the picture is my favourite, it tastes sweeter than the other bronze fennels I have.

In the calendar, winter says goodbye – but meteorologists promises more snow in the coming week!

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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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Sweet Cicily from my own garden on top, below from the garden of Rie and NO

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.

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In old drawings you can also just notice the downy hairs

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 ?

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Bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

Bronze fennel is easy to cultivate, it is perennial and hardy. I guess most people just enjoy the beautiful view of this plant, but I also enjoy the delicious taste. At the same time I thin out the number of shoots, to get a more pretty plant the following summer. I use it either raw or lightly steamed/fried, just as bulb fennel is used in the kitchen.
Last year I made scallops with kaleflowers and bronze fennel

Normally you buy seeds of bronze fennel and then sow them directly in the garden. Take notice of taste and color as the vary a bit, and select the best plants. I have a single plant with a superior taste that I’m giving special attention. When bronze fennel is established in the garden, it starts to spread seeds, but in my garden it is far from a problem.

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Locals was invited for the coffee in the garden

The annual meeting was this year on the island Samsø. Ingrid, Lila and others had planned a wonderfull week-end. We have a tradition for visiting a lot of interesting places during our annual meetings.

Brian Krause has a post in danish on the meeting.
I mostly post pictures.

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Annette Mørch tells us about her Dexter cattle and the sheeps. She run an ecologic farm

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Ingrid has a passion for tomatoes, here German Striped and Brandywine

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Ingrid presents the museumgarden she tends

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I was surprised to find Virginia tobacco and hemp in the museum garden – it’s a hemp for rope, no use trying to smoke it! Both are old culture plants on Samsø island

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Homestead Fredensdal is part of Samsø Ecomuseum

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“Den jydske hest” called Herkules is an old danish breed

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Fredensdal is one of a very few places to meet the old danish breed “sortbroget dansk landrace svin”. Wonderfull pet pigs

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Gute sheeps are the most important employees in the islands department for environment

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The sheeps takes care of a beautiful landscape

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Both ducks and people live in cosy houses in village Nordby, who would guess they have a solar heat plant?

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Nordby’s solar heat plant

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After a long week-end with long walks, legs had grown somewhat long. Nice to spend hours on the ferry home remembering the good time

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Sweet CicilyMyrrhis odorata

Normally this is a quite hairy plant, but my version is hairless. I originates in the woods near Herlufsholm, a former benedictine monatery, Skovkloster (1135). It’s about 20 years ago I collected some seeds from a large clump at the edge of the wood. Ever since it has followed me in the different gardens I have had. It also grew in the hedge of garden of my childhood, not far from the monastery, also the hairless variant. Not until I saw the normal hairy form in a schoolgarden in Copenhagen did I understand I could be different.

Every garden should grow a few plants of Sweet Cicily. All parts are edible, both root, leaves, stalks and unripe seeds. When seed ripen to brown, I no longer enjoy them, since they get fibrous and unpleasant. Sweet Cicily thrives in the shadier parts of the garden many find difficult to grow well.

It is propagated by seeds, sown same autumn or very early spring (march or earlier), as it is shortlived and need to rest in the winters frost to grow well. It is a perenniel, starting very early in spring, when fresh delicious leaves are wellcome in the kitchen. It is hard on ground-elder, and could be tried to control the groud-elder. As a weed Sweet Cicily is easy to control, as it only propagates by seed, and plants are easy to dig up with no resprouting.

It has a sweet taste of anis/licorice, can even be used as a sweetener. Green unripe seeds are irresistible when passing by in the garden.

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