the world around


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 KitchenGardeners.org (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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

After visiting organic farm Mørdrupgård, and growing naked barley in my garden, I want to bring Anders Borgens video on YouTube to your attention. He gives a tour in his organic breeding projects, mostly grains. Language english. 9 min. Enjoy 🙂

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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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Anders Borgen led half of the participants in the fields

This year I had the opportunity to participate in an evening in the fields of Mørdrupgård, an ecological farm where Per Grupe grow organic grains. He cultivates over 300 old varieties of grains. When he gets a variety from the Nordic Gene Bank (NordGen), it’s just a small portion. It has to be grown several years, before he has grain enough of a variety to perform baking or malting tests. In the process some varieties are discarded, as they simply perform poorly, but most grow well in an ecologic field.

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Per Grupe welcoming the visitors at Mørdrupgård

It was a pleasure that so many participated, and understandable that one had to sign up in advance. We were so many visitors, that they used a speaker, enabling everybody to hear Per Grupes welcome speech. He has operated the farm since sometime in the 80’s.

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Lentils and oats

We saw a lot of wheat varieties, both the oldest einkorn wheat and emmer (farro), but also the adorable compact wheat and other varieties that would be celebrated by florists. Many a gardener would enjoy a row of these beautiful old varieties in the flower garden, to dry them at harvest time as everlasting flowers. Unfortunately I did not stop with the camera – I wanted to hear every word from those wise professionals.
The biggest surprise to me was, when we passed a parcel with lentils. In order to increase yields there were sown oats in rows for the lentils to lean at. There are many varieties of lentils that can thrive in Denmark. It is not a crop, I immediately think of growing in my garden. On the other hand, it could be a fine crop in combination with some vegetables, as it fix nitrogen.

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Crowding around the bread samples

Crops on the field must have a value. In these fields it is for human consumption. We had samples of bread and beer made by some of the old varieties from the fields of Mørdrupgård. There was plenty of flavour in the good bread.
My favourites were Aurion Svedjerug rye bread and Meyers barley bread, others had their favorites.
The beer was good, but as I was driving, I only had a small cup. Enough to experience the taste of good beer.
Then there was naked barley and rye kernels. Germinated for three days and then boiled a few minutes. Served on vine leaves with sauce verte. Imagine, you can boil the whole kernel in 2-3 minutes as long as they have sprouted a few days. Healthy fast food! When the corn is in the germination process, they are probably good for several days. I guess we are a lot of people, who can use this method in our modern lifestyle, where food sometimes has to be fastfood.

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After a good walk over the fields, most of us felt thirsty

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It was a beautiful midsummer evening


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