wild plants


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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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Victory onion (Allium victorialis)

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.

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In wintertime the nettet stubs remind me where victory onion grows

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!

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For years I only saw leaves

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).

Seiersloek, victory onion from Norway
Victory onion in flower – after years waiting

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.

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Seedhead, victory onion clone from Kemerovo in Siberia

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.

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Two grafting twigs from a selfseeded appletree in Pillemark on island Samsø

Late this winter I was presented with two twigs from a selfseeded appletree. I rolled them in newspaper and buried them in them shadow untill needed in april. The twigs are far from ideal grafting twigs, but if everything in life has to be perfect, we’ll miss the small secrets of life.

I’ve tried to graft on an old cooking appletree. If I succeed I’ll let you know. My grafting technique is even less perfect than the grafting twigs. However apples are supposed to be very easy to graft – I might have luck.

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The selfseeded apple from Pillemark on island Samsø

We have a huge variety of delicous apples in Denmark, and most of them are available if you search them on the internet. Blomstergården offers a lot of the old apples (in danish).
The apple from Pillemark is still interesting, as it is tastefull, probably healthy (being a child of Filippa) and it has a unique shape. We are a few who are grafting this apple – hopefully at least one will be succesfull.

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My toolbox for the purpose: Household wrapping, alcohol, rags and bast

Recipes are inspiring, but I never follow them exactly. This time I also didn’t do as supposed to, but I was still very inspired from the grafting course I attended this winter. Basicly it’s an operation on living tissue. Cleanlyness is an issue. With rags and alcohol I wiped clean the twigs, the tree and the hobbyknife (No expensive grafting knife for this little grafting). I cut small pieces of the twig where I could find the most promising buds, taking care not to pollute the wounds by touching them with my dirty fingers. I placed them in T-cuts in the old tree.

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Grafting twig placed in a T-cut

At this point I was supposed to use a special wax, hot or cold. I wrapped the wounds in household wrap instead, tying it in with bast. It was an incredibly easy solution, hope it also will do the job. At this point I thought of the curious birds. They would probably tear the twigs, so I decided to hide them in milkywhite plastic, allowing some light to the buds. Now I just have to wait, keeping mysalf away form the twigs for the next three or four weeks. Then I hope to find callus, as a sign of healing and junction in progress.

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Three grafts protected under white plastic

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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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Acorns of Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur

Unlike North Western US, we have in Denmark no tradition of eating acorns. In USA indian tribes taught settles the art of preparing acorns for food. It has never become a major crop in modern agriculture. Oak trees must come to age, the fruit uneven from year to year, and are more difficult to harvest in large scale than corn or other grain crops.

Nick Routledge of Seed Ambassadors has written the article Opening the Oak Door

One day I found myself under a huge oak, walking on acorns. Made me think of Nick’s article – should I ever taste acorns, I’d better pick them now! I four minutes I filled a little bag with fallen acorns – the experiment had already started!

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Blended and soaked acorns

Acorns are rich in tannins. Healthy in small amounts, as the are much more damaging to vira and bacterias, than to humans. We know tannins already from black tea becoming bitter. Pedunculate OakOak is so rich in tannins, that it was formerly used for processing hides and ink can be made from leaving oak and iron in water for some time to mature. To consume acorns, it’s important to decrease the tannin content. They are water solouble, as anybody who tasted a bitter tea will recall. Given water and time, they will willingly wash out of acorns as well as tea leaves. The tannins darkens the water. Change the water several times a day, until it no more darkens. To speed up the process I increased the acorn surface by crushing them in a blender. In this way the tannins washed out in only five days. At least once a day I used boiling water, to discourage any microorganisms from joining in.

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Acorn dough spread on the baking sheet

I enden with 350 gram of blended, soaked and sieved acorns. I added 300 gram sugar, an egg and 250 gram butter. At this point I started to think more seriously about the taste. I decided on adding freshly grounded cardamom and ginger to camouflage any minor distaste. I finished the dough with some wheat flour to get a fair consistence, and put it on two baking sheets.

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Acorn cookies in owen and ready to eat

The cookies was baked at 170 Celcius. Normally that would be at a higher temperature, but can acorns take high temperatures? Well, after ½ hour they turned light brown on edges. Wonderfull smell of cardamom, ginger and butter.

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Acorn cookies

They taste wonderfull, somewhat like italian almond cookies. Next time I will do them without cardamom or ginger, to let the mild acorns set the taste.

When eating new plant material for the first time, allways go gentle. Start with very little, then wait and see if your are allergic or in any way get ill, before trying it again.

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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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Allium altaicum

Today this individual of altai onion is the beauty queen. Altai onion is the original species of welsh onion Alliun fistulosum, growing wild in the altai mountains and across to the lake bajkal. Being same species in wild and domesticated form, they cross freely, producing fertile offsprings. Both also cross happily with the ordinary cepa onion, but the offspring of this constallation will normally be infertile. These crosses can be propagated vegetatively.

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Allium altaicum

Altai onion has a major genetic variation, also expressed in the color of the leave protecting the young flowers. Altai onion are of a broad growth habit compared to welsh onion. Nice in the garden, but not accepted in a commercial production. It is consumed in the same way as welsh onion. It appears at least 14 days ahead of chives, making it a welcomed crop. My altai onion comes from seeds send me by mr. Smetana i Slovakia back in 2004.

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Welsh onion Allium fistulosum from scandinavia

This welsh onion I purchased at Tirups Örtagård many years ago. I grows erect. Contrary to the japanese varieties it survives harsh winters, as could be expected from an onion originating in altai mountains.

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Welsh onion Allium fistulosum from datcha in Irkutsk, Sibiria

The welsh onion from Irkutsk is clearly a morfologic in the middle between altai onion and the welsh onion from scandinavia. It is variable and very hardy, tolerating at least -40C. To be expected from a welsh onion originating in same region as its wild counterpart.

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Well ripe sloe.

Now the frost has gently carresed the blackthorn bushes, and we have picked some sloe from them. Often people pick earlier and deepfreeze the berries before use. I relie on nature to do the freezing for me, and believe the extra ripening on the bush gives a noble taste.

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Blackthorn is very dense and thorned.

Despite thorns, it’s a pleasure to pick sloe. They have a gourgeous dark blue color, and can bear a beautifully purple-blue waxy bloom.

sloe in vodka

Home with the sloe we find a broad necked bottle, fill it with sloe and cover in neutral vodka. Now we just have to wait – at christmas we can enjoy a noble sloesnaps.

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