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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.

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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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Mangel (Beta vulgaris) Prizewinner

The exchange list of Frøsamlerne 2010 has been released.
As usual, there’s lots of rare and exciting varieties, collected in their gardens by members who are willing to share.

Do you know the Horn of plenty, alias African valerian (Fedia cornucopiae)?

Or Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides), a perennial climber with delicious edible leaves. I expect this to become a regular on the exchange list.

59 tomato varieties in all colours, shapes and sizes.

In 2010 ”Lost crops of the Incas” has become an independent grouping, including 3 types of Mashua Tropaeolum tuberosum), 2 types Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and a single Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia).

But also old local seeds, like the black barley = “Sort 6 radet Byg”.
The black oat, “Havre fra Ribe”, collected by Vavilov Institute (VIR) before 1920 (VIR K11504) in south west Denmark.

Take a look in the list, if you are a seed dreamer like me 🙂

I’m sure you can translate the list with Babelfish, Google or some other free language tool on the web.

This month the garden has looked clean and white.

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Chusan Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) in snow

Kirsten in her allotment

Today I went by Kirstens allotment with some garlic, potatoes and seeds. She grow 100m² and use every square meter fantastic. Ex. achocha (seen behind her) follow her very tall peas. In this way she understand to grow her garden very intense – very inspiring for me.

Good people have been very generous (thanks to Patrick and all of you), and donated/exchanged new varieties of garlic, even more than I have room for. Kirsten is one of these dear souls, who will grow the “orphans”. In time we will select for the best garlics in our gardens. Anne from a neighbor allotment comes a little later, and then they will plant garlic in both allotments today.

Back home I also planted garlic. First I had to bring some order to them.

Garlic ready to set

I still have 31 varieties, and I think I just have room for them. Some of them I’m confident with, and will only plant topsets. In this way I keep the variety in my garden, save space and can quickly grow more of them next year.

Cats or garlic

As the heavy clay soil is improving it loosens up. Cats of the neighborhood likes digging in it, messing the garlics around. To prevent this mess, I have covered the garlicbeds with mesh.

Next week I will spread some organic fertilizer, feeding the sprouting garlic roots.