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Dandelion and Petrowsky turnip fresh from the garden

There is always something to harvest in the garden,as long as the ground isn’t frozen. This time it’s the dandelion and turnips. They made a lovely salad, with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar.

DSCN7536The fresh December salad

When I was younger I could hardly eat dandelion, and only leaves in early spring. My taste have changed, and I am less fond of sweets, and more fond of the bitterness. This summer I discovered that green dandelion leaves picked in mid-July has a nice bitter and nutty flavour. Here in December dandelions taste almost sweet and nutty. The sweet taste has a different and more satisfying character than traditional sugar sweet. The bitter taste satisfies, as can be experienced if you eat traditional dark chocolate (please note that the big companies are starting to make dark chocolate that does not seem to get one to stop eating naturally. Good for their bank account – bad for customers’ BMI)
The root has a similar wonderful flavour. I peel it and slice it thinly.

Dandelion is the ultimate easiest grown vegetable I can think of.
No sowing, it is self sown (weedy).
No weeding, remember, it’s a weed.
No watering, It’s weedy and hard to kill.
Only work involved is reaching to the ground for the harvest.

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Turnip Brassica rapa Petrowsky Gulia

The turnips are among the last of the ones I sowed after harvesting the garlics. The most typical, I moved to a bed where they next summer will flower and set seeds. The other large turnips we have eaten during the autumn. Left are the smaller ones, which still grows in the mild December weather we have at the moment.

If we want a spicy taste, we eat them raw with the skin on. For a mild turnip, we draw the skin off with a knife. One of the secrets of turnips 🙂

Petrowsky Gulia is an old Danish strain of an Eastern European cultivar, as I have written about in a previous post:

https://toads.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/seeds-from-nordgen/

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Oca (Oxalis tuberosa). Small but beautiful

In spring, I received some oca tubers. They were planted and cared for reasonably well. But our autumn weather, I can not do much about. The frost came early this year but I pay attention to the weather forecast, and managed to put some bubble wrap over the bed. Later, when the snow arrived, I dug up two plants, but yields were not high. I decided to leave the last plant in the ground, covered in bubble wrap, and deep snow, hoping for it to size up the tubers in early winter.

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If the tubers could feel the cold, they would tremble pitifully 🙂

The much longer time in the soil, they tolerated well. Soil, bubble wrap and the thick layer of snow has managed to keep the frost away from the tubers. However, there has been so cold that the tubers is not greater than if I had dug them up with the first. It was otherwise my quiet hope that the extra time in the soil would increase yields.

Oca is not a candidate to be an important crop in my garden before people like Ian Pearson of Growing Oca, Rhizowen from Radix and others have selected some clones that can form tubers much earlier under northern conditions (they must be less day length sensitive). Originally it was the same problem with the potato, but it was solved by plant breeding. Can it be done again?

The beautiful seashell (from scallop) I was sent from Anselmo in Asturias, filled with his fine chilli. His gallery is filled with stunning images from his country house and the region.

PS. Do not ask me how oca taste! I still just dream about it.

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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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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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Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus) harvest of the year, lest “Pisac”, right “Cusco”

This time I succeeded getting a tiny ulluco harvest. I planted three different clones. One died. Of the two survivors, only the one from Cusco made a notable harvest. Well, not that the tuber are sizeable at all, but the output was heavier than the input! In their favour I must note, that they sprouted very late, in late June. Maybe they need a few growing seasons to overcome the move from Andes to Denmark?
Compare the size with the parent tubers below:

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The three tubers planted in spring. The small to the very right sprouted first, but only to fade away.

I was away a week in December. When I came home, the ullucos and their pots was frozen solid. An other week passed, before I managed to dig them out of the still frozen pots. The tubers in the surface had all died, but those deeper buried, but still frozen, survived to a large extent. Some died during the first week indoor, but most of them are still in good shape.

Don’t ask how they taste! I didn’t taste them yet. I believe a number of gardeners would like to try them in their garden. All will be saved for replanting in spring.

Ulluco – again an older post

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Garlic Allium sativum “Grethes supermarked”

For a short time snow cover the garden, and temperatures are below the freezing point. Only a few days ahead temperature will rise above the freezing point again. Garlic roots will not be frozen this time, but anyway, they can take all the frost we get around here.

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Artichoke ‘HerrgÃ¥rd’ Cynara scolymus

Artichoke is not reliable to overwinter in Denmark. Different varieties are clearly more or less hardy. One of the most hardy is ‘HerrgÃ¥rd’, an old heirloom from Scania (southern Sweden). It is said to have been in culture for centuries in gardens of the aristocracy in Scania and Denmark. ‘HerrgÃ¥rd’ is probably identical to the danish ‘Serridslevgaard’, but I can’t tell for sure, as I havn’t got hold on the latter. Do you grow it dear reader, please let me have a cutting 🙂

Many things have been written about the art of overwintering artichokes. Often by experts who never grew artichokes themselfes. Since I’ve overwintered my artichoke the last five years, I’m thus not an expert. I do it from a very simple theory. I believe moisture in the heart of the artichoke kills it at lower temperatures, and only at much lower temperatures will the temperature itselv kill the artichoke. Therefore I cover my artichokes with glass, with an inclination and earth touch towards west, as most wind and rain comes from that direction. The cracked pot is to keep down the glass in stormy weather. In case of severe frost I cover the glass and surroundings in snow, making an insulated hive for the artichoke. When snow melts, the glass leads water away from the heart.

In autumn i pot cuttings and store in the greenhouse as a sofecopy. I still didn’t have a truely cold winter on top of my artichokes. When that comes, with daytemperatures of -20 Celcius, I must be very carefull to add suficient insulation.

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Red Russian Brassica napus

After work today I went out in the gray afternoon with my camera. I was fascinated by the play of water drops on kale leaves. Kale seem to be equipped with natures nano tecnology.

Red Russian is a different kale. The classic kale is deep green with curly leaves, whereas this variety has feathered leaves. Color is somewhat different, with a notable silvery shine. Taste is sweet, and raw leaves are crisp to the bite.

A villager probably regocnise the colors from the swedes/rutabagas. Red Russian belong to the same species, whereas most other kales belong to same species as cabbage. When saving seeds it’s important to isolate from swedes/rutabagas and from other kales of this species, like the russian, sibirian and baltic kales, as well as the north german scheerkohls.

As the name indicate, Red Russian originates in Russia. It was probably known before 1865. Vilmorin-Andrieux mention it under the synonym Ragged Jack in their illustrated book on the vegetable garden. Not all agree that Red Russian and Ragged Jack are synonyms, but many seedcompanies treat them as such. If not synonyms, they are probably difficult to tell apart.

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Volunteers in my garden from seed spillage this summer after overwintered parent plants. Could any weed be better?

Read more about Brassica napus kale (Seed Ambassadors)

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Yacon crown in january

Patrick in the Netherlands asked how I store my yacon crowns.

The yacon crowns I have stored in peat in a jar in the bottom of an oldfashion cool larder next to the kitchen. Now looking to them I start to get worried. I have sprinkled them lightly with water on occasions to keep the peat slightly moist, but apparently it wasn’t good enough.

Now I have asked some experienced danish seedsavers also experimenting with yacon. One is in same troubles as I. But the other is much better at it. So what’s the art? Presumably they just had to be stored like dahlias, and my dahlias are doing well.

This is what she writes:
“I keep my (yacon) in wood dust above freezing point but cold – aprox. 3-4 Celcius. I do not sprinkle with water – they look OK. Some of the larger roots have started to dry out a little, but I believe they will survive. Our basement is humid. This is how dahlia is stored, and it should be same family.”

I don’t have a facility with a stable temperature around 4Celcius. The fridge might do, but it’s usually full. I need to find another solution. Then I think of what Rose Marie commented in my last post on yacon. Since winter until now has been very mild, I have now potted up the yacon crowns and put them out in the green house according to her advise. It’s a kind of russian roulette to my yacon crowns, I watch the weather forecast attentively every night. I have taken my precausions, trying to minimise the risk and slow it down when it comes. Pots are placed in green house directly on the ground to enable ground heat to travel up in the pots. Then I have covered with a double layer of bubblefoil (recycled). To increase the mass under the cover I’ve added a 2½litre flask of water, hopefully giving me more hours before frost are able to kill the yacon crowns.

Does someone else have experience storing yacon crowns?

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Eranthis hyemalis. First winter aconite in flower this year.

To me the new year starts by the arrival of the first winter aconite. Now the very early winter- and springflowers start their discrete color explosion, sending many a gardener out looking for early signs of growth under trees and bushes.

Seed saving from winter aconite is simple, as they ripen their seeds well, seeds are easy to shake off when ripe. But some patience is needed, as it take some years to grow into flower. Don’t one have the patience, some tubers from a garden or nursery grow well. But the spreading carpet of winter aconites in bloom is best started from seeds. Winter aconite is bewilded here and there, but unlikely to become invasive.

It grows very nicely under decidous bushes and trees, only needing light from sprouting until may. Be carefull if using a hoe, as tubers grow very shallow, and are easily injured after leaves die down.