0 thoughts on “permaculture

  1. Hi Alan, this is really useful stuff-thanks! I am very interested in what you are growing in NE. I am in Argyll and also experimenting. My garden was only started in April 2010 from a bare building site with drainage issues and lots of slopes, its also not very big so I’m squeezing things in. The hugs amount of rain since early May has been a bit of a problem and cold weather means some things ( like green and runner beans )are just not growing much at all.
    I’ll follow your posts with interest.

    • Hi Marlyn
      Thanks for the comments. I can see how it would be a problem, but I’m actually a bit jealous of the ‘drainage issues’: I’d like to experiment with water-loving plants like flowering rush Butomus umbellatus but the only wet area I have is a small and completely artificial pond fed by water off my shed roof. I saw a forest garden in Argyll a couple of years ago, by Michaela Hunter at Dun Beag in Tighnabruaich. She was managing to grow much more tender plants than me due to having a south-facing slope and the Gulf Stream – I wonder how it is getting on with this year’s weather.
      Cheers
      Alan

  2. The Gathering was very good – a fascinating bunch of people with a wide range of experience. They are in the process of changing from being a trade association to having a wider role bringing together enthusiasts and promoting sustainable foraging, so I think I’ll join.

  3. Hello there I have just discovered your blog and am very pleased. I too have made a forest garden, in fact two, one in Sheffield which I hardly ever get chance to visit and one on the edge of Milton keynes, it is small, 11×9 metres, but very beautiful and my absolute pride and joy. The most unusual things planted so far are Bladder Nut, Blue Bean and prostrate Raspberries. It was a plot on the local allotment site which no one wanted as it is very heavy clay, water logged, shady and covered with couch grass, field bind weed and Ash seedlings. Ive not been good at letting the wider community know it is there, this is my first, public “coming out “about it. I was really pleased to find your info on Shitake as mine has just been sitting there, I couldnt understand why you should beat them and now, thanks to you I get it! I will go and retrieve my log today and give it a good pasting. followed by a bath. Mandy

  4. I moved to Aberdeenshire in 2007 after gardening in North Wales for 24 years and I brought a lot of plants with me, including Sweet Cicely which didn’t like the intense cold winter and perished. I have since discovered it grows everywhere here and the local variety is winter-proof. I have used it for years to sweeten fruit when stewing of for jam making when you can reduce the amount of sugar considerably.

    • In my experience, sweet cicely really isn’t fond of being transplanted, so it might possibly have been that rather than the winter cold that did it. How much sugar do you use in your cicely-powered jams? I don’t like too much sweetness, so I usually use the minimum of sugar I find I can get away with without impairing the keeping qualities of the jam (about half the weight of the fruit). Do you know if the sweet substance in sweet cicely helps with preservation or whether it just adds to sweetness?
      This kind of knowledge-sharing is exactly the sort of thing I started the blog for, so thanks for your comments!

  5. I grew and used big lovage in Wales for years but it is very large and very strong in flavour. Where can I find Scots lovage to grow now I live in Aberdeenshire…I would love to grow it …makes excellent carrot and lovage soup…….

  6. If you can wait until winter when I can lift and divide my plants, I could give you some. Alternatively, I got mine from Poyntzfield Herbs (www.poyntzfieldherbs.co.uk/) up in the Black Isle, who do mail order. In Aberdeenshire, you might be able to get some from Erica Hollis at Rowancott Herbs (www.rowancottherbs.co.uk) and I’d also recommend Plants with Purpose (www.plantswithpurpose.co.uk). If you just want a leaf to try, try a walk along the shore!

  7. I have been a low sugar jam maker for as long as I found out you could(I am 63) because I don’t like oversweet things but you have to work out how low-sugar you can get to without risking the whole lot starting to ferment . Keeping stored jam very cool is the best advice…not in warm kitchen cupboards. I have also made jam using apple juice concentrate instead of sugar following a small leaflet on sugar-free jam making I picked up maybe 25 years ago at the Royal Show (now defunct) from a Wholefood school exhibit…to make a jam which is not a proper ‘preserve'(ie: it isn’s preserved by sugar from growing moulds) so you make small quantities , fridge them to eat fairly quickly or freeze them for later use. Their approach to sweet cicely was eg: for gooseberry use 3 sprigs to 11b berries and 1/2 pint apple juice concentrate.
    They also substituted angelica for sweet cecily in some recipes and I grew that in Liverpool in the 70s when our children were small , but never tried it in preserves.
    When I made jam as a preserve (ie: with sugar) I used at least that quantity of sweet cecily and fished it out later in the production stage and it works well. I used a traditional jam recipe and reduced the amount of sugar by at least a third each batch to see what worked well.
    I don’t think the plant assists in preserving the jam.
    My other tip is about the amount of liquid to use – ie: as little as possible before cooking the fruit and, as I have often frozen gluts when a freezer was available, when defrosted there is usually liquid to start with so cook up slowly before adding the sugar or whatever else.
    I used to bottle fruit also and think low sugar fruit jams could be done that way in preserving jars in the oven, slowly., although I have never tried it (yet).
    I brought small seedlings from Wales and also grew some from seed but the winter here just outside the Cairngorm National Park was just so very much colder than Snowdonia, which had got steadily warmer and wetter in the years we lived in Wales …we really lost our snow and i suppose the plants changed subtly also (we were at 1000’ in heavy clay).
    Thanks for the blog – it’s very useful, interesting and encouraging.

  8. Hiya Alan,
    BRILLIANT!
    I’m designing a demonstration forest garden for my allotment site in Glasgow at the mo….The space I have is communal space adjacent to my plot..and is born out of traditioanl plotties wishing to plant fruit trees, but not necessarily on their plot cos of space/shade etc. South-facing linear edge of allotment site about 70ft by 30 ft but maybe with option to extend onto adjacent plot which is a bit bereft and abandoned at the mo….Im at the observation/design phase- hoping to plant up with bare roots this winter and establish the ground layer in the spring…..very excited to have your blog to learn from.
    Cheers!
    Natalie

  9. Thanks for sharing some useful information. I am researching plants to create a forest garden area on my allotment, and its very helpful to read first hand experience, especially of the more unusual edibles..
    There is a large lime tree outside where i work but unfortuately the council has just done an overzealous pruning job on it and removed all the branches within reach.. i’m sure theres plentty of others about though 🙂

  10. Councils can be a hazard that way, can’t they? Fortunately ours has run out of money for zealous management and is allowing a lot more community management of local greenspaces, so I’m getting to plant fruit trees all round the estate where I stay. I’ll post details one of these days.

  11. I have been growing opium poppies for the first time this year, and they are beautiful (if fleeting). I have brought the seed heads inside to harvest the seeds, but haven’t got around to using them in any recipes yet 🙂

  12. Delighted to find your blog Alan! I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the allotment plot is developing and I love the way you write. Not sure if you still have the same e-mail, as I sent you an e-card last year, but haven’t heard from you recently. Pleased to see that things seem to be going well in Aberdeen.
    Tracey

    • Hi Tracey
      Great to hear from you. I don’t remember getting the e-card, but I’m still using the same email. I had a look at your blog too. I liked the artistic bird feeders – very Tracey. The saga with the polytunnel sounds very frustrating – if you do ever figure out how to do the ‘armoured polytunnel’, do let me know how.
      Happy Hogmanay
      Alan

  13. My mashua yielded 2 kilos of tubers from one plant this year. It’s productive, but tasty? Not in any way I’ve ever discovered. Ocas do well. I’m hoping we can breed some better varieties more suited to long day summers.

  14. I’m so glad to have found your blog, and this post in particular! I had no idea there were perennial brassicas. These are absolute must-tries. (I wonder if I can get seed in time for this year…) Right now I am mostly an annual vegetable gardener, but I have the ambition to move into perennials where I can. Your site will be a definite resource for me! Thanks for all the great information.

  15. Hi Sharon. Thanks for the comment. I’m sure you’ll be able to get nine-star seeds this season, but Daubenton’s kale is trickier because it doesn’t set seed and has to be propagated by cuttings. It takes cuttings extremely easily though, so it’s a great one for swapping over the garden fence – maybe you would be able to get it from a gardeners’ bulletin board. (That said, I read in a discussion group that someone’s Daubenton’s had flowered after they accidentally drenched it with comfrey feed, so maybe Daubenton’s seed and interesting crosses are on the way.)

  16. I find I can grow watercress in one of my polytunnel beds without running water. It makes a good all year salad veg.
    I did get some fruit from my Lonicera this year, apparently you need two varieties for good pollination.
    Interesting to read of your other rejects.

  17. Hi Marlyn
    Interesting to hear about your Lonicera. I have 2 plants, but they were from the same supplier and are possibly clones I suppose. Someone else on the allotments is planning to get one (They’ve been rebranded as ‘honeyberries’ apparently 🙂 ) so maybe I’ll start getting fruit once theirs flowers. One thing I’m definitely learning about the ‘rejects’ is never to give up completely on any of them; quite a number have come off the list over the years as I have learned something new about them or found a different variety.

    • Don’t any of your suppliers give cultivar names? If you just have two cultivars, they can pollinate. Some are earlier and some later though, so make sure they bloom at the same time so they actually pollinate each other. Here is a page that gives some cultivars and they’re blooming partners. http://www.burntridgenursery.com/fruitingPlants/index_product.asp?dept=38&parent=28
      I have ‘Berry Blue’ as a pollinator for five ‘Tundra,’ since one plant can pollinate eight others, or so I’m told. ‘Borealis’ is a good match for ‘Berry Blue’ also. These are Japanese cultivars, which I read bloom a bit later than the russian, keeping frosts from recking the flowers.

      • I got them back before edible honeysuckle had been reinvented as honeyberry and become widely available, so there were no cultivars available at the time. The question is whether that means they were all genetic individuals or whether they were just all the same clone! Nowadays most suppliers will have several different cultivars: I just ordered Balalaika and Blue Velvet from Martin Crawford at ART.

        • I have heard of Blue Velvet, but not Balalaika. I look forward to hearing how it performs!
          That’s tough not knowing if your plants are clones or not. It’s a wonderful thing to have so many plants we can pick from today, named, categorized, and tried. Thanks for adding your own experiences!

        • I’ve just eaten my first honeyberries from a bush planted last year. Only 2 this year but very tasty. I have 2 varieties bought from Scotplants direct at glenrothes as I understand this is needed to get fruit. we’re in the Highlands at 1000ft but last winter was not very cold for very long so I can’t say if they will survive a severe winter.

      • Actually, Tundra and Borealis which are from the University of Saskatchewan are are Russian/Kuril Island hybrids. Dr. Bob Bors, who heads the USask breeding programme, indicates that he is now working with Japanese genetic material from Hokkaidō in Northern Japan and crossing it with Russian and Kuril germplasm.
        Honeyberry varieties such as Berry Blue, Blue, Belle, Cinderella, Svetlana, Polaris, etc. are all Russian varieties. Most were bred at the N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg but were renamed when they were introduced into the United States in the mid-90’s.
        Here’s a list of renamed Russian, Ukrainian and Czech cultivars – http://goo.gl/kwFiS4

        • I know the varieties I mentioned are later blooming, which is supposed to be a characteristic of the Japanese cultivars. Hybridization can make for some confusion though, so you are probable right that they have some Russian in them.

    • I have two varieties of Lonicera and, though the plants grow very well up here on the Black Isle, fruiting has been erratic, and ripeness very hard to judge – picked too early they taste like concentrated tonic water. Horrible.
      However, I shall persevere for two reasons. Firstly, the plants can reputedly survive -50 degrees, so if wd eved get a lkng cold winter again tgeh will be fine. Secondly, they flower very early and provide much needed early season feeding for emerging queen bumblebees.

  18. Maybe your little slackers are off scouting for rape fields to give you a hard time later on… Or given your tropical spring, maybe it’s already in flower with you?

  19. In the middle of Aberdeen, who knows what they’re finding! It makes delicious honey anyway. The tropical spring has got a ridiculous number of things in flower already, but there’s snow forecast for tonight, so they’re going to get a bit of a shock.
    Sorry to all the subscribers who got a half-finished version of this post by the way – hit the wrong button!

  20. We find that our bees like to go off to other people’s gardens for forage, even though we have loads of things they are supposed to like..For example. they’ll raid our neighbor’s snowdrops and leave ours well alone.
    Beautiful picture of bee!

    • It is gorgeous, isn’t it? Maybe the girls realise they don’t have to bother pollinating for us; they can cover their rent just by hanging about doing cuteness. (Especially when Andy takes such fine photos of them.)
      The out apiary is quite near to a friend’s herb garden, but it took them months to deign to visit any of her flowers. Definitely a law unto themselves.
      Emma

  21. I’m interested in the solomon’s seal, I have some currently shooting up in a shady place in the garden
    However I’m a bit reluctant to try eating it because I read on the internet that they can cause unpleasant effects ‘cathartic’ was the expression used!
    So, does anyone reading this have any experience of eating this plant?

    • Hi Jemima. I’ve now tried Solomon’s seal and first the good news: no cathartic experiences! The bad news is that I didn’t like it much. I found it had a bitter taste which suggested alkaloids, possibly explaining some of those unpleasant effects if they were eaten in bulk. The leaves (or rather the part of the stem with the rolled-up leaves) was the worst, but even with that removed I could still taste it. I do have particularly sensitive taste buds when it comes to bitterness, so perhaps it wouldn’t bother some people. Some recipes suggest changing the cooking water once or more, but I’m not willing to go to such lengths. Possibly there are better varieties around than the one I tried.

      • We tried young shoots a couple of years ago, cooked like asparagus, and they were delicious – quite sweet. But they seem to take a long time to get to the size where I’m confident to cut shoots without killing the plant.

  22. I’m especially looking forward to seeing those cherry trees growing. For anyone who remembers the orchard area at Big Tent Festival 2009, those cherries were the ones we were gratefully scoffing in buckets at the SWHA launch. They’d been donated with the sole proviso that we save the stones, and we decided it would be in the spirit of the gift to take some home with us and propogate them ourselves. I’ve already passed others on for planting in Aberdeenshire and beyond, but after nurturing them for 3 years it’ll be good to have a couple nearby as well, and see how they turn out.
    There are still few seedlings left; I might pot them up for another SWHA stall at another Big Tent, and complete the circle!

  23. I’m so pleased all that hard work is paying off Alan – especially with the trees. Have you managed to persuade all the kids that the fruit is worth eating by now?
    Got our local Abundance group (ie. we pick unwanted fruit in the area and redistribute) to an event at “Incredible Edible Todmorden” a few months ago, and they are inspired to take up the challenge too, so we’ve got a few fruiting hedges cropping up here now. Mine is gooseberry and red currant and there’s a mulberry tree too, when it finally gets around to fruiting.

  24. Thanks Alan, very clear and informative info, I have just grown some lathyrus so its good to know they will be good amongst the raspberries. I am trying to find out what is best to grow under asparagus-any ideas?

  25. Hi Marlyn. The natural habitat of asparagus is on disturbed soils on the sea shore and river banks, where it can hang on due to its dense root system. Like a lot of things that live in those conditions, it relies on the competition being less well adapted and isn’t very tolerant of competition. There is often a succession in such habitats, where plants like asparagus stabilise the soil and then other plants come in and outcompete them.
    In a garden, this succession would begin immediately if the asparagus weren’t weeded vigorously. When you’ve put in the effort of getting asparagus established and are looking forward to 20 years of cutting spears, that’s probably not what you want, so the traditional way of growing asparagus is to keep the soil around them clear and feed them well. In this case I think the traditional practice is well based on the ecology of the plant so I would go with it.
    On the other hand, if you want to experiment, I’d try something low growing and deep rooting in the hope that it wouldn’t compete too much with the asparagus. WIld rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) might be a good one.

  26. Immediately after reading about hostas, I went down the road to an abandoned garden and picked a few shoots which I have just eaten, first I chopped the tender stems and added them to a salad, then I chopped up the rest of the leaves and stems and stir fried them and then topped a dish of vegetables and rice with them.
    Raw, they have a very nice crunchy and juicy texture, but hardly any flavour, and cooked they just blended in with the rest of the dish. However, I don’t know what kind of hosta it was, it’s just green with no marking on the leaves.. But worth a try anyway!

    • Hi Karen. That’s often the case isn’t it? A couple of years ago we had a beautiful blackbird in the allotments that had been tempted in by one of the other allotment holders hanging bird feeders in the trees. As a result it got into the habit of giving anything hanging in a tree an exploratory peck, which led to half of our plum crop being ruined and the other half having to be picked early!
      Fortunately with hedgehogs it’s a win-win situation. As well as being full of character, they’re very good for the garden as they eat slugs and snails, which is why I try so hard to entice them in 🙂

  27. Hello!
    Stumbled across your blog after being hit by the forest garden bug. So far I’m devouring a couple of books and formulating a “shopping list”. I have to keep things sensible though, in a small-ish back garden! How is your Japanese plum doing? It is on my “that’d be nice” list but I’ve not found a stockist yet. I’m also set on a Siberian pea tree, but slightly worried by the very varied “final height” estimates!

    • Hi. Glad to hear you’re thinking about trying a forest grden. Having just read your post about rendering it at least sounds safer than some of your other experiments! The Japanese plum is doing well and maturing a reasonable crop this year, despite some late frosts and the current Month of Gloom. I don’t know how big it will end up: it’s still growing strongly and I may yet regret placing it where I did. It does unfortunately seem impossible to source from UK suppliers at the moment. I sent Martin Crawford a rooted cutting from my unusually North-hardy tree so perhaps it’ll be available from the Agroforestry Research Trust some time. Alternatively I can raise a very limited number of clones and a few more from seed every year.
      I suspect that the Siberian pea tree is at the lower end of its size range in Scotland. There’s one in the Edinburgh Botanics which is barely 3m and looks like it isn’t getting any bigger. I have one and it seems to be thriving but can’t say what its final size will be yet. We imagine that anything from Siberia should be able to cope with Scotland but in fact they have much hotter summers than us and a lot of plants from there don’t manage to ripen their fruit here.

  28. Hi Alan
    I found your delightful blog a couple of days ago and have just finished reading through it. I am so pleased to read about all your experiments, what is working, what is not. I am particularly impressed with the Japanese plums and cherry plums, they look and sound so tasty!
    Your post on germination and determination was particularly useful. I am experimenting with as many perennial veggies as I can in my garden at home and find similar difficulties germinating some perennials. We had trees in situ when I first heard of forest gardening so I haven’t done much with the upper layers, concentrating on the herbaceous things that hopefully come back year after year. I don’t have masses of room and things are pretty squashed in together.
    I am in Shropshire and its really useful to hear about what works as far north as Aberdeen!
    I will be putting a link to your blog from mine in a minute and will sign up as a follower to keep up to date with what you are doing.
    Oh and if you have any Hamburg parsley seeds left I would like to give them a go. Am letting parsnip and some other roots run to seed this year to see if they will self set around the place.
    Best wishes
    Anni Kelsey

    • Hi Anni
      If you’re in Shropshire, you must be close to the original British forest garden, Robert Hart’s garden at Highwood Hill Farm on Wenlock Edge. No Hamburg parsley left I’m afraid, but the self-seeded parsnips are coming up nicely. Which other roots are you thinking of trying?
      Cheers
      Alan

  29. Hello from the Netherlands! This is a great blog to stumble across and makes me feel less alone – I’ve designed and just started implementing a forest garden system on a small garden-size plot within a permaculture demonstration project. We are in year two and the biggest issues have been soil remediation (we have dusty, dead sandy rubbish) and finding the plants I want. Thanks for the useful feedback about how you use some of your produce – that seems to be a skill in itself. I hope over time we’ll be able to add something useful to this increasingly popular growing concept. I just linked to your blog through an article on our site, hope that’s OK. Maybe all we mini-forest gardeners should network somehow?
    Thanks again for sharing!
    Best wishes,
    Fiona

    • Hi Fiona
      I’m on quite a sandy soil too: nutrient poor but at least it’s freely draining and easy to work. As the organic matter builds up in the soil it should start to improve. You’re right about the ways of using the produce being an important part of the whole understanding. I didn’t think of that when I started but I have repeatedly found that my attitude to a plant has completely changed when I have found a new way to cook / prepare / preserve it. Best luck with your forest garden.
      Alan

  30. I can sympathise. We’re having the West Coast’s weather as well, and we’re supposed to be in one of the driest parts of the country. I’m glad you’ve given me a name for the flowering heads of garlic because we’ve got lots of them…

  31. I recommend giving the Chinese Artichokes another try. If you grow them in pots, and just dump the pots out, they are way easy to harvest. Harvested as soon as they’re ready, they don’t even need washing, just a brief rinse. And I do think they get the award for world’s cutest vegetable! And tasty — stir fried in butter, or simply thrown onto a salad.

  32. I agree – it was excellent. It was especially encouraging to learn about plants that flourish in a Scottish forest garden 🙂

  33. Would you consider adding Calendula Officianalis petals to pesto? Have been making this with nastrutium leaves, or rocket or mint but wondered about adding the orange petals.

  34. Hi Marlyn. That sounds like a great experiment. I imagine that the taste would be lost amongst the strong flavours of a pesto but the colour would persist and make it look great. I guess it would be best to avoid using strong green colours in the same pesto as orange plus green might add up to a rather unappetizing brown. If you try it, please let me know how it goes.

  35. Hi Alan, we mix in calendula flowers with our nasturtium pesto. Often we add them after we mix the pesto with pasta so as to retain their colourful effect. I would definitely recommend meadow sweet, Filipendula ulmaria used in a cordial, unique but delicious and of coUrse they thrive in damp conditions. Thanks for mentioning my blog In you article, really appreciate it! Ciaran.

    • Hi Ciaran. I love the smell of meadowsweet but I’ve never had great success in capturing it in a cordial or such like (perhaps you could do a recipe on your blog?). I tried a meadowsweet wine once which was delicious and there is even someone over here who makes meadowsweet-flavoured white chocolate 🙂

  36. An interesting post, I’ll try the recipe next year when the elderflowers are out again.
    Here is another recipe for rhubarb jam from Elizabeth Craig’s The Scottish Cookery Book
    RHUBARB AND FIG JAM
    6 lb rhubarb
    5 lb sugar
    1 lb figs
    2 oz crystallized ginger
    Trim and wash rhubarb. Cut into slices about 1″ thick and palce in basin. Cover with sugar and soak for 24 hours. Place in a preserving pan. Wash figs in warm water, dry and remove stalks then cut up. Add to rhubarb with the ginger, finely chopped.
    Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then till boiling. Boil steadily for about 30 minutes on a medium heat till a little sets when tested.
    The combination of rhubarb ginger and figs is truly irresistible!

      • Rhubarb also makes a very good vegetable-I have used it combined with duck and pork, and some Dutch friends told me they have it with mashed potatoes.
        I’ll try your elderflower combi next year as well as I’m hoping to have a glut of rhubarb having planted some new plants this year.

  37. Thanks Alan, love the idea of the jam with elderflowers-wish they weren’t all finished for this year but great idea for next summer.
    I have a question regarding growing rhubarb with other plants-have you ever noticed any negative effects? I am thinking most people have it in a patch on its own. Currently I have leeks and red russian kale in the same bad and neither look as good as the same plants elsewhere in the garden. I also had some new summer fruiting raspberry canes in this bit earlier this year which completely failed to grow. I’m keen to learn more about positive and negative polyculture combinations-especially the negatives as most books only talk about the positives.

    • Hi Marlyn. That’s interesting about the kale since brassicas are the plants most consistently listed as benefiting from being planted with rhubarb. I’m always a bit wary of companion planting advice though, as there seems to be a very high ratio of hearsay to actual research and experience. In my own experience, I have rhubarb planted next to day lilies, Daubenton kale and blackcurrant and they all seem fine with it. Rhubarb is likely to be quite a heavy feeder so particularly if the plants are young they might just be outcompeting your other crops for water and nutrients.

  38. Hello its really inspiring to stumble upon your website . Im also experimenting with an edible garden with a few fruit trees and perrenial veg and ground cover wild garlic and strawberries and herbs. My gardens about the size of an allotment on the west coast of scotland near oban ..I will keep reading your blog and looking at the lovely photos. Jo

  39. Love your website! I am on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA – the far northwest corner of the U.S. Our climates are very similar. I greatly appreciate your practical view of things. We grow many of the same plants. Looking forward to reading more about what you have going & learning from your experience. I am trying to do more with perennial veggies. Thanks for all the great info! (see my main website at http://barbolian.com).

  40. I’ve been using this for a few years now, I find it handy to sow some fresh every 3-4 years as the old plants get a bit worn out. Nice blog by the way, just spent an entertaining and informative hour here.

  41. fabulous!!
    my mission over the next year or two (lifetime actually) is to get rid of the grass and replace with forest garden, more veg and fruit, useful plants (just bought 20 willow)
    who do I go to in the council for the woodchip..?
    Bryan

  42. We asked the tree care people as they do lots of chipping. It helps that we are a Council allotment site, I don’t know whether they would have been so helpful to an individual. It is also worth phoning round local tree surgeons, particularly if you can give them a spot where they can dump it without you having to be around. Good luck with the mission.

  43. Hi Alan
    Can’t find a working e-mail for you, so I hope you’ll accept my best wishes for any Midwinter Festival you are celebrating at the moment. Hope 2013 turns out lucky for you too. We’d love to see you if you are passing (still do open house for all-comers, no matter how hungry).
    Tracey (and co)

  44. Hi! I just read some of your articles and signed in as a follower. I’m Dutch, but I live since 6 years in France (right in the centre, in the middle of nowhere). I just found out about permaculture and realize that I already was thinking in that direction. But still a lot to learn! I’m sure I can do that by reading your blog. Thanks for that. All a great green new year!

  45. Thanks. Best wishes for 2013 to all of you too. I’ve sent you an email, so hopefully you’ll get my address from that (still the same one it’s been for years).
    All the best
    Alan

  46. My woman troubles include the double shift but we’ll not go into that. Anyhow, I’ve also been working on letting parsnips go partly feral. Good to know that they dealt well with weed competition. My first experiments (in my old garden) suggested that though they were good self seeders, not all the little seedlings made it through the winter. Those that did though did not suffer from premature flowering the second year but grew well. This, I understand, is typical of some biennials that die after seeding. They try to get big enough before bursting into flower so sometimes take three years (or even four) before seeding if I’m remembering correctly. This is my second attempt at letting them go feral (at my new home). The two year old parsnips this year flowered with gusto and I have a heavy crop of parsnip babies overwintering under the snow. I’ll let you know how they do.

  47. Another wonderful entry. Please keep your dialogue going. I’m one of many, I’m sure, who are living a little vicariously through your writing. PS: was delighted to learn about the Plants for a future database. How did I miss that!?

  48. Interesting and backed up by us having dug up 2 rather splendid parsnips from the orchard area (which is actually mostly under brambles at the moment). Only small problem for us is that we also have wild hemlock. I don’t think there should be an issue with identification, but I suspect one of those 6 page risk assessments requirements will be dropped on my desk!
    Do you think parsnip tea will stop himself sleeping in the middle of the double bed then?

  49. Wonderfully inspiring!
    Can you tell me a little about your growing conditions?
    I see you began with sandy soil.
    What about the elevation, annual precipitation, average temperature, wind conditions, etc?
    I love to keep all that in mind as I look at a virtual food forest.
    (I live in north central new mexico in the states).
    Paul

  50. Hi Paul
    The soil is sandy but now very black and full of organic matter. The elevation is close to sea level. Compared to New Mexico, Aberdeen has a very maritime climate – mild in the winter and cool in the summer. Scotland is very windy in general but my garden is pretty sheltered by the surrounding walls and hedges. For full climate details you can go to http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate/?tab=climateTables and put Aberdeen in the location box, but bear in mind that we have a very variable climate and averages can be misleading – winter temperatures can get down to -15 degrees C for instance.
    Best wishes
    Alan

  51. Totally agree – this is exactly what I thought the first time I visited Martin Crawford’s Forest Garden – a great collection of edible bushes and trees, but with more work it could have been so much more…

  52. Hear, hear. One of Permaculture’s biggest failings has been its failure to subject some very seductive ideas to rigorous evaluation. An exuberant (others might call it chaotic) intertwining polyculture can look lovely, but if this hinders efficient harvesting, then a more ordered placement seems to be eminently sensible, no matter that this involves straight lines or other “unnatural” planting patterns.

  53. Quite a clever way to dry things. My attempts at drying plum tomatoes on a screen window laid out ended up in mold. Also enjoying your observations on shade gardening which is my problem.

  54. I would like to be put on the list for cuttings for perpetual kale and am happy to pay for plants and postage.
    Regards Sue

  55. Hi Alan, I’ve been subscribed to your blog for some time now, but having found the time to read it from the beginning, I just wanted to tell you how enjoyable and informative I’ve found it. I am not in the position to have any kind of ‘proper’ forest garden, living in a rented house with a small garden, but, nontheless, I still grow lots of perennial vegetables, many of which you have blogged about here.
    I look forward to more interesting posts. Here’s hoping we have a proper summer this year! Happy growing.
    Joy

  56. Hi Joy. Thanks very much. I so agree about the summer – I’m hoping that if a glorious March was followed by a non-summer last year then this wintry March will be followed by a memorably good one!

  57. I have one clump in my garden that I’ve had 3 years which a friend grew for 10 years before that. He in turn got the cutting from a lady who had it in her garden since she was a small girl, her father grew it before her so that one plant is over 70 years old and it has never flowered.
    I’m in new Zealand and because of our climate it won’t flower. It needs reasonably even temperatures between winter and summer. It’s a fantastic plant that we eat mainly raw in salads.

  58. Have you ever grown perennial leeks (Allium Ampeloprasum)? They multiply by making little bulbs at their root like welsh onions, and they rarely make seed. The only cultivar I have ever found is “Oepri perizweib,” but I am told there is an Egyptian and Arabic cultivar as well.

  59. You said your leaf beet is beta vulgaris. What cultivar?
    My first guess when I looked at your picture was “Lutz” beet, but then again, beets have been bred to be biennial, aside from some fluke seeds. Unless your garden is warmer than I thought, beets usually freeze during the winter. Have you selected for annual seeding?

  60. Yes, I grow them too, although I have no idea what cultivar they may be. I originally got the seed for them from Future Foods and they have maintained themselves vegetatively ever since. The strain I grow has a mixed head of flowers and bulbils, so it does produce some seed which should be very useful for breeding them. I still have some bulbils from last year’s crop if you would like to swap varieties.

    • I would love to swap bulbils, but I’m in the US. Thanks for offering though.
      Actually, I am waiting to receive the bulbils for “Oepri Perizweib” from the place I found them.
      They said their leeks have only bloomed once in the seven years. But if I get seed, I would be happy to try and send you some.

  61. I couldn’t say what cultivar it is Luke. I generally sow it from saved seed so a number of varieties may well have contributed genes, primarily one I originally bought simply as ‘leaf beet’ but perhaps with some contribution from sea beet (B. vulgaris maritima) and Lucullus chard (B. vulgaris cicla). The naming of beets seems to be complicated and inconsistent so I just plumped for the simple species name! It’s definitely not Lutz beet though, or any kind of beet with thickened roots (i.e. B. vulgaris vulgaris). The root is fleshy but not swollen.
    I generally select against annual seeding by pulling up anything that starts to run to seed in its first year. They always overwinter successfully, usually with the aid of a little bit of a leaf mulch. Aberdeen maybe isn’t as cold as you imagine. We are quite far north but near the sea, which has a moderating effect.

    • I will have try that–crossing sea beet with chard, or maybe lutz salad-leaf just to see what I’ll get.They only overwinter for me in an unheated greenhouse. Maybe I should try a thicker mulch.
      Thanks for the info.

  62. Sweet Cicily also comes without. Growing up in a district with hairless sweet Cicily, I was rather surprised when I saw a hairy one for the first time not many years ago.
    I you want seeds, please remind me in autumn.

  63. Great post! That is quite a patch of wild garlic there! I have been trying to start some from seed, but so far, have not been successful. Perhaps they need a period of cold first. I have not seen it in the wild where I live (Pacific Northwest of the U.S.), but our climates are quite similar.

    • Just for any future readers: I, too, have been trying unsuccessfully to start wild garlic from seed, several times. And now I’ve read elsewhere, that apparently it is very, very hard, because even the commercial seeds that are supposedly treated to germinate faster, usually still need over a year to do so, no matter what the package says. And since you can’t keep them moist all the time in a small seed pot for that long without growing moss, it’s recommended that you just sow them outside (somewhere they won’t be overgrown), and hope that ants won’t steal them. And yes, they need a long chill period.
      Or you look for bulbs to buy – though I’ve never seen any.
      One point not mentioned in this article is that wild garlic needs lime-rich soil. So it’s really no use trying if you live in an area with naturally acidic soil and/or on sand subsoil. For my perennial garlicky needs, I’ve had much more success establishing garlic chives, which aren’t so picky in terms of soil, but need sunlight. Or for the very early spring, wild chives (A. schoenoprasum), which really taste more like garlic than chives, as long as you don’t cook them. The latter grow wild even in our naturally sandy soil, and the plants we inherited from the previous owner of our garden some 30+ years ago, have long since gone ferral in the lawn-cum-meadow. (You can tell because they sprout long before the grass does. I suspect the vegetatively produced bulblings get transplanted by ants, since I never see the plants bloom. Thankfully they can be distinguished from crocus and snow drop leaves by the smell and a rounder form.) Though they do grow into a more usable thickness (i.e. like actual chives, not like sewing thread) if the clumps are transplanted into humus-rich soil.

      • Sowing in situ and being patient is good advice for the seed. I can’t agree with the comment about alkaline soils though. Although this is commonly said about wild garlic it isn’t really my experience. The underlying rock here and in most of Scotland is acidic. This doesn’t seem to prevent wild garlic from growing extensively in the wild or quite happily in my garden. Clearly its preference for a higher pH is only mild. In a garden situation it is very easy to raise pH by adding lime or wood ash.

    • It is my understanding that the seeds MUST have a solid freeze before they germinate, and take up to 3 and 4 years to reach maturity. I planted some 2 years ago, in the fall. First year, it came up like slender threads of grass. Second year returned as blades of grass that achieved 5 or 6 inches in length. I am hopeful that next year brings usable results. Growing on LI, NY

      • That sounds about right. Once they are established you can start splitting clumps and they will keep self seeding, but if you start from seeds it is a bit of a slow burn at the start.

  64. Hi Blythe. That’s not my patch – it’s at a community a way south of here called Monimail Tower. My own patch is rather more modest, but wild garlic definitely does tend to take over if you let it. A lot of the forestry trees and other plants we use here in Scotland come from the Pacific Northwest due to the similar climate, so I imagine wild garlic should grow well with you if you can get it started. Best of luck with it. Alan

  65. Really useful and definitive post, especially the tips on how to cook them well. I’ve got a patch growing nicely in the garden and am amazed at how readily they spread. I’ve also been experimenting with growing cultivated garlic as a perennial. It extends the season a little further as the green shoots are out (from January in Wiltshire this year) before the wild garlic is ready to be harvested. The shoots are a great substitute for spring onions when cooked, particularly in stir fries.

    • That’s really interesting. I grow cultivated garlic that way too but in my case the wild garlic definitely has a head start on the ‘spring garlic’, which is only just beginning to emerge. I imagine that cultivated garlic is more sensitive to temperature since it doesn’t have a woodland canopy to buffer it, while wild garlic needs to get on and photosynthesise before the trees leaf up, whatever the weather. I completely agree about the stir fries too!

  66. That is interesting. It might be in my case that my wild garlic is in a spot shaded by a building until later in the season so the ground probably warms up later. On the other hand my tame garlic gets the sun on the soil, at least until the trees leaf out. I wonder if the variety of the cultivated garlic makes much difference? Really enjoy your blog by the way.

  67. It’s illegal to uproot wild plants without the landowner’s permission, but fine to pick the leaves so long as you don’t overdo it. You can also harvest seed to grow your own. If you are trying to get plants then you’ll need to ask the landowner’s permission to dig some up or get some bulbs or potted plants from a supplier.

    • They freeze pretty well, yes. I wouldn’t use them in salads after thawing, but they are still good for cooking with. You can also wilt them in oil before freezing which makes them take up less room in the freezer. I generally don’t freeze them because other alliums and greens become available later and I like the seasonality of it, but if you have a glut of them it’s a good way to preserve them.

  68. I just started my rhubarb patch last year and was surprised to see so many flowers forming this spring. I’m glad to know that they’re edible. I love getting two crops from one plant–and especially getting a crop of something that people without home gardens have never even seen! Thanks for posting this.

    • Allium tricoccum is native to the eastern half of North America while A. ursinum is Eurasian. I’ve never seen Allium tricoccum but from descriptions it has very similar form, habitat, taste and uses to ursinum. I assume they are closely related and European settlers seem to have transferred ursinum names directly onto tricoccum, especially ‘ramps’, the Scots equivalent of ‘ramson’ (from Old English hramsaen – onions). I hope people have the sense to leave both species where they are as they are quite likely to invade each other’s habitats. A. tricoccum is of conservation concern in some US states and Canadian provinces, so growing it at home seems like an especially good idea. Interestingly, the usually reliable Plants for a Future database has a description of A. tricoccum that is considerably different from those to be found everywhere else.

    • They seem to affect different people in different ways, perhaps based on gut flora. I’m afraid I seem to be fairly susceptible to their effects: I tried them raw, boiled, baked, stir fried, deep fried – same effect every time 🙁

      • I read somewhere that inulin breaks down over time (The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz) .. so that if you cook it thoroughly, then leave it to sit it could be fine. Also, that when it’s roasted it breaks down into fructose. Dandelion and burdock roots are both high sources apparently, and i roast them to great effect. I haven’t tried roasting Artichokes though.

      • Yep, same with me. And afraid to say yacon has exactly the same effect. Even tried boiling down to a delicious syrup but same response from myself and 2 friends as well.

  69. Nice recipe ideas, will have to give the eggs a go. Two more to add to your list: large bittercress (very similiar to Ladies smock (Cardamine amara) ‘amara’ probably meaning bitter, and Scurvy grass (Cochlearia spp.) – don’t now if this was used in cooking in the past or just to help sailors, think most sources describe it as disgusting, but there is a definite horseradish flavour which can be taken advantage of if used in the right way. As a salt lover It has done a good job of spreading all along the motorways with all the grit that is sprayed along them.

    • I would have to agree with the sources that describe scurvy grass as disgusting – it is possibly my least favourite plant flavour ever. Given the choice between scurvy and scurvy grass, I might start figuring out how many teeth I could do without. Interesting to know about C. amara – do you mean the flowers or do any other parts have the same flavour?

  70. I’m delighted that your horseradish plant is well behaved. On the Windmill plot, it has spread all over the place. The roots are so deep that we struggle to get them out, even with a trenching spade, but since quite a few of them are growing up from under our high raised beds, or through tarmac, that’s the least of our problems! If you like the taste, we can probably supply all your needs for quite a while…

  71. Love your blogs, loads of great stuff and well written. I came here via Brigit Strawbridge on facebook. Thanks.

  72. Thank you for sharing. Will try this one out. What about the ground elder roots? They look so tasty too.

  73. Thanks for this Alan. We’ve been enjoying fresh raw ground elder shoots in our salads for the last couple of weeks. I’ve never tried cooking it, but will give it a go!

  74. Thank you so much for featuring this shrub! I’d seen them around many a time, looked at the fruits and wondered…. now I know they’re edible I have a great excuse to get some. They grow very well here in rural ‘Leycestershire’ 😉

    • I have one of these in the garden in the way it will now be moved up tp the forest garden part of the allotment thank you for a great idea.

  75. I am creating a forest garden in my allotment. This is a great list. I shall try some, if not all. Thanks for sharing.

  76. I recently noticed the Lycopus spp. americanus and asper are available as of 2013 from Prairie Moon Nursery.
    Wish I had something to share with you, but got here searching things on my want list…

  77. In Japan, the most commercial hosta is H. Montana, or so I’ve read. The best cultivar among these is ‘Snow Urui.’ (Urui is the commercial vegetable name for hosta because giboshi –or whatever they used to call it was too long.) I am trying to find a source for the ‘Snow Urui,’ but I haven’t found much.

  78. Hi Alan
    I hope this year is going even better for your plum. If you are still able to make rootings from it, I would apreciate an exemplar a lot. I would need you to mail it and dare posting it for Denmark. Perhaps I have something of your interress to swop with?. If nothing else then for sure I have some for you rare apple variants.
    Aslak

  79. Hi,
    I only just discovered your blog today, and had never heard of this threat to local, unregistered seed sales. I’m clearly too late to write to Baroness Ashton now, but wondered about the outcome to the vote?

  80. Hi Jeni. The law went through – with some useful exceptions which will mean that it doesn’t affect small scale producers but still with negative consequences for the market for seeds for home growing. The Real Seeds link in the post now links to a very good summary of where things stand at present and what the future process is likely to be.

  81. Last year I let some ordinary leeks get to the flowering stage-they weren’t very successful as leeks, but the flowers were truly magnificent and I picked them for display-like large allium heads, some of them in a pale lavendery sort of colour, others a sort of silvery grey. When pulled out of the ground, to my surprise they were attached to a largeish garlic like bulb. My question is, can the bulb be eaten? I have saved 3 of them and planted in a pot to see if they’ll flower again

    • Cultivated leeks are derived from the species Allium ampeloprasum. They don’t usually form bulbs but other cultivars of the species, such as elephant garlic and Babington’s leek, do, so I suspect that the ancestral species also did. Perhaps a few of your cultivated leeks have reverted to old habits or perhaps they have crossed with one of the other cultivars. In the other cultivars the bulb is certainly edible, with a mild garlicky flavour. If you grow them on you might well find that they make multiple bulbs – perhaps you have discovered the next big perennial vegetable!

  82. Interesting article on the use of these sometimes abundant plant. They are a bit on the tricky side for us to dig on our rocky acreage that they cover but I was thinking of seeding some under our forest/old orchard garden for later use.

  83. Hello, I really like this blog. Have you noticed any difference in your mood eating these poppy seeds? I read that Eschscholzia californica seeds should be used as they have mood stabilizers instead of the mood destabilizers from the somniferum. Have you eaten any of the orientalis variety?

    • Hi Amanda. No, I haven’t noticed any mood-altering effects. The plant needs to grow in hot climates to produce opiates so I wouldn’t expect any. I wouldn’t be very keen to try Californian or oriental poppy seeds as they both get 1/5 flavour ratings from Plants For A Future and come with toxicity warnings. Californian poppy also has very small seed heads which would make harvesting decent quantities a bit of a chore.

  84. Comfrey is not the king of them all. The only science based research that exists is that of Dr. James Duke – http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/, Dr. Mark Pederson – http://www.amazon.com/Nutritional-Herbology-Reference-Guide-Herbs/dp/1885653077, and Jerry Brunetti at http://www.agri-dynamics.com (See page 28, 29 where he shows lab results for a number of plants including lambs quarters, dandelion, plantain, chicory, and comfrey.). Search for comfrey in Pederson’s book at Amazon, click on the hit that starts “Comfrey was strictly used externally…”, and then move up a page where you will find a nutritional profile.
    So what is the king of them all? According to Duke’s database, Lambsquarter, Pigweed, Stinging Nettle, Dandelion, and Red Clover are the best nutrient accumulators with Urtica dioica being the best overall, ie, the king.
    Most of the dynamic accumulator information in circulation is very similar to this – http://oregonbd.org/Class/accum.htm which has no disclosed research supporting it.

  85. Hi Alan
    just found your blog! great stuff!
    we played a game of risk together with some shared planet folk in… 2002? 🙂
    i only discovered permaculture in 2008… have been doing this work in Luxembourg for a while:
    http://www.cell.lu
    All the best!

  86. Hi Mike. I’ve been thinking about this since our exchange in the comments section on one of Deano Martin’s posts on the Sustainable Smallholding. I don’t think that the value of a plant for providing nutrients to the rest of the system can be reduced to the relative concentrations of minerals in its leaves. Firstly there is the question of absolute rather than relative fixation rates: a plant that has twice the concentration is no more use if it grows at half the rate – the production per unit area is the same. Secondly there is the question of where the plant is getting the nutrients from. If it is taking them from the same layer of the soil that the food plants in a perennial system are exploiting then it isn’t so much scavenging nutrients for the other plants as from them.
    The plants you mention generally have shallow, fibrous root systems. While this would make them efficient at preventing nutrient loss in otherwise bare soil, a perennial system is completely different. There the perennial roots, mycorrhizae and soil bacteria should already be fairly good at taking up surface nutrients, so a shallow-rooted plant planted for that task will largely be taking nutrients (not to mention water and light) away from the productive species. The only uses I can see for dynamic accumulators are (1) as a green manure on bare soil that isn’t ready to be planted with a productive crop and (2) where they are sufficiently deep-rooted that they are mining nutrients from deeper in the soil than their neighbours and making those available once they are cut.
    I take your point (made on Deano’s blog) that the research base for all this could be much better. I’ve just been searching Garden Organic’s site (they are the successors of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, which originally popularised the use of comfrey) for actual research data and came up with nothing. However, I can say from my own observation that comfrey is undoubtedly very deep rooted and almost ludicrously productive, without noticeably depleting the soil for plants next to it. I mostly use my patch to convert urine into a more culturally acceptable input for the rest of the garden.
    Thanks for your comments
    Alan

    • i didn’t like risk. only time i played in my life. 😉 hope you’re well.
      are you working as a gardener full time?

      • I usually enjoy Risk but I seem to remember that game wasn’t much fun – it can be taken too seriously! I’m working doing a mixture of forestry and gardening. I got quite involved in community-run greenspace, so that takes a fair bit of my time – quite a lot of it voluntary.
        Hope you’re well too.

  87. I assume the pear is being grown outside – here on Shetland I have two dwarf trees in my polytunnel that seem to be thriving well and have produced pears but they look a bit scabby though.

    • Yes, I meant outside. You can pretty much grow anything anywhere under cover and with heat if you put your mind to it. I got an email from someone about one in Kirriemuir succeeding against a south facing wall too. Congratulations on growing any sort of tree on Shetland!

  88. There is wildlife and WILDlife. I was very upset to see a rabbit in my embryo forest garden as I thought I had deer and rabbit proofed everything. It hid under a great big pile of branches and even our labrador could not flush it out. My son came to me 2 days ago and said “there is good news and bad news. The good news is Polly the cat has caught the rabbit. The bad news is she is lying under the table eating the rabbit’s ear.” I said “that’s all good news because the rabbit has been caught and fortunately for me it is your cat under your table!” He got a spade and buried the rabbit in the septic tank. The cat looked very unhappy because he had taken away her supper.

  89. Wow! I have been growing & enjoying Hostas for years and never knew they were edible. Thank you for the information!!

  90. Having spoilt my wild straberry plants rotten by lovingly taking ones I’d been given from a nice lady in Anstruther all the way up to Orkney when we moved house and planted them in a bed all of their own, no competition, I can confirm that they do just send out runners under those circumstances and don’t put up much fruit. I’m wanting more plants at the moment though so I’ll leave them to multiply but I wonder if that’s a fine reason I’d have not to weed them then.

  91. Hi Alan
    I too have a glut of apples (and ground elder), would you tell me what make of manual juicer you got from UK Juicers please? I just phoned them, thinking it was a Lexen Healthy Juicer but they said this wouldn’t do apples. I’ve just discovered your website, very inspirational. Thanks

  92. Hi, I’m currently growing some Daubenton’s kale from a cutting I got from Charles Dowding, who occasionally sells it. It’s growing beautifully but I’ve only had it a year – is it too soon to start eating it?

    • That’s the eternal dilemma with new plants: grow them on or start eating? With Daubenton’s I would say that after a year it should be ready for eating if it is growing well.

  93. Well, if you liked it, I guess I will have to give it a try.
    I have only read about Chufa’s use in sugar drenched horchata, and nothing else. So I figured that even if it grew like a weed, I didn’t have a use for it. If it tastes descent on its own though, I’m all for trying it.
    How well do they reconstitute after being dried?

    • As far as I know they must reconstitute well since they are generally sold dried. The ones I planted certainly reconstituted well enough for germination, but I didn’t try eating them at the time. I’ve put a few in water and should be able to give you a definitive answer shortly.

      • I was mistaken then. When you said you ‘germinated them’ I thought you were starting from seed, not tubers. That is interesting info that they can grow from dried tubers.
        I look forward to your review of reconstituted Chufa.
        Thanks so much for sharing.

        • Loose talk, I’m afraid! What is the proper term for starting tubers into growth? ‘Sprouting’ I guess. The chufa have been soaking for a couple of days now: after a few hours they had swelled up and were tender enough to eat, although not fully reconstituted; since then they have stayed that size, perhaps continuing to swell slightly. I tried both some of this year’s crop and a left-over tuber from last year and they were almost exactly the same. Using cold or warm water didn’t make much difference.

      • Hi Alan, thanks for the great article. Just wondering if I understand correctly, you grew them from the dried tubers? I can’t find seed where I live but I can get the dried “nuts” in the health food shop and I’d like to try growing them.

  94. We have a few small areas in New Brunswick mostly along the St John River where chufa, groundnuts and woundwort all grow in some of the fertile floodplains. I’ve made the 150 KM trip a few times and have been able to gather groundnuts and woundworts to bring home to my garden but the chufa has eluded me so far. No doubt I will make the trip again as Chufa is one fascinating wild food. A book called Weeds of Canada claims most tubers are killed by soil temps of -6.5 C and also I find interesting they say 1 tuber in a single growing season can produce 1,900 plants and 7,000 tubers, wow that sounds like a weedy plant with a lot of good potential. Alan your tubers look to have grown to a nice size, I enjoyed reading what you have experienced with this plant.

    • Interesting that you haven’t managed to get chufa. Do you mean that you found the plant and it didn’t have tubers or just that you didn’t find the plant at all? I’m also interested in what you mean by groundnut – is it Apios?

      • Actually I suspect I found a few plants which were rare along the rivers edge where tall grasses were dominant, the clay soil was tough digging and no tubers were found, I’m hoping next trip to locate a sandy area where tubers should be closer to the plant and easier to see. The flora maps show it is considered locally common along the banks throughout 200 miles of the St John River though the access points I have chosen thus far have not turned up and colonies of this plant. I may need to approach a local farmer or 2 for permission to travel into some of the better sites via their private roads to the rivers edge.
        Yes the groundnut I mentioned are Apios americana.which I can easily gather after the spring floods as the tubers will often be dangling from the washed out river banks. In my garden Apios struggles in with my Jerusalem Artichokes but does well with daylilies and starts flowering just as the daylilies fade in August.

        • That’s interesting. I suspect that the Apios varieties that circulate over here come from the southern part of their range, which stretches down to Florida. As a result the one in my garden manages to set one tuber every year but nothing more!

          • Our Apios variety in eastern Canada grows tubers very near or at the surface often about an inch deep in a tight horseshoe-like ring of 5 to 10 small tubers. The plants only flower in sunny spots and never produce even immature pods. In tall grass near the rivers edge you will not notice groundnuts vegetation during the growing season though you may feel the rounded tubers at ground level or see them at the river’s bank.
            I’ve heard groundnut will grow larger tubers under elderberry shrubs and even does OK in mossy areas near bogs. I haven’t tried planting any in these locations yet, though I am tempted to try this some day.

    • Hi Emma. I got them from Ottawa Gardener of The Veggie Patch Reimagined. I’m sure you’ll know her through Facebook groups etc. The only information I got on their provenance was that they were var sativus rather than a North American variety. As for yield, Wikipedia says that tuber initiation is inhibited by high levels of nitrogen (so generous feeding might be counter-productive) and long photoperiods (not much we can do about that unless we are really dedicated). I did wonder if mulching them before the frosts killed the tops might give a few extra weeks of tuberisation. I also noticed that the ones I grew in pots sunk into the ground did much better than the ones planted directly into the soil. I suspect this is because the pots retained water for longer – I’ll try watering them more next year.

    • The general rule for planting bulbs is that you plant them so that the bottom of the bulb is at a depth of twice the length of the bulb. So if the bulb is 10cm you dig a 20cm hole for it. If you look at the clump of dug-up bulbs in the article you’ll see this is roughly right: there is the bulb which appears as a kind of sheath around the bottom of the stem, then there is white stem for an equal length above it – that is the part of the stem that has grown underground.

  95. I grew a patch this year, and found they gave effective ground cover when block planted at about 6″. I’m pondering their use in that role within a polyculture for next year. Plenty of water – remember they are a sedge, and a thick mulch of wood chip between the plants seems to have worked well for me. Harvesting is the only real hassle.

  96. As ever a really interesting and informative post. I have been planning to try the roots of my sweet cicely but as they are old plants I shan’t bother!
    I have tried something similar with oca – have buried some plants with mulch, taken one indoors to unseated conservatory in a pot – have yet to harvest, but outdoor plants were making new tubers near surface last week so I left them alone, am hoping there are some bigger ones down below! Will post results when I have them.

  97. Great post, Alan. Oca is something another allotment down here tried, and it does ok some years, but was disappointing this year – in fact from the weights you posted, it looks as if yours did better, so I will pass on the mulching tip. Have you tried scorzonera? Ours have been in for 2 years, and the roots are still not much to write home about size wise so I’m wondering if we are missing a trick. I think we’ll have to try the dutch mice – look and sound v. good.

    • Hi Tracey. I’m not a big fan of scorzonera. Small roots in the first year; tough, tasteless ones when they get bigger – and packed full of the dreaded inulin. Dutch mice have to be worth trying for the name alone 🙂

    • I must admit I’m coming round to the idea of silverweed having potential, despite my scepticism when you suggested it earlier in the year. The yield I got this year wasn’t much, but for a scrap of plant transplanted mid-season it really wasn’t bad either. Then there’s that report of huge yields in the Highlands. Since that clearly didn’t come from digging up wild roots, I’m going to work on the assumption that (if true at all) it was from a lazy bed system and that the plant is able to respond to growing in a very fertile medium.

  98. Thanks for the post, as usual, fascinating! Disappointing about the day lilies, I was going to have a go at them this year. Well, I will anyway, for other reasons, but won’t be counting on the edible roots, although who knows what might happen in tropical Perthshire? Kate

  99. It certainly grows well in nutrient rich soils if the estuarine root gardens of the Pacific North West are anything to go by. I reckon a lazy bed heavily fertilised with seaweed might do quite well. If you need Chinese artichoke, let me know – I’ve probably got a few tubers knocking about.

  100. I was up at Findhorn in June last year and they were growing Oca in one of their gardens – perhaps it’s worth asking what variety and if their yields were lower than usual last year. I, and some other friends, found we had a lot of root veg giving huge top growth but not much underneath (eg potato, parsnips, carrots).
    As for Jerusalem Artichokes, my Fife Diet calendar tells me that if you cook/eat them with Lovage it reduces the digestive issues – this is on my “must do” list to try as we’ve a garden full of them and my husband is refusing to eat them on grounds of greenhouse gas emissions!

  101. Found this very interesting as I had no idea that Alpine strawberries existed and were so different from wild strawberries. I have a garden full of small strawberry plants – I think they were here when we moved in so I have no idea where they came from. They certainly send out a lot of runners and have spread everywhere, but the ones growing on a dry sunny bank also make a reasonable amount of fruit. However I am all for well behaved plants so will be on the look out for some of the Alpine ones this spring. Thanks for the advice.

  102. We just borrowed your beautiful photo to use in a post on our blog. If you want us to remove it, please let me know here… I am happy that this led me to discover your blog. Am off to read more. Thank you…

        • Ah, that one. It’s pretty easy to grow: I grew mine from seed that I got from Future Foods (no longer in existence) but it also propagates pretty easily from suckers. It grows slowly but without any problems; it usually fruits heavily and it is a very attractive plant too. The drawbacks are that it isn’t the easiest to harvest, nor is it the tastiest of the Vacciniums. The difficulty in harvesting comes from the fact that the fruit are very small and don’t ripen all at the same time. The best way seems to be to let them all ripen, then just run your hand down the branch, causing a rain of little black fruits. You would have to net them to guarantee that the birds didn’t harvest them first though. The taste is pleasant but not in the league of blueberries or blaeberries/bilberries.

  103. I notice you have B. Bulbocastanum, I was just wondering if you’ve considered the closely related B. Persicum. I’m not sure if anyone has tried to grow it over here – I plan to do so soon – but they seem at least to be fairly cold tolerant, growing in alpine and sub-alpine habitats of the North-Western Himalayas (at altitudes of up to 3500m amsl). The seeds are available from some Indian food stores sold under the name Kala Jeera/Zeera (Black Cumin). If you do decide to give them a go they apparently germinate best at temperatures between 10 and 25 degrees Celsius, after a period of 20-45 days cold stratification.

  104. I’ve always loved it as an ornamental, especially in winter with those sea-green wands, now I will check out the berries, too!

  105. Just eaten a good sorrel-type recipe – you know how nettles tend to be a little bland & rough? I mixed half and half nettles & sorrel (domesticated) into a sauteed onion and some beans & bacon. The nettles tamed the sorrel. the sorrel woke up the nettles!

  106. Hi Alan,
    I am really astonished by your achievements in such a small area against all the hard elements in Scotland!!
    I am considering to buy a smallholding near Wick which has about ten acres of land in view of converting it as a permanent food forest. Do you know if anyone has done such a thing in that area before? I am concerned about potential negative reaction from other traditional farmers in the surrounding area. It would be great if you can provide any pointers to any active permaculture communities or individuals.
    Many thanks
    S Paul

    • Hi. It sounds like you like a challenge! I don’t know of anyone who has done such a thing up there. I know of a couple on the West Coast but I don’t think Wick gets the same benefit from the Gulf Stream? The Permaculture Association would probably be your best source of information on whether there is anyone else locally. Concerning the local farmers, in my experience farmers are generally open to someone trying something new so long as they aren’t arrogant about it. Respect their local knowledge and they may well make your life much easier.

    • I wouldn’t worry about what the neighbours think – what has it got to do with them? As long as the fences are good enough to keep their animals out – seriously.
      However they will probably be sceptical about whether it will work, and with good reason. My experience in the Hebrides suggests that it’s extremely difficult to get trees established in an exposed, windy coastal location. To the best of my knowledge, all that will grow in Caithness is grass!

    • Hello
      We also live near wick and are hoping to plan and plant a forest garden.
      Did you buy the plot and if so how are you getting on?
      JW

  107. I was in the South Lakes at the weekend and it was everywhere, it’s much more prevalent than it’s been in previous years. I wonder if it will be classed as an “invasive species” like Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. I have a suspicion one posh eaterie in Cartmel had it on their menu as “hedge garlic”!

  108. Hello – I have a specimen growing happily, do I need to mesh it as for my other brassicas? I would appreciate any help and thanks for a great post. Best wishes. Francoise

    • Hi Francoise. I don’t know. Mine have never been attacked by pigeons, but all my other brassicas mysteriously stopped being stripped by them in the year I got my Daubenton’s and never have been since. So possibly they have some magical effect that protects your whole garden, but I suspect coincidence. Daubenton’s have a different growth habit from biennial brassicas, making a multi-stemmed dome rather than a tree-like form with a strong central stem, so they may well be harder for pigeons to sit on and eat. They are certainly no less palatable.

  109. Wish I’d seen this website a few weeks ago. As a total novice, I ordered some bulbs in the green and planted them in a separate tub in compost, as I only have a small garden and didn’t want them to overrrun. I didn’t put them in shade, and now they’re looking very sorry for themselves. Anything I can do to ensure they’ll come back next year? Obviously, I’ll move the tub into a shady spot.

    • Hi Ian. They like to be moist, so make sure that you don’t let the tub dry out. And if they look like they have died, don’t give up hope until next year: they may just have died back to the bulb prematurely. Also remember not to neglect it once it has died down. A lot of bulbs in tubs die because people forget about them once they aren’t visible and forget to water them. Planting something else in the pot can help with this.

      • Now that’s a great bit of advice I’ve not heard before 🙂 I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the comments to desperately grow this stuff, I’d pay for people to get it out of my garden. Good luck to those trying, shame I can’t send you a clod of my heavy clay soil, infested with the darn things! It was fun to experiment with, cooking wise, in the early days but now we don’t bother.

  110. hello! we’re a portuguese family living in Rosehearty, and just found your blog, looking for a list of edible floewrs in Scotland… thank you so much for sharing your work and knowledge, it has been of great help! al the best, kind regards!

  111. Hi, interesting article. I’ve always browsed on sweet cicely seeds when walking and this year have started to grow a couple plants in the garden. My idea is to try to cultivate bigger seeds. Do you have any advice on pollinating these tiny florets? Also, my plants are just from a garden centre (it doesn’t seem to grow wild in Berkshire as it did in Durham where I grew up) so if you have any particularly large-seeded plant that you are willing to share seeds from I’d be happy to share any results I might have down the line.

    • Hi Rick. I’ve never had any trouble with pollination of sweet cicely so I have never tried doing it myself. If you wanted to do a specific cross you would have to exclude natural pollinators – e.g. with a bag over the flower – and hand pollinate. Seed size isn’t anything I’ve ever thought to select for but I’ll collect a few from any particularly large-seeded strains that I come across.

      • Yeah, I was thinking of the practicalities of manual pollination and it seemed daunting. If you don’t mind sharing large seeds that would be excellent. How do you select for large roots? At least with seeds it’s easy to see which plants are most desirable.

  112. We are growing wild garlic very successfully and we are harvesting the seeds, the leaves are great in salads and if you are not a lover of garlic you will enjoy the leaves.

  113. “… or tigernuts as the marketing people would have us call them,” no…. The tiger nutname comes from the tiger-striped patterned coating on the nuts. People in West Africa have been calling them that for centuries…

  114. Great article. I didn’t realise Hostas were edible to (non-gastropods) until I heard on a local radio gardening.programme. I’ll have to propagate some under the apple trees. Furthermore they won’t bolt.

  115. Hello Alan, congratulations on your wonderful site. I was prompted to visit by Carrie, a fellow plotter at GFAA. I’d like to add a link to your site from our Allotment Association’s website. I hope this is OK: please let me know if you have any objections. Norman

  116. I heard you on the wireless the other day.and no sooner had you said “edible Hostas” I did a google search and first hit took me right to your very interesting blog just as you were giving the URL. I’m trying to put my garden over to mainly perennial edibles because I’m quite lazy and frankly nature makes a better job of growing than me. The more I annoy my neighbour with his flat green fertiliser-drugged lawn in his attempts to make his trees perfect lollipops and his garden a wildlife-free zone the better. I’m in Aberdeen and hope to buy some seeds and bulbs off you.

  117. Hi Alan, Just read this one as am wondering when exactly to lift and steal bits off my Skirret – it has been in the ground about 15 months and I haven’t tried it yet! As it doesn’t seem to sell that well for some reason I suppose I can always replace it if I wreck it. Any thoughts welcome….
    On another note have just been given some Allium cepa Perutile and liking the sound of that from your earlier blog. The Daubentons Kale you gave me is famously productive and has multuplied many times – somewhere I saw it spelled Dorbentons and changed all my labels – which is correct please!? all the best Margaret

    • Hi Margaret. Skirret is lifted any time in the autumn or winter after there has been a frost and the foliage has died down. Glad to hear the Daubenton’s is doing well. It’s named after the French naturalist Jean-Louis-Marie Daubenton so ‘Daubenton’s kale’ is the correct spelling. There are lots of variations floating around, including some people sticking in an apostrophe to make it sound more French – D’Aubenton – but since French sites never use this spelling it seems unlikely to be right. I ordered some ‘ewiger kohl’ (everlasting cabbage) from the Agroforestry Research Trust this year and it seems to be absolutely identical to the Daubenton’s. Cheers. Alan

  118. Do you know if you can eat the flower or fruit?
    Also I didn’t understand if it is frost sensitive why should it prefer a position that doesn’t get the morning sun. To stop it heating up too quickly after being affected by frost?
    Really interesting plant.

    • Hi Suzy. I haven’t found any suggestion that the flowers or fruit are edible, although Stephen Barstow, author of Around the World in 80 Plants, does mention eating the immature flower heads on his Facebook page. I haven’t tried them myself. The root is also said to be edible but again I haven’t tried it myself and I don’t know whether it is just the first year root that is worth eating or the mature one as well. Your guess about the morning sun is right – as well as direct frost damage, heating up too quickly can also be damaging.

  119. Japanese acquaintances tell me that “udo” is a term employed for tall people who are rather useless and ultimately a waste of space. I’m hoping I’m not one of those; I’m also hoping that my udo seedlings reach a similar size to the plant shown here. Another excellent post. Thanks.

  120. That was so interesting, thanks. Not sure I am brave enough to try identifying it though. I have certainly noticed similar looking plants in the hedgerows, but I didn’t know before to avoid the sap.

  121. Hi!
    I would really like to grow this but my family doesn’t like kale. Does it taste more like cabbage or kale?
    Thank you for your wonderful blog!
    Ps: is your shop up to date?

    • Hi Sarah. I would describe it as more kale-tasting than cabbage-tasting, so your family might not be convinced. The shop is a bit out of date at the moment, in that I haven’t put all the seeds that I have been collecting this autumn up there yet. Soon!

  122. I have garlic growing in my garden in Southern Spain, in full sun. The ground is very hard and dry. No I did not plant it, but it invades the whole bed unless I am ruthless. Only now am I realising that I can use it and am looking forward to trying the stuff posted here. The only difference I can see is that the leaves are much narrower.

  123. Hi Alan, I’ve just had a quick read through. Lots of good stuff to follow up on.
    A few comments which may be helpful, but I’m on the Isle of Wight, so milder here.
    Skirret is delicious, but may need 2 or 3 years to get to a decent size. Don’t sow them too close, as I did, or they end up in a huge tangle, and are smaller.
    Oca were left in the ground till late in the season, but mainly eaten by mice when dug. Nice cooked, but raw they are a bit lemony, but also have a taste of raw potatoes which I’m not keen on.
    Chinese artichokes are nice in salads, but mine are very small and fiddly to clean.
    Jerusalem artichokes are one of my favourites. Very easy to grow, useful windbreak too. Nice raw in salads, also sliced and fried as well as the usual soup and stew.
    Yacon is great too. I love it in salads in the winter. It stores well for months, and gets sweeter with storage.
    My lovage dies down now, and comes up in the spring, so the opposite season to the artichokes. Maybe it could be frozen or dried, or perhaps the seeds used.
    I let parsnips self-seed, and also broadcast them around the place. They sometimes grow huge when on their own like this rather than me sowing them too closely in a row. They seem to look after themselves, and are good in stews etc. Nice fried too.
    Scorzonera always seems very small, but nice flavour. How big are the roots supposed to be?
    I intend to try other tubers and roots, but these are the main ones I have so far.
    All the best
    Ken

    • Hi Ken. Thanks for all the comments. I find that swirling Chinese artichokes round in a bucket wth a bit of water and some sandy soil cleans them quite nicely. Life is too short to clean them individually! Scorzonera roots are long and thin: maybe 15 mm diameter and 300mm length for a good root. They are perennial and will grow massive if left in the ground, but not, to my taste, very nice. I prefer both salsify and burdock so I don’t grow scorzonera much. I agree that skirret is delicious: I harvested some a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying them very much.

  124. The Heritage Seed Library have seed they got from daubenton’s; I’m not sure whether it’s crossed. My plant is somewhat different from the standard green ones. There are no commercial sources in the UK; the best bet is to try Allotments4all; one or two of the people there have it. I may have cuttings in the spring, all being well.

  125. My Daubenton’s kale is growing tremendously well, it’s about a metre wide and high now! If anyone would like a cutting for free you’d be very welcome, but you’d have to come over to my house and do it yourself. I live in Bath.

  126. It’s a great book. My copy arrived last week and although I keep reading snippets I think I’m going to have to read it from cover to cover soon. A good mixture of old favourites like Sweet Cicely and Babington’s Leek with some species I haven’t encountered before.

  127. Alan, Thank you so much for the work that you do. Barstow’s book sounds pretty exciting to a gal living in Wisconsin. Last year, minus 40F wasn’t that uncommon.   To better days ahead. Dawn Zakrzewski

  128. I’m guessing that like hostas and daylilies (and even sweet potato vine), edibility bridges all the many cultivated ornamental varieties, with variability in taste being the norm, since they are not being selected for edibility. Does that sound right to you?
    There are some tiger lilies sold here in north america that grow really big (5-6′ tall) – though eating the bulbs would be a luxury meal, as they are expensive to buy.
    I hadn’t come across info about the flower being edible before – thanks for that. I’ll give it a go in the spring (carefully, esp with the pollen).

    • There’s some debate about how careful we need to be with different varieties of edible plants, with some people even arguing that every new variety should be treated with the same care that you give to a new species. I wouldn’t go that far but I would agree that especially with species that have known toxins anywhere in their make up, any new variety has the potential to have higher-than-usual levels of that toxin. This isn’t limited to unusual edibles: I’ve heard of someone producing (through convential breeding) a celery which caused dermatitis in anyone who handled it and potato breeders always have to be careful about the levels of solanine in their new varieties. This is one reason why I am keen on sharing information. We are all effectively experimenting on ourselves every time we try a new variety, so it would be good if everone could post what they have survived!

  129. I’ve tried growing Udo from seed (I’ve not found anyone locally that has plants) with no success. Does anyone know how long the seeds stay viable? (I was using ones purchased at least 2-3 years before planting – though stored well.) Any tips on germination?
    I look forward to growing this plant.

    • I also haven’t ever managed to grow udo from seed, despite several tries. I suspect that seed viability is quite short. The Araliaceae are closely related to the Apiaceae (carrot family), which mostly have quite short periods of viability. Stored seed needs quite long stratification. If you possibly can, get fresh seed and sow immediately. I’m trying to get several strains of udo in the hope of producing my own seed with decent genetic variation.

  130. i am planting out part of my allotment (large, but long and narrow plot) along forest garden principles. i intend not to let the fruit trees get much above 8ft.
    plum trees i would most like to get my hands on based on catalogue comments about taste,
    violetta
    emperors cox/queens crown
    reeves seedling
    lizzie (some japanese heritage? but described as an asian plum)
    burbank’s tangerine
    blue tit
    some would have to be as cordons/columnar forms. has anyone tasted some or all of these and can confirm that they really are worth it? which 3 taste the best?
    i have plum beauty (pot grown), gage early transparent (pot grown), mirabelle ruby (pot grown), plum seneca (raised bed/open ground), mirabelle de nancy (open ground), plum thames cross (open ground).
    i used to have plum victoria and burbank’s tangerine, both died.
    tomorrow i’m planting 5 cherry plums as a hedge.
    the nurseries describe lizzie, beauty and methley as japanese or asian or asian/european hybrid plums.

      • cheers alan, for the link. plum lizzie shall drop a few notches on my list. i was going to echo this very same sentiment from charles dowding,
        ‘I think we need to remember that catalogues are in the business of selling goods. I have suffered many disappointments over the years, but also found a few gems.’
        I would place the french hybrid of blackcurrant+gooseberry = casseille, in this category, grows healthily, crops abundantly, barely a pest problem to be seen, but i think, just not enough sun (in bristol) to sweeten to the level the catalogues describe.

  131. Hello Alan
    You kindly shared your thoughts about my Portobello allotment plans some months ago. I hope you had a good growing season, I feel 2014 was pretty successful overall. I am excited to have acquired some interesting multiplying onions from the U.S. & am hoping to get more perennial leeks. I have planted some big leek offset bulbs & have a Babington leek, also a leek flower head with many plantlets which I will prick out.
    I wondered if you have any experience with Allium ampeloprosum Perlzwiebel (Pearl Onion) or similar (e.g. Oerprei). And if you might sell / trade? I did grow elephant garlic but did not eat the bulbs much, preferring real garlic. These other varieties of ampeloprosum seem to make more edible leaves & shank which I would use more in the kitchen.
    Yours, Alex

    • Hi Alex. I grow Babington leek, but not a named variety. For some reason it had a very bad year and grew poorly this year, but usually it grows well and produces a nice head of mixed bulbils and flowers. It makes a nice leek with a decent length of shank. The main drawback is that it is only tender for a short period in the spring, starting to make a somewhat tough bulb soon after. It still fills a gap in the leek season nicely though.
      I always like the number of ways in which you can propagate leeks. I have a few bulb offsets in myself this year and one of my allotment neighbours has planted several heads of plantlets which are growing away nicely.

  132. I see you mention soapwort. My wife uses greenwill soapberry in the washing machine to wash clothes with as she is sensitive to detergents and it is natural. Has worked great. Have considered trying to grow the mukorossi tree that the fruit comes from but read where it takes 10 years to bear fruit. Thanks for the list! Will look over to see what I could grow in our alkaline soil.

  133. Glad I came across this thread. Lots of good suggestions. One root plant that needs no form of care is radishes. Of the tubers mentioned which would grow the best in shady areas along a slope with no maintenance?

    • If your climate is similar to mine then hogweed and sweet cicely would do well in the situation you describe, but in both cases they are really more useful for their shoots than for their roots. The best shade-bearing root crop I have come across so far is Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ or dog’s tooth violet, which has its own post.

  134. I wondered if Stephens blanching would rub off on you. I can’t wait to see what results you get!
    Excellent post all-over though. It’s great to read about the everyday use people can get out of their forest gardens.

  135. Thank you for this article. Unfortunately, this winter AgroRT couldn’t fulfill my shallon order, but this article inspired me to try and obtain some mucronata in the coming year (you need separate male/female plants, unless you go for Bells Seedling, I believe). Further investigation at PFAF got me thinking about procumbens, but when I tasted it at a local garden centre – no thanks!
    I had recently added darwin’s barberry to my wish list, but then I came across videos on youtube presenting thunbergii as a menace in north american woodlands. My allotment site neighbours woodland and its not a habitat I want to see invaded. There is also a link it seems between thunbergii overgrowth, explosion populations of ticks and lymes disease.

  136. These descriptions left me very hungry. I am in love with burdock too and am in the process of increasing. So the reigning theory about skirret is that dry=woody core? Good to know. And I’ve had the same thoughts regarding fennel. Though the one time I tried the root of florence fennel, it was pretty good though it was the one time and some time ago at that though my thought was “there is potential there.”

  137. Hello.
    Just stumbled across this, it’s a nice little blog. I just moved to a house in Dumfriesshire with a garden dominated by trees, and I’m wondering if forest gardening is the way forward. I’ve been interested in wild/perennial crops for a long time but the problem always is: do you want to eat them once you’ve grown them?
    As you say, gardening advice is rarely geared to the northern half of Britain so this is good to have.

  138. I like your writing in this Alan, especially the wavefront of wild garlic. My favourite broad beans are the variety Red Epicure, I can just picture them coming ashore on the garlic wave front like some kind of Amazonian nut having arrived on an Atlantic voyage to West Coast of Scotland.
    Just planted some plants on the Inveralligin ‘Pick Your Own Plot’…………and looking forward to them growing……….seems like an awful lot of energy furry pod production of Broad Beans too.

  139. Thanks Alan, I enjoy making broad bean hummus too. I’d be interested to grow your scottish variety of broad beans. let me know if you have any seed for sale or swap
    best wishes Marlyn

    • Hi Marlyn. I’ve got some of them in the shop, or I’m always open to swaps for other unusual varieties. Crimson Flowered isn’t a specifically Scottish variety, but it does seem to do well here.
      Cheers
      Alan

  140. I found out lately that the size of an apple is dictated by the cytokinin (cell division) hormone production that happens within the first 30 days after the bloom is pollinated. From there, it’s mostly just elongation of the already made cells that takes place up to ripening. So if you thin the fruit after the 30 day mark the tree has already developed the apples based on the number of fruit it has on it. Perhaps you might want to bite the bullet earlier rather than later and see if you can get larger fruit for the same work?
    I’ll be trying it myself this year.

  141. Hi there! Reading through your blog, little by little, there is so much information, very useful, thank you very much! I would like to let you know of some suppliers I have found, which are not on your list: Pennard Plants, i think they are based in Somerset and they have quite a few perennial edibles, I am up in Yorkshire and so far all the plants I bought have survived up here! Also in France, Pépinière Eric Deloulay has a very extensive range of perennial vegetables, heirloom varieties as well as medicinal plants (no seeds though). I am French so it helps but give me a shout if you want to order from them and get stuck! I have just ordered perpetual leeks from them as I couldn’t find any in the UK, hopefully They will grow and I can share with you next year!

    • Hi Sarah. I’m glad you’re finding it useful. I got my Daubenton’s kale from Pépinière Eric Deloulay and he’s listed in the article on that plant. Luckily my high-school French was enough and I didn’t accidentally order something else!

  142. wow, I love that fourth final one, of the kale that is purple and green colours, very beautiful! Thanks for the info, very interesting. We’re just along the road from you – relatively speaking – in Morayshire, with a developing forest garden here, one day it would be great to come visit you (if that’s possible), in the meantime I just follow your blog and learn (lots!) If you are passing this way, we are just off the A96, feel free to come by and check out all our novice mistakes 🙂

  143. Thanks Alan, you inspire me in my own seed-saving efforts – I like the idea of grexes (what is the plural of grex?) too. The leaf beet you gave me has germinated and is looking happy.
    Happy growing!

  144. Dear Mr. Carter, I live in Wisconsin and did not know about the Kenosha Potato Project. Thank you very much for all your valuable info(links)  included in your articles. It takes me quite awhile to read your blog because of all the other great places you send me with those links and I get excited about it all and before you know it, an hour has gone by! I would have liked to be in Madison last April for OSSI “Free the Seed” celebration. Thank you for all your work. Catchy title by the way. Dawn Zakrzewski 

  145. Best first paragraph to a blog I’ve read for ages- laughed my head off. Didn’t understand much on first reading but got excited by what I did grasp- love kale and love the pictures. Hopefully I will re-read more slowly soon

  146. I had varigated ground elder and accidentally killed it off. Yeah, no kidding. In Colorado, lots of invasive plants barely hang in there, but what did it in was my mulching-in-place; ie. Raking dead leaves 5″ deep over the beds every fall. Killed my mint, too. They were in partial shade in heavy clay under and around a lilac.

  147. Just found this growing in my side alley picked some young stems tried it just as it was it was delicious sort of very slight aniseed cross celery flavour can’t believe I’ve had it twenty years never tried it

  148. i was wondering, when’s the best time to dig up afew wild bulbs for replanting elsewhere -like a pot, before,during or after flowering? sorry if you’ve already answered a similar question & ive missed it it. thanks

  149. greetings
    I bought this kale last year as Kosmic kale. I live in Oregon in USA.. I am so happy to know the correct name and how to propagate it. I suspected it would grow from the shoots but it’s nice to have it confirmed by someone who has done it. Thank you

  150. I had to look twice to be sure that low mass of green was actually kale. It’s almost as impressive as the general lack of weeds -fantastic!
    Hope that disc heals well.

  151. An update on those kales. About half of them flowered this year. One interesting one ran to seed but is growing back vigorously from the base – the rest probably won’t survive flowering. The other half haven’t flowered so I now have about a dozen new perennial kales, varying widely in leaf form and colour (although the most decorative strains all flowered). A few are developing the stem knobbles that I associate with Daubenton’s and its ability to take easily from cuttings.

  152. I wonder whether certain cultivars of fuchsia have better tasting berries than others. I tried the one in my garden, F. ricartonii but the fruit was quite bland. It’s a young plant, still establishing though. I found berberis darwinii isn’t too bad raw if you leave it to ripen further on the bush but the blackbirds will usually get there first, in that case. I’ve heard that besides making a jam, it is also used as a dried fruit with rice in Iranian cooking.
    Waheed, I can confirm that the B. darwinni self seeds as mine occasionally has new seedlings nearby and my parent’s garden also had some appear from nowhere, probably spread by birds.

  153. Hello,
    I’m absolutely loving your blog, it’s a wealth of information and so well written!
    I was just wondering if you know the Latin name for shallon, it sounds intriguing; and though I’ve only just last night finalised my tiny forest garden plans…. But I may have to find room for one of these!
    GG x

  154. I know it’s late but I read this after visiting Edulis at the weekend. Paul Barney sold me Pentland Brig kale which he says he has had going for 4 or 5 years I believe so it should be perennial or he has a perennial variety. I have bought a couple so I’ll find out for myself soon but may be worth dropping him a line

  155. They’re uncommon enough in the woods here in Kentucky that we generally don’t disturb them, tasty though they are. They are just so lovely to come across on an early-Spring day.

  156. About burdock root: Most of the vegetable-use strains need nearly full sun and require that the soil be very deeply worked. They produce big yields of fantastically tasty roots, but the best way to plant them is in barrels (not halves, whole ones) or tall raised beds, and not in the woods.
    Message me if you want a recipe for a really good burdock-and-mushroom gravy or stew. Meanwhile, if you have a yen for burdock root, phjone local Asian groceries and ask for it by the Japanese name, gobo (to rhyme with “Yoko”, not “slobbo”).

  157. I’m stunned that there’s no reference at all on this site to _Chenopodium album_ (lambsquarter, fat hen, goosefoot), arguably one of the best half-dozen wild edibles of all. Is it just not a forest plant in the UK?

    • It grows here, but as a plant of disturbed soils, not as a forest plant. As such it tends to die out in perennial systems. I could have it in my annual beds, but since it’s low-yielding, fiddly to pick and full of saponins and oxalic acid I would rather use the space for other things. Sorry to say, but I basically regard it as a weed. Although there is a lot of overlap between forest gardening and foraging, this is a site about plants that I’ve found useful in my garden, not wild edibles.

  158. Since I wrote this post I’ve been persisting with burdock and have become quite fond of it, especially as kinpira gobo. I find that getting it to germinate is the hardest part and my usual solution to this is to produce my own seeds so I let a few plants run to seed this year. They reached 3m high and are covered in burrs that do their best to enlist me as a seed vector every time I go by, so I think it’s been successful!

  159. Interesting article, thank you! My experiences with Yacon are very good, with oca good (like the taste less than yacon, but good quantity too), and my experience with Stachys affinis and Sium sisarum are no good at all. Mice/voles ate EVERYTHING. Not one little tuber – or plant – left. Dammit. The Sium might selfseed, stachys didn’t flower so that is just gone.

      • Both where in the ground. Althaea officinalis was also eaten mostly. I’ll have to get my jerusalem artichokes out of the ground before they disappear too. Pretty frustrating: planting a perennial garden, and to end up having to replant every year…. I believe the fault lies entirely in the industrial agricultural system around here. Big fields without trees or hedges between them where predators birds and mamals can nest. My trees are too small to put owl boxes…

        • NO NO NOOOOO. Lunaria annua is mostly gone too. Apart from four big plants, the complete roots of most plants are eaten off. I’ll get back to turning the soil and sowing annuals if this continues… Or i’ll get back to a lawn or something.

          • Oh dear. That does sound rather extreme. You seem to have super-mice. I had a similar experience with broad beans this year. I didn’t manage to get out to the plot where I was growing them until quite late and when I got there there were neat holes all along the pods and all the seeds gone – every one. They were several genetic lines that I’ve been selecting on for some years now so it wasn’t just a loss of the beans as food.

          • ah thats too bad… What does apparantly help to keep things a bit safer (at least for root crops) are open spaces and interplantings with leek. (seeds, standard edible from the food store, or allium Molly for some more flowers) We finally have some winter here – hope some mice/voles freeze to death. Ik recently saw what i thought was a marten or polecat coming from under our car. Might be that i create some living space for the animal by making a hollow in our stacked wood. If we would have one in the garden, it’s a mice predator with even less work than a cat 🙂 Ofcourse there is a risk for car cables, neighbourhood chickens and eggs, and it might also just decide to get under the roof of our house instead of in the wood. I’ll no longer take hostage of your roots story and will not kidknap it into vole territory anymore 🙂 Greetings!

  160. Mice can be a big problem. I had the same thing with broad beans. Are cats an answer? No use for plots where you don’t live though.
    I’ve found wind-up multi-catch traps pretty good, and also there are plans for traps around. Anyone have useful experience of any? Single-catch traps are less use, I think.
    Poison may work, but I don’t like the idea.

    • I think with the broad beans it is simply a case of harvesting them in time. I don’t go out to the plot in question often enough for traps as I wouldn’t be able to check them regularly enough.

      • You may be luckier than me, but I have found once they have found them they take them before they are full size. It seemed to take them a few years to find them. Last year I grew some for the first time on another plot which has mice, but not touched.

  161. Perfect timing.
    I started some skirret last year and just sowed some more indoors.
    The first group appears to be slowly coming back again now that the days are lengthening.
    Thanks for the info and tips. This one sounds like it has huge potential.

  162. Good article. I’ve grown it for a few years.Only things I’d add are cleaning is much easier if grown in soil that’s crumbly and plenty of organic matter, rather than clay. Also, nice raw in salads.

  163. approx march 2015, planted plums violetta and queens crown as ‘2-in-a-hole’, angled slightly off the vertical to form a V. the V is directed towards where the sun is predominantly between 11am-6pm during the summer. some spurs are evident on both, so maybe some fruits this year. plum beauty should give some fruit this year also (first crop).
    my must-have wish list plums now comprise of:
    -plum burbank tangerine (to replace one that died a few years ago)
    -plum avalon (as it seems to have some parentage from ‘reeves’)
    -gage willingham
    if space allows -> plum blue tit

  164. also, had a good crop of fruit from pot grown mirabelle ruby, but the taste was disappointing, so i have transferred it to the allotment where it can do its own thing, gather up more nutrients from the open ground and get more sun. see how that plays out regarding taste.
    tasted a few plum seneca last year, sweet flesh, bitter/sour skin. masses of fruiting spurs this year.

  165. nice little video on stephenhayesuk channel on youtube, about 16mins, a walk around his apple/pear/plum orchard in hampshire, concentrating on plum cropping, diseases, taste and tree care.
    /watch?v=rRsHYF6iOpU

  166. I agree that skirret is a great plant. What I tend to do is to allow it to flower, probably at the expense of some of the roots, and then use the seed for propagation. As you say it is not that easy to grow from seed, but when you have several flower heads of it, the odds are better than with a seed packet. I scatter some near the plants and retain some for sowing next spring. Like you I also divide the clumps.

  167. plum avalon (has reeve seedling parentage)
    gage willingham
    above both added to collection. will report taste in couple of years…
    desire list = burbanks tangerine and blue tit plums

  168. Where did you get your wild garlic from? I tried growing from seed last year but it didn’t take. I will try again but maybe bulbs would be better.

    • I got mine from a wild source, so I can’t recommend any particular suppliers. Bulbs are certainly much easier to establish than seeds. Now that they are established, mine seed themselves quite easily, which helps to bulk up the numbers.

  169. It’s bizarre.. I had a feeling! Last summer I almost grabbed one and started crunching away! Plants talk to me.. I can’t help it.. LOL!

    • In parts of Australia, I’m sure. Hosta is the scientific name, which will be the same everywhere, but the common name might be different. For instance they are known as plantain lilies (despite being neither a plantain nor a lily) in some places.

  170. I found your blog this morning-Attainable Sustainable shared your hosta article on fb and I clicked over here. It is so interesting to read about plants that I could probably never grow over here in Florida.

  171. I believe the caption in the picture with the leaves for frying vs boiling is wrong. Right is for boiling first, left is for frying.

      • I thought the same as RV. If that is true, Alan, then your description in the article is contradictory (“…The best part of the hosta is the ‘hoston’, the rolled up leaf as it emerges in the spring, although many varieties are still pretty good even once they have unfurled…”). In the two photos, the ones on the left are still rolled, and the ones on the right are unfurled.

        • I don’t follow. That would only be true if the best parts had to be stir fried rather than boiled. The issue is the thickness. Stir frying is a fast cooking technique so vegetables need to be cut into thin strips or be thin in the first place. Otherwise the middle part remains uncooked.

  172. Wow!! Never new this!! Been a gardener for at least 50 yrs.. going to be trying this. Thank You so much for the info!!!!

    • I usually treat them as the latter, but I’m told that it’s common practice to ‘mow’ ornamental hostas for a second flush so presumably you could do it for culinary reasons too. I must try it on a clump this year.

  173. this is great news since I am doing edible landscaping. have hostas just coming up. can’t wait to include them in some dishes.

  174. Don’t know how I got this far in life without knowing that. Very excited and perfect timing to stumble on the article because they will be a merging soon. Thanks for sharing!

  175. I learned about them year before last . People laughed at me as if I were crazy . I used them in place of leaf lettuce and wilted them with bacon grease and vinagar with green onions. I really enjoy them myself, but I do love all green leaf type foods . You should really try them and decide for yourself. I have a great many plants and never knew to plant with my Apple trees. But guess what ???

  176. Greetings! I also found your site on Facebook today. We recently moved to Texas from Michigan (a huge change in climate and viable plants!) I had started edible landscaping in Michigan, but have to begin again here in a semi-arid climate. Your blogs are interesting, and it will be fun to learn, and perhaps share my own experiences with “xeri-edible gardening”.

    • Good luck with the new garden. I know the Michigan climate a little having worked a few months in Upper Michigan. I imagine Texas will be more than a little different.

  177. I have ground elder in my garden, did the Romans plant it here? There is evidence of some of kind ancient road nearby – a pair of ditches (crop marks) can be seen from Google Earth.

    • Good question 🙂 I have no way of knowing the answer of course. Ground elder has certainly spread considerably since the Romans were here so probably not, but it’s a nice idea.

  178. japanese/asian plum ‘beauty’ planted 2yrs ago in a 30litre plastic pot; repotted into 45litre clay pot in autumn last year – fruitlets evident after a heavy blossom show this spring. will report back on taste later in the year if the tree manages to hold the fruit.
    this spring added to the collection:
    plum avalon
    gage willingham
    plum burbank tangerine
    plum blue tit
    desire list, probably the last 2:
    plum herman
    damson shropshire [prune]
    collection includes,
    mirabelle de nancy, mirabelle ruby, plum thames cross, plum violetta, plum queen’s crown, plum seneca, cherry plum hedge, beach plum, plum seneca, gage early transparent

  179. i planted a cherry plum hedge of 5 in a row, about a year ago. i reckon, spring next year, it should be loaded with blossom after the spurs form this summer/autumn. looking forward to tasting aug/sep 2017.

  180. I think I’ll give this one a miss! I did once try growing Rhubarb from home-grown seed (and a Rhubarb plant produces a lot of seed!), but had no luck.

  181. Lovely to hear you’ve developed a forest garden. I’m in the more northerly part of England and had been unwittingly been growing one since I moved in but my soil is poor for different reasons and before I bought my house I had scant knowledge of any kind of gardening.

  182. Thanks for this article – I’m going to get one of these for the dark and shady part of my plot.
    There are a few things that I wonder if you would know.
    With all that foliage put on each year this may be a great plant to grow as a mulch /compost plant. If you cut it back during the season does it regrow? Do you know how deep the roots go – would it work as a dynamic accumulator?
    Have you tried forcing the shoots with a bucket in a similar way to sea kale and rhubarb?
    Love the site and keep up the good work.

    • I haven’t tried cutting back or digging up my plants as they aren’t fully established and I don’t want to do anything (apart from eating them) to weaken them. However I suspect the same – that in the long term they will make green manure plants on top of their edible function.
      I’m sure you could blanch them with a bucket, although you would need a big one! In Japan they are often earthed up or forced in cellars. Personally I prefer them in their rather more natural state without blanching or forcing – more like wild sansai.

    • Its important not to give up on the seeds. They need 3-5 months cold stratification. Planting out in a cold-frame in the fall is probably your best bet. Then dont give up on them even if they dont sprout in the spring. Mine did not sprout before July last year and are looking great now. So the plants I finally planted out today, were sown in the fall of 2015.

  183. Awesome! I am a fan of wild edibles too! LOL…..
    Have wondered about this for a long time.
    I have already tried:
    Columbine\ Flowers
    Daylilies\ Entire Plant
    Dandelion\ Root & Leaves (Haven’t tried the flowers yet…)
    Rose\ Flowers
    Virginia Waterleaf\ Leaves
    Snow – on – the – Mountain.. (lots of names for this one)\ Leaves
    Hope to try this soon!

    • I’ve only tried wych elm but you can find information online about lots of other species, such as Chinese elm, slippery elm and English elm. I suspect that the whole genus is edible but of course it’s always a good idea to have information about the exact species that you want to try.

      • I’m in conversation with Wooddogs over at my blog and she says the same thing about her Siberian elms. Thanks for letting me know.
        Thanks for the post also. They are always such works of art -visually and verbally.

  184. Great post (and blog!). I guess you harvest the seeds when they’re still in their green sheaths, as in the picture above? I think I will get seeds and plant them around, maybe it’s a way to help them come back.

  185. Oh, this sounds fantastic. Do you think it would help to place the seeds in the freezer for a few days when (or where) winters are not so good?

  186. Regarding the Actinidias, apparently this is a problem all of them share. A) They are dioceous, i.e. there are male and female plants which will only bear flowers of one gender. B) Most native pollinators don’t seem to like them too much, so the pollination has to be done by hand in order to get a good yield.
    I still don’t have much experience with them, but still want to try, because Kiwis are amongst my most favored fruits.
    Oh, and seeing that this is my first comment, thanks for your work here. Your blog is really interesting and I’m pretty sure I will find my way back here once or twice 😉

  187. I totally agree with your views on rhubarb chutney using dried fruit. I remember making rhubarb and elderflower jam and ending up with the best chutney I ever tasted (perhaps I overdid the lemons) I used to put it in everything curries, stews,
    risotto, cold meat, could’t get enough of it. Managed to grab some rhubarb from a friend’s allotment and elderflowers are still in bloom here in NE Scotland, only just, so will give it a go this week. Might add a bit of vinegar but not sure if it will ever be like that first batch I made.

    • Here in Aberdeen I’m still waiting for a decent sunny day to bring out the fragrance of the elder flowers. I picked some on Saturday but they had no scent at all. I make rhubarb and elderflower most years but never thought of using it as a chutney.

  188. I sowed asphodel years ago. It took mine at least five years to flower too and I have a sheltered London garden. Maybe it’s just slow. I was on the verge of removing it during the year it first flowered. I think it’s flowered every year since then. I knew about the flowers being edible but was unaware you can use the leaves to eat. I’ll give them a try.

  189. Hello, it’s very nice to hear about your Forest Garden, and especially nice to find out about things that grow well in Scotland. I’d love to know what you do with your annual beds. What crops do you have? Dig or no dig? Crop rotation? I am just getting started and trying to find a balance between traditional agriculture and permaculture ideas. I’m guessing you have some wise words on the matter.

    • Some of the things I grow in the annual beds are traditional allotment staples, such as tatties, leeks, lettuce, peas, broad beans, cabbages and kale. Others are less traditional but similar culturally, like oca, Apios and yacon. A lot of things are allowed to self seed, including rocket, sea beet, parsnips, kale, mustard greens, coriander, radishes (for pods) and burdocks, so with these it is more of a case of ‘editing’ than traditional straight-line culture. Some things are grown on from propagules produced in the forest garden – such as spring onions from tree onions and spring leeks from Babington leek topsets. I dig in compost wherever I can – this is mostly generated by the plants in the forest garden, many of which have a dual crop/green-manure role. I do a five-bed crop rotation, but the self-seeding does tend to mess it up a bit!

      • Thanks for your reply! Yes I guess it’s the self-seed vs crop rotation that’s a bit confusing. I don’t have a ton of space and we’re still deciding what to do with various parts of the garden so I’m only doing annual beds just now. Looking forward to reading more. So helpful to read about plants for Scotland! (Although I think here in the Borders our winter might be harsher than yours as we’re so high up.)

    • There’s a great short story by Ray Bradbury called ‘Dandelion Wine’. My parents made lots of wines too, but I’ve never tried that one. Hosta wine? Hmmmmm… possibly not!

  190. This would have been great when I had my allotment – I inherited a giant rhubarb plant that put out loads of flowers! I couldn’t keep up with cutting them off. Now that I have my new garden it will be a few years before I get more than one or two, but thanks for pointing out we can eat them 🙂

  191. japanese/asian plum ‘beauty’, first year of fruiting [and early fruiting in july], very disappointing. i’ll give it one more year before moving to allotment, currently in a large clay pot in a sunny corner in garden.
    revelation! plum seneca, at the allotment, 2nd year of fruiting [planted 2012], disappointed by taste last year; this year the ripe ones taste something akin to mangoes! beautiful. plan for next year, a trap for the moths, as so many plums with grubs inside.

  192. I made a small mistake with the first version of this post, saying that you could use spinach leaves as a substitute for spinach leaves! Hopefully you all worked out that I meant nasturtium leaves. Corrected now.

  193. Excellent piece, I feel the same way about them. I prefer the cooked leaves to spinach and yes when cooked they really do stink the kitchen out! Thanks.

  194. Our wineberry seems to be thriving in fairly poor soil by the gate, though we give it a bucket of compost every now and again. It gave us a nice little crop this year, but they are tiny. We found the very best use for them was to allow children to pick them for immediate consumption – the lovely shine they have seemed to encourage illicit picking, so it was the next logical step and kept a number of children interested over several sessions. Ours is now 3 and about 1m in height and width – I’d be interested to know how that compares to yours? We started with a single stem that had layered naturally.

  195. We grow ours from seed so they are grown very hardy. Had good reports of fruiting, and especially from people in the Clyde Valley. But made the mistake personally of planting the canes in a very shady (not to say dense undergrowthy type of spot – typical of my garden!) and though we got fruit the first year on canes about 1.2m they refused to grow the second year. Will replant following jungle clearance in a better situation! Got lots for sale.

  196. Your blog is excellent. Keep it up. I read for the good writing and unique perspective. I live in new York city so your work doesn’t apply perfectly to my region I think, but I may still learn something applicable.

      • apologies alan, my intended reference was not to ‘controlling leaf curl’ page, but the site, where if you search plums there are references to japanese plum breeding/successes/failures and more on plumcots, pluots [crosses between asian plums and apricots].

        • planted pluot ‘pink candy’ earlier this year. pluot ‘flavor king’ order arriving december hopefully.
          pink candy = self fertile
          flavor king = not self fertile

          • a further note,
            whilst my european plums [prunus domestica] have gone into dormancy and shed all their leaves, pluot pink candy and plum beauty [both with some element of prunus salicina] are holding 40-60% of their green leaves

    • Hi Anders. My efforts at most things have been a bit set back these last 2 growing seasons by suffering a slipped disc, but I still have the seed source with the straighter roots. I’ve also been bulking up my supplies of a strain from Denmark which is hairless. I’ll try sowing some of its seed this winter to check out the roots.

  197. I first learned these were edible from Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series of novels set in the Paeleolithic. You surely know the movie of the first book, Clan of the Cave Bear. (Doesn’t do it justice!)
    Interesting to know you can cook these. Though I believe Auel mentions eating the bulbs – can you?!

    • I read one of the books, but I didn’t know there was a film. I’m not sure if day lilies were actually present in Europe at that time, but I guess that wouldn’t be the worst anachronism in the series! The bulbs are edible, but I think we have acquired better root crops since the Palaeolithic, so I don’t bother with them.

  198. They don’t seem to be a problem on Daubenton’s. In general I don’t have too much trouble with cabbage white in the forest garden, probably because of the crop diversity and the number of predators, but even when I have had a few they haven’t touched the Daubenton’s. This fits with what I have heard from others too.

  199. You mentioned a sprouting cauliflower/perennial broccoli. I am in USA so it would be a problem to send cuttings so I am wondering if this ever makes seed. If it does I would be interested in buying some. My Daubenton produced a few seeds this year but I missed harvesting them. I think that the resulting plants would show a cross with brussles sprouts which flowered profusely.

  200. I get a few on mine, but it’s nothing compared with the decimation of any annuals or in fact my nine-star broccoli (which is eaten to shreds). The kale grows to such gigantic proportions that a bit of loss to pests is a relief frankly. My Daubenton’s is now covering two square meters and still growing…

  201. Hello Alan,
    i am very interested in your marbled brad bean’s, maybe you would like to swap with some of my seeds ?
    I have some beautiful blue seeded runner beans, blue podded runner beans, and some amazing limabeans, Ganymedes’, -photo attached,
    I don’t know if you do this, but I dig up the rhirzomes from the runner beans, and they are quite big, and gets things going much earlier next neay than growing runners from seed….which make sthem somewhat perennial, even I our climte in denmark
    Best wishes
    Camila Plum
    Fuglebjerggaard
    Hemmingstrupvej 8
    3200 Helsinge
    Denmark
    http://www.fuglebjerggaard.dk
    Fra: Of Plums and Pignuts [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sendt: 28. november 2016 18:08 Til: camilla@fuglebjerggaard.dk Emne: [New post] 2016 seed list now out
    Alan Carter posted: “Apologies to website subscribers who received a post called ‘Donating’ earlier today. This was meant to go up as a new page rather than being published as a post. The news that I meant to put out today is that my 2016 seed list is now on the website as pa”

  202. blossom buds swelling already on asian/japanese plum beauty [disappointing taste last year].
    i think i see some also on pluot pink candy [planted in a pot only 9 months ago].
    pluot flavor king arrived in december [well branched specimen].

    • Sadly, my friend says that the link she had to the paper no longer works. She originally found the reference in the writing of Pavel Trannua, a Russian soil scientist. Having done a fair bit of googling, hosta seems to be listed quite commonly on Russian sites as a companion for apple, but with the usual complete lack of referencing that goes with companion planting. Personally I filed the information under ‘interesting to know’ rather than ‘likely to influence my gardening practice’ – I find hostas grow quite happily under any fruit tree. Also, I don’t see Pavel Trannua as a very credible source – his own website (seemingly done by his father in law) contains a number of references to astrology and posts like ‘How to stop ageing’! Whether this reflects on the original paper I don’t know.

      • Thank you very much Alan, really appreciate the additional details and digging. Hopefully I’ll never need to understand astrology to create great pairings in the garden…I’d be doomed! I have room under my apple and quince trees for some clumps of lovely hostas so I’ll give them a whirl. If you do run across the secret to stop aging (other than the traditional method) please do drop us some hints 🙂

  203. HI. I’m a novice pretty much to forest gardening and would like some suggestions for plants. Ive just cleared a garden of mostly ground elder and want to underplant the few fruit trees remaining.This garden is a threapeutic garden for kids with behavioural problems in Perth, so I’d like there to be lots to be edible/.

    • Hi Mandy
      If you only have a few fruit trees then pretty much the whole range of shrubs and ground layer plants are open to you. I’d suggest having a read through the plants on here and seeing what you fancy and getting Martin Crawford’s book ‘Creating a Forest Garden. Raspberries and strawberries tend to be particularly popular with kids: cultivated strawbs for the sunny areas and wild/alpine ones in the shade.

  204. I have both the varigated and plain versions of this, bought from Pennards, and they are about three years old. A couple of questions: do they move well as I have planted mine far too close together. They have become rather leggy. Can I give them a good haircut to encourage growth from the bottom? I hope to hear from you soon.

  205. I’ve been eating horse radish (do you “eat” horse radish?) for years now, and have wanted to grow wasabi myself. With the intention of moving up to Scotland maybe it will be possible, especially if I can get a woodland with a watercourse. Didn’t know about lady’s smock though, that’s interesting, I thought it was one of those common but poisonous flowers. Good reading, thank you!

    • I’ve only tried it with the Rumex acetosa myself but I would think it would work with any kind. With the stronger-flavoured ones it would be better to dilute it with some other leaf so as to keep it palatable and not overdose on oxalic acid.

  206. A few things:
    1. Be careful when foraging for ground elder in the wild (or more likely, in a park or cloister ruin): the other plants in the same family are highly poisonous. Ground elder is the only plant in the family with a triangular stem.
    2. Ground elder does not deal well with poor soil. It needs moist, humous-rich soil, which is why you’ll have more luck looking for it in a park or where the garden of a cloister once was, than in some random meadow. (Aside from the fact that it was grown intentionally in cloister gardens and old farms, both as a ‘hungry gap’ vegetable and for medicinal purposes.) In my garden (based on very sandy subsoil that once was a pine forest) it seems to prefer sticking to spots that either got the original soil switched out a foot deep with compost (e.g. for planting perennials) or that get a steady supply of leaf mulch left to rot down in place over winter. I’ve also found that it’s one of the few things that will grow under a walnut tree – in case someone wants to know.
    3. Maybe I have that “variegated” variant, but mine really doesn’t spread that badly. I let it grow wild in the full shade on the north side of a wall (including self-seeding) and from there it has spread some into the lawn / meadow. But despite not mowing, it doesn’t really manage to grow any taller than clover among the grass, so it doesn’t bother me. I’ve read that ground eld doesn’t like the full sunlight – maybe that’s why. In sunlit areas that I don’t water, it doesn’t even get big if it grows on compost-rich soil. The area that I harvest, and where the plants actually bloom, has a drainpipe lying alongside it that’s connected to a roof downspout, so it’s almost always well-watered.
    4. We originally got the ground elder because my father dragged it in with a large load of either compost or manure from his parents’ farm, over 30 years ago. But since I took over the garden management 10 years ago, I have never seen any of it in new raised beds or planters filled with our own compost. And I do not specially hot compost the roots and seeds or anything. Honestly, chickweed spreads much more easily, and dandelion roots or virginia creeper vines take far longer to die in the compost.
    5. You kill ground elder by either smothering the area for over a year under a black tarp, or steadily weeding ALL the shoots as they come up, thus depriving the roots of photosynthetic nourishment. Eventually, they die. Though admittedly, I’ve only ever tried this on small plants that come up between equally vigorous mint plants a few feet from the above mentioned wall. My mother says that’s how she cleaned the bed that originally was infested, though.
    6. The more mature leaves are perfectly edible cooked – as long as you harvest them before the plant blooms. At that point, the taste changes and they also start to work as a laxative. I always describe the taste as between spinach, parsley, and carrot greens, with perhaps a touch of celery. Maybe not for everyone, but I like it. I use mostly just the leaves, though, not the tougher stems. Either stir-fried like spinach, or in small amounts in root vegetale stew or to season potato mash in early spring, when the parsley isn’t growing much yet.
    That said, my ground elder looks a bit different than yours, at least compared to the picture in the end. Mine doesn’t have white patches on the leaves.

  207. Standard lovage (also called “Maggi plant” here in Germany, because it tastes like Maggi brand soup stock and can replace it when cooking vegetable stew) stays as small as cutting celery or largish parsley if you plant it in a small pot. I’ve got several many-years-old plants in a meter-long balcony planter (the kind you hang off the railing), which is only about 15 cm wide. There actually is more living root material than soil in the planter by now, with much of the roots exposed to the air, but that doesn’t seem to bother the lovage. I give it a bit of nitrogen fertilizer in its water a few times per year (especially in the spring while it sprouts and in the summer, after it starts yellowing the first time) and that seems to be sufficient. It’s even so frost-hardy that the planter can stay outside through winter, if I put it in a nook out of the wind and put a thick layer of dry leaves and a blanket on top. (We only occasionally get nighttime freezes below -10°C though.)
    Treated like this, the plants grow a dense thicket of leaves but never bloom. Though I could partition the root if I wanted to propagate it.
    Perhaps I have some sort of dwarf mutation lovage, though. Because the few times I tried to plant it out in the ground, it actually did worse than in the small pot. Forget man-high plants – they barely even produce any leaves at all, and those few at most a foot high. I don’t know if it’s because my native sand soil is that poor (though the top few inches are humous and good enough for flowers), or because the area is too shady (though the planter also stands in the half shade and the plant is supposed to tolerate shade), or if it’s the particular variety of lovage I have. (We’ve had it so long that nobody remembers where we got it from.)

  208. Re blanching with a bucket: Stephen Barstow, in “Around the World in 80 Plants”, says he uses (normal) 45 cm deep builders’ buckets to blanch, and it’s time to harvest when the plants lift the buckets.

    • I discussed blanching with Stephen when he visited my allotment. He uses it a lot, in the way you describe, but I find that just putting a bucket over a plant is a recipe for having it eaten by slugs. We wondered if the difference was due to the harsher winter climate in Norway which tends to kill the slugs.

  209. Hi Alan,
    We have some small ramsons patches growing in our forest, but they don’t seem to spread themselves. The forest is moist and shadey enough.
    Is there anything i can do to help them spread faster?
    Thanks.

    • Hi dizid
      If it’s your forest then there’s nothing to stop you from lifting and dividing some clumps and spreading them around. Wild garlic clumps usually get quite crowded quite quickly so this is an excellent way of increasing your stocks.

  210. What an excellent idea! Put me in mind of a paneer-less sag paneer. I shall be trying this as an interesting alternative to stir-frying leaves with garlic (and a colour contrast of dried bits of hot chilli pepper), which I tend to fall back on a lot. Brilliant post 🙂

  211. Triangular stalked garlic (Allium trisquestrum) is really tasty as well. It seems to thrive in gardens where I live (SW UK) to the point of being invasive. The stalks are really juicy and succulent with a milder flavour than ramsons.

  212. Hey! I just found this and it makes me so happy 🙂 I love your blog and everything you write about resonate with me so you got yourself a new fan <3 🙂

  213. I really appreciate your interest in actually eating out of the forest garden, Alan. Thanks for sharing this! Excellent photos in this one too -a rather novel style of post for you all around I thought. I enjoyed it.

  214. I know the feeling! I get along with an iPad camera for my photos. A friend sent over a picture taken with her really high quality camera, and I just delighted myself trying to pixelate the photo from over expansion. Didn’t work.

  215. Truly fantastic blog, always such a pleasure to catch up with what is happening on your plot and trying your recipes.
    If you could possibly shed any light on how to induce flowering in perennial kale I would be very grateful as it is by far the most important perennial in my garden.
    Again many thanks for your time in posting your findings, top work.
    Regards
    Brian

    • Hi Brian. There are some indications that if you stress a perennial kale, then give it good conditions, it will flower. Last year I tried this with one of my son-of-Daubenton’s plants that had so far showed complete perenniality, by growing a cutting in a pot with restricted watering then planting it out. It worked. This year I’m trying it with Daubenton’s itself. Some of the Daubenton’s crosses seem to inhabit a sweet spot in which they flower but do not totally wear themselves out by it, which should make propagating the relevant genes easier in the future.

  216. Good article, Alan! I have a non-tuberous variety if you want at some stage, but also staggering numbers of the tuberous variety in part of my garden…forming the earliest layer of my forest garden area..just coming into flower here….
    I’ve discovered that immigrant Turkish families here even use the meadow buttercup in vegetable pies (another Ranunculus species is used in Turkey) and other members of the Ranunculaceae are used in several other countries including Nepal and Japan, and one of the most commonly foraged wild vegetables in Italy is Clematis vitalba (Old man’s beard) shoots, which is also in the buttercup family…..but all are cooked or processed before eating 🙂

  217. Loving your sense of humour Alan! Thanks for sharing this….I think I’ll classify this into the “if I’m really desperate for something to eat” category. I don’t suppose you know if chickens can/would eat it? It’d be nice for them to eat something that I didn’t want for myself for a change! They wiped out the purslane in one go.

  218. Thank you for clarifying the toxins in celandine Alan. I had read conflicting reports. I may give it a try since it comes up everywhere here (like a weed?).

  219. Well done for advertising this; Plants for a Future is a most valued charity! Will donate to this appeal too!!

    • I’m assuming you mean North American ramps, Allium tricoccum. In Scotland ramps is just another name for wild garlic. I haven’t seen A. tricoccum in the flesh, but from pictures on the internet I’d say that A. ursinum has a softer leaf without the reddish tinge to the stem that A tricoccum has. As I say in the article, I hope not to see them side by side as it would be better if people kept each on the side of the Atlantic that it is used to.

  220. I have found that certain of my milk goats seem to relish the taste of garlic mustard an seems not to leave a taste in the milk. However these goats also enjoy my patches of Burdick and peonies as well. I would like to see further discussion along this line.

    • I rarely leave comments and replies, but I had to write to you. Eating garlic mustard is a GREAT IDEA. But growing it is a TERRIBLE IDEA.
      I’m involved in the effort to control garlic mustard in my rural Michigan area. It’s a huge undertaking – it’s costly, takes thousands of volunteer hours, and it’s frustrating. You have to keep going over the same areas each plant makes thousands of seeds and they can live in the soil for years.
      Garlic mustard is one of the most harmful invasive plants in North America. One seed can grow enough plants to drive out the native plants in the surrounding area within ten years. Native plants are shaded out or can’t live in the soil after garlic mustard chemically changes it. Tree seedlings are no competition for garlic mustard. The insects, birds, and animals that depend on native plants are driven out, too.
      PLEASE EAT ALL THE GARLIC MUSTARD YOU WANT, JUST DON’T GROW IT IN YOUR GARDEN. Take a walk in the woods and fields and you’ll find all the garlic mustard you’d ever want.
      If you’re interested in joining the fight against garlic mustard, google “garlic mustard” and you’ll find thousands of articles about what it does and what to do about it.
      Thanks for listening!

      • Are you suggesting that plants that prove invasive in North America should be eliminated from their native range too? If you read the article you’ll see that I mention the issues with garlic mustard in NA, but my garden is in Scotland, where it is a native plant and great for wildlife as well as for eating.

        • Alan, you got me! That’s what I get for assuming everyone lives in North America. Yes, I’m aware that garlic mustard is native to Europe and is a beneficial plant for humans and animals where you live.
          I hope you will forgive me my assumption. My hope is that other North American’s don’t make the same assumption and decide to grow it in their gardens. Many thanks! Lynn