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Sunday, 6 May 2012

of Mystery Wild Food and Odd Weeds

Working on my book I've come across two wild foods which I have never actually collected and I'm therefore unsure of how to identify them: alexanders (smyrnium olustratum) and the Ground Elder (aegopodium podagraria)  On pictures of reference books they look very similar.  On passing in the car on a wee country lane nearby I thought I had spotted one or the other the other day, so I decided to go on an expedition to find said greens.  This is what it looked like:

 It was growing in large clumps in a damp ditch next to some cultivated land near the river.  It grows to about 3 feet tall, but no sign of flowers yet.  I picked a leaf and it smelled good.  I popped it in my mouth and it tasted even better.  I cut the stem and nibbled it and woah!  It has a delicate sweet celery taste with a hint of vanilla on a long aftertaste.  Not a hint of bitterness.  I'm convinced this is edible.  It tastes far too good not to be! 

But... it doesn't fit the description of either ground elder nor alexanders.  It says about alexanders that they are solid stemmed and this...

 ...evidently isn't.  If it was ground elder it should have flowers at this time of year, but no sign of them.  Also the taste of them is said to be debatable, whilst this stuff is simply delicious.  You couldn't dislike it.  Now I'm sitting here at my desk with a wilted sample of this plant and a dozen reference books around me and I can't work out what it is.  Anybody got any idea?

Anyway, we've been using some brief breaks in the rain to start sorting through the jungle that is our land.  Help has arrived in the shape of a couple of helpXers from Arizona who are also into permaculture.  Broad beans are in full production, hmmm my favourite, and the first wild strawberries are ripe:

Below are the sub-terraces we built on the slope below the caravan from the left-overs of an old wardrobe. 

The idea was to plant out the majority of my tomatoes along there this year, plus some onions and herbs.  Somehow, having used our own compost as well as a whole collection of organic materials, all sorts of other unplanned things have started gowing there.  An elder branch and a hazel branch which were rammed into the ground to support the terraces have started sprouting.  And the amongst the tomatoes all sorts of other stuff started sprouting:  Yarrow

Jerusalem artichokes

and hundreds of little tomato seedlings as well as... possibly Swiss chard:

I don't think I ever need to sow out Swiss chard ever again.  It goes complety crazy on my land and pops up EVERYWHERE!  Just as well we like it and have a constant supply of it 12 months of the year.


Mr. H. said...

Almost looks similar to wild parsnip or angelica?

Heiko said...

Angelica I know, and yes it is a bit similar with the hollow stems, but these are more delicate and the flavour is better. Pretty sure it's not wild parsnip

Heiko said...

...maybe it IS parsnip.... Must dig up the roots.

chaiselongue1 said...

Oh, it would be nice if it was parsnip! The strawberries look good, and it's great to have Chard self-seeding everywhere. It happens in our garden too - we're really pleased because the plants are expensive to buy!

Sarah W said...

Good stuff Heiko! Got some Jerusalem artichoke seedlings you'd like to get rid of? I'm afraid I can only recprocate with Brussel sprouts. What do you think?

Angela said...

I must look up Swiss chard, and all the other names you mentioned. Here in our cold Eastern parts, only one fifth of your plants seem to grow. I have my tomato plants still kept inside, until the Eisheiligen are over. The last one is the Kalte Sophie, on the 16th, I think.
But it is May all right, and I have heard our first coockoo (how do you spell Kuckuck?), shaking my purse!
I am waiting for your book! It should be sold in all rather warm areas, such as yours (except for the rain), so it can help feed many people who cannot buy expensive food. Nature is so plentiful!

Heiko said...

CL, I haven't got around checking the roots yet, but the sample I've got kind of smells like parsnip too.

Sarah, I'll swap you Jerusalem artichokes for sprouts. I have real difficulty growing brassica here, they get eaten by these horrible bugs.

Angela, Swiss chard is mangold. You cab grow it in Usedom, but in Germany most of it gets fed to cows, but it is soooo good to eat for humans too.. Kuckuck is spelled cuckoo in English. Hoping to finish the second draft of the book by the end of next week. Than comes the proof-reading, editing... Summer I hope.