Artichoke ABC

Comments very welcome!

Are your globe artichokes in bud? Have one for lunch!

Globe artichoke bud

Cut off enough stalk so that it will fit in a steamer.

Globe artichoke in steamer

Steam until a scale detaches effortlessly from the bud when you pull it. (This 10cm diameter artichoke took about 25 minutes.)

Globe artichoke with melted butter

Starting near the stem (and discarding the first round or two of scales), start detaching and dipping each scale in melted butter and then by putting the scale between your teeth scrape off the succulent base - and eat! They are quite tasty without any butter too. 

I ploughed right in and forgot to take a photo of the individual scales. But I found these ones later in the debris on the plate - small unscraped scales left (probably from the discarded outer layer) and larger scraped scales right.

Scraped and unscraped scales

Below is the hairy 'choke'. Don't eat this bit, it's hairy. Scrape it out with a spoon.

Globe artichoke choke

This is the 'heart' - the tastiest part. Enjoy! 

Globe artichoke heart

I kept going - the centre of the stalk is good too.

Plate of globe artichoke scales



How fast can a climbing spinach climb?


In July 2015 I had a bit of fun seeing how fast Hablitzia tamnoides, the Caucasian climbing spinach, was scrambling up the trellis on the garden wall. I posted the results on Stephen Barstow's Friends of Hablitzia tamnoides Facebook group. 40cm in 3 days - more than 0.5cm an hour!

I've just repeated the experiment and the photos are below. The first shot shows the whole plant - well most of it anyway (the one with large, light green, heart-shaped leaves). Its top shoot can be seen above the trellis in front of the ivy. There are more shoots in the vegetation below, held back from climbing the wall by our harvesting. The stumps of harvested shoots take a little while to recover but after a few weeks will sprout from multiple places along their length. A mature Hablitzia plant can be very bushy and produce plentiful harvests over the season.

Hablizia tamnoides - Caucasian climbing spinach

The following photos show the growth over the last seven days of a lesser shoot which is scrambling up to the left of the tall one. (The head of the screw on the second bar of the trellis is a useful reference point for comparing the shoot length).

Hablitzia 1

Hablitzia 2

Hablitzia 3

Hablitzia 4

Hablitzia 5

The growth rate of this shoot over these seven days has been 40cm in 166 hours. A mere 0.24cm an hour! (but then this wasn't the leading shoot and we are in May and not July).

If you have one, how fast does your Hablitzia grow?


Floret Frittata

Comments very welcome!

I made a frittata with florets, flower buds, flower sprouts, broccolis, (call them what you will!).

They came from sea kale........

Sea kale sprouts

Good King Henry....

Good King Henry flower sprouts

and Turkish rocket....

Turkish rocket flower sprouts

They were steamed for few minutes until just tender, and then stirred into a bowl of four beaten eggs seasoned with chopped garlic chives and salt and pepper. I cooked the mixture in hot oil in a frying pan up until the point when the egg was still very slightly runny.....

and then topped the frittata with some grated cheese and browned it under a hot grill (and stepped outside with it for a better photo!)

At this point my son came downstairs to cook himself some eggs, saw the frittata and asked if he could eat it.

He didn't like it! Said it was 'very vegetabley'. Well it was, and all the better for that! So I had most of it and Stew came in hungry from work and polished of the rest.


How to eat Warty Cabbage!

Comments very welcome!

If you don't mind a mustardy kick to your greens, Warty Cabbage, better known as Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis), is a great perennial vegetable.

Turkish Rocket
Turkish Rocket

Once installed, it is a wonderfully self-sufficient plant, seemingly unbothered by pests or drought, but you might want to remove the flowering stems before the seeds form as in the right spot it is a keen self-seeder.

I picked some of the young leaves yesterday:

Turkish Rocket in April
Turkish Rocket in April

Variation in Bunias orientalis leaf shape
Variation in the leaf shape

Turkish rocket leaves on kitchen table
Back home

and set about deciding what to do with it.

A few reports describe the young leaves as mild. Mine certainly aren't, they give quite a punch. I rather like the flavour though and go back for more! After nibbling some raw leaves I blanched some in boiling water as advised for bitter greens and tasted the flavour after 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 minute soaking times. They became just a little milder over time I would say.

I then followed Turabi Effendi's advice from his collection of Turkish recipes as relayed by William Woys Weaver here. (I've learnt a lot from William Woys Weaver's articles - and have also just discovered he has some videos on You Tube. You can see him here talking about perennial salad greens and suggesting adding salad burnet to complement freshly cooked peas). So, I boiled some leaves in tomato juice with some fried onions and salt. A good taste.

Leaves cooked with onions in tomato juice
Cooked with onions in tomato juice

Mr Weaver mentions that it is a Central European habit to mix the chopped greens with sour cream and minced dill or fennel. I didn't have any sour cream so I tried the leaves with yoghurt and chopped bronze fennel.

Chopped Turkish rocket and bronze fennel
Turkish rocket and bronze fennel

Mixed in yoghurt with fennel
With yoghurt and fennel

That made a really interesting flavour combination and a very delicious lunch alongside some leftover lentil stew on toast! It would be nice with some chopped cucumber in the yoghurt too.

I have had to delve a bit deeper to discover what else to do with warty cabbage (warty because of little bumps on the flower stems which are a useful identification clue). Here are the best of my gleanings.....

Stephen Barstow has a comprehensive Bunias orientalis entry in his book, "Around the World in Eighty Plants," plus a fascinating account on his website of three Thai women foraging for it in Oslo and talking about how they cook it. Here you can watch Jonathan Bates harvesting and cooking Turkish rocket 'broccolis' (4.26 minutes in). And to eat the stems, "just chew - it is delicious" - (from a translation of this site) and you can take some stems home and fry them in batter too. The flowers and the root are also edible.

All in all - just eat it!


Spring Harvest

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Harvested from the allotment today!

Spring harvest of perennial vegetables
Spring harvest of perennial vegetables

In the trug:

Good King Henry (left hand corner with reddish flowers)
(moving right) Lovage
Babington leek
Globe artichoke
Variegated Daubenton kale
Patience dock (large shiny leaves)
Daubenton kale (in front of dock)
Welsh onion
Scorzonera greens (behind Welsh onion)
Ewiger kohl (everlasting kale)
Sea kale - dark purple leaves
Ice plant (leaves with serrated edge)
Sea beet (shiny leaves in front of artichoke)
Turkish rocket (slightly wilted)
Garden sorrel (shiny, pink tinge)
Salad burnet (feathery)
Buckler leaf sorrel (light green)
Bladder campion (behind buckler-leaved sorrel)


Trying my Patience

Comments very welcome!

I offer you insincere apologies if the title of this post made you groan! I love a pun and this one is my reward after a long wait to get a good taste of patience dock (Rumex patientia, also known as herb patience, garden patience and monk's rhubarb). I recorded my tribulations with trying to grow this plant here.

But this spring it is looking good and strong....

Patience dock in the allotment

...so I sampled a leaf.

It was beautifully fresh tasting and truly mild (I'd been expecting just a mild-compared-to your-average-pernicious-weed sort of mildness). It was also very slightly lemony but much less sharp than sorrel.

Like Good King Henry it's another forgotten pot-herb that would be worth remembering. But I'm far from the first to make that plea - this is Patrick Neill in 1817 in his An Account of British Horticulture. Drawn up for the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
"In old times, garden patience was much cultivated as a spinach. It is now very much neglected, partly perhaps on account of the proper mode of using it not being generally known. The leaves rise early in the spring; they are to be cut while tender, and about a fourth part of common sorrel is to be mixed with them. In this way patience-dock is much used in Sweden, as we have been informed by the late Sir Alexander Seton of Preston, who had an estate in Sweden, and frequently resided there. This mixture may be safely recommended as forming an excellent spinach dish. Garden patience is easily raised from seed, which may be sown in lines, in the manner of common spinach, or white beet. If they be regularly cut over two or three times in the season, they continue in a healthy productive state for several years."
The leaves are said to become quite bitter later in the year but I should imagine that chopping them down so they produce new young foliage is a way of avoiding the bitterness. I'll be trying it anyway. Left to flower, patience dock grows tall, to five feet with ease and in rich soil can get to over eight feet. Removing flower stems before seed is dispersed is worth doing to avoid it springing up all over the garden.

I took some patience dock home to steam it.

Patience dock in the steamer

Removing the midribs from the leaves isn't necessary. I left the midrib on one large leaf and discovered that it cooked almost as quickly as the rest of the leaf i.e. in about three or four minutes.

bowl of steamed patience dock

The texture was pleasingly soft; I can see why it is said to make an excellent purée, but it does need some extra flavour - salt, pepper, chilli, ginger, sorrel maybe.

I think I'll be mostly adding it to salads though. It will be useful to be able to gather large mild leaves produced in abundance. There are plenty of small fiddly salad leaves for the picking at this time of year - they need some patience!

N.B. I have some patience dock plants for sale at the moment. 


Two steps forward, one step back!

Comments very welcome!

It is the three year anniversary of the Backyard Larder Blog and time for another overview.

Establishing a perennial vegetable allotment can take a while especially if time and money resources are limited. My progress has been stepwise. Sometimes plants have needed resiting as I've begun to better understand their needs - or replacing when I've found they were not what I thought they were! Sometimes beds have needed overhauling to rescue them from couch grass invasion. But I'm getting there. Something that pleased me one day last year was a subtle change I noticed to the feel of the perennial vegetable allotment. Annual allotment plots often return to something of a blank slate at the end of each growing year but here the perennial nature of the planting is gradually allowing the place to develop into a real garden with its own special character.

Apple tree

hugelkultur herb bed

But there are plenty of rough areas to work on. I was working on this messy pond last year.

renovating an old pond

Come summer it was a colourful riot, but the weeds had crept in, threatening to stifle the sorrel, alexanders, angelica, dahlias, skirret and other herbs and vegetables that are planted there.

pond in summer

I've tidied up again now and am looking forward to the plants getting properly established this year.

pond in early spring

There is a very welcome development in the pond too!...


Progress is slow in the move towards polycultures on the perennial vegetable beds. I'm still experimenting and trying to establish plants. This year there should be some oca coming up amongst the tree kales and perennial onions - and some tree kales coming up amongst the Bocking 14 comfrey! This little ground-hugging comfrey (Symphytum ibericum) may prove useful in some places (at present around the fruit bushes).

Symphytum ibericum
Symphytum ibericum

I put the brassica protection plan that I posted about last March into action. So I now have a large brassica cage over three beds made from very wide gauge pea netting that has been safe from destruction by wind. I was worried that the pigeons might be able to fly straight into it but this hasn't happened - I think they do walk in and peck at plants on the ground but they haven't flown up and eaten the tall brassicas. A bit of finer netting at ground level should hopefully keep them out altogether.

Brassica cage

The best of the new perennial vegetable discoveries over the last year have been oyster plant, hosta shoots, bladder campion and patience dock.

Oyster plant
Oyster plant
Hosta shoots
Hosta shoots

Bladder campion
Bladder campion
Patience dock
Patience dock

Of the plants we were already eating skirret has become established as a firm favourite and sea beet is now as popular as chard. The wild cabbage all finally died out and I'm having some trouble overwintering chicories. But I keep trying and will be replanting both of these this year along with replacement asparagus (after my first failed attempt) and I have an exciting collection of new plants to try from seed too.

Finally the longed for Bath asparagus....the good news is it did produce a flower stalk last year. Hurray! The bad news is it somehow got snapped off before the flower could open....Alas!

Bath asparagus with broken bud

This year perhaps?!....