I have now started my second practice working period this year. This time, I stay in Stephen Barstow´s garden in Malvik, mid Norway. His garden is a remarkable collection of plants! It isn´t very big, but still holds a number of 2 -3000 species. This will really be a time for me to get to know and use a lot of new plants!
It all started when Stephen and his family came to Norway from Britain some 30 years ago. Being a vegetarian, he found the Norwegian vegetable marked extremely boring. He had to find some variation, and he started growing them himself. This led him into the most diverse edible garden in the whole country! He grows plants from all over the world, and it is quite astonishing, since it is located quite far north. Many of the most exotic plants live indoors, or at least spend the winter in big buckets in his cellar. But most of them handle this nordic climate, and thrive very well!
He has coordinated the organization seed savers Norway since the beginning in 2006 and is also distributing his own seeds and plants to his members, travelling around holding speeches and working closely with the genetic resource center, – keeping track of almost extinct and ancient vegetable varieties.
My work in the garden will mainly consist of daily maintenance, and the most fun part is usually at the end of the day – walking around with him, gathering something to eat. And this particular day we made something special… Tempura! We gathered 20 something plants, and fried them in batter – Yummy!
There follows a short presentation of each plant we cooked..
Ostrich Fern: (strutseving) One of the few edible ferns. Quite easy to recognize, as the only fern with separate fertile and sterile fronds, growing in a crown. Edible parts: new shoots in spring. Needs to be cooked for at least 10 min to be safe.
The bleached lovage (bleket løpstikke) is growing under a big bucket. Keeping it away from sunlight makes the taste a lot milder, the flesh more tender, and the colour light. It is a strong tasting herb, turning out to be a favorite in Tempura!
Udo – this is exotic. Stephen says it´s one of his veggies producing most volume. It is native to Japan, China and Korea. This is also bleached in a forcing pot. Very tasty, Asian aroma. Shoots are eaten, usually at a later stage than this – when it fills the forcing pot, it is ready to harvest.
Perennial kale, one of the old sorts. Stephen tells they all used to be perennial, but selecting over the years has made them biennials.. These old ones are propagated by cuttings! They stay in the cellar for the winter..
Aster scaber – a Korean vegetable. Young shoots are used. These ones are a bit too young, but we just had to try them out..
Campanula latifolia – this is funny. For many a hated weed, also for Stephen – until he read that it is edible, and used to be gathered by the farmers around the area several hundreds years ago. Young shoots in spring, flowers in summer, roots in winter.
Oca – red tubers, lovely for Tempura, with their sweet nutty taste!
Myrrhis -(Sweet cicely – spansk kjørvel) We harvested the young leaves. Also a Tempura favourite! Seems the veggies with the most character in taste fit the best for frying..
Allium scorodoprasum – leaves cut
Allium tuberosum -(kinesisk gressløk) leaves cut
Garlic – you all know. Excellent for Tempura 🙂
Allium ursinum (Ramsløk) Strong tasting, very nordic. The young leaves where fried.
Ligularia fischeri– It was the first time Stephen tried this one, we survived. Shoots where eaten.
Alliaria petiolata (Løkurt) – a common weed, difficult to get rid of.. Eat it!
Guess there where some more.. Ah yes the wonderful Hablitzia.. (stjernemelde) neutral in taste, clean, grows very fast – and is very lovely as a climbing plant.
Pheww! What an evening! 😀
And last but not least: How to make batter for frying: 2.5 dl water, 2.5 dl flour, one egg. Mix loosely.
Dip vegetable in batter, and fry in oil for a few minutes – holding 170-180 degrees. Tempura Dip: soy sauce with a dash of sesame oil… Enjoy!