Sunday, April 3, 2016

Around the World in 80 What?

Rhubarb, Bud, Earth, Leaf, Red, GreenThe other day, I came across a book titled “Around the World in 80 Plants by Stephen Barstow.  He wrote a 280 page book looking at 80 different edible perennial plants he grows in his garden in Norway. 

These plants last for more than one year and can be planted in those spots in your yard that you don't use because its too wet, too dry, too shady, or too something.

Perennials are nice plants that return year after year. Some of the ones we are most familiar with are plants like dandelions, rhubarb, and watercress.  I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that he takes his grand kids to pick dandelion flowers and makes a jelly from them.  According to the book, all parts of the dandelion is edible from the root to the leaves to the flower stems.  I've always thought of it as a weed, a pesky pain in the but weed. 

The book is divided up into 6 chapters, each chapter focuses on a different geographical area and the plants found there.  Each listing has its Latin name, English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian names, a description with information on if it can be raised from seeds or cuttings, pictures and information, quotes about the plant from other printed material and occasionally a recipe is included. If there are several edible varieties, he notes that and states which varieties he is looking at.

It turns out that many of these plants are found in more than one geographic location. The descriptions given are so fascinating.  The author gives a nice history of the plant, areas where it is normally grown, parts of the plant that are eaten and ways of preparing it. 

For instance, there is a plant in Chile called prickly rhubarb but it is not rhubarb.  It does not have the tart flavor  of regular rhubarb but is often eaten raw.  It can be made into marmalade, jelly, etc.  Unfortunately, prickly rhubarb and real rhubarb are often confused and all of it is sold as rhubarb.

On the other hand, rhubarb is a long living perennial that can grow above the tree line in Norway.  I’ve seen it grow in Fairbanks, Alaska where its grown on a very gravelly soil.  After like 12 years, the plant is huge and produces so much rhubarb that its easy to freeze for use in the winter.  The plant survives a temperature range from -40 F or -40 C  your choice to around 80 or 90 F or 30 plus C.  Apparently the Russians brought it to Alaska to help fight scurvy.  He gives a Norwegian dessert recipe where the cooked, sweetened rhubarb is thickened with potato flour and topped with sour cream.

According to Stephen Barstow, perennials are easier to raise, require less work, and return year after year.  Most of the plants he chose, I've never heard of but they look interesting.  Check it out at your local library. It is great reading.

Have you ever wondered what the top pizza flavors in the world are?  Check the blog out for the information tomorrow.

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