Hello, and welcome to Tendrils! There’s an exciting new arrival in the garden this week – a Hablitzia tamnoides plant from The Backyard Larder. This extremely cold-tolerant, climbing plant is also known as Caucasian Spinach (how long before it gets accused of playing identity politics???) and makes a great perennial spinach substitute, cropping during the ‘Hungry Gap’ in early spring when there’s plenty growing in the veg patch, but very little to eat. That’s the theory, anyway. This is my second plant, a replacement for the first that hasn’t survived years of neglect in a small pot whilst I transitioned to the new garden. Hence when this one arrived a few days ago I rushed straight out and planted it in the garden. It has a nice spot in the shady corner of the garden, sandwiched between the sour cherry and a slatted fence post. It can clamber up either/both, so hopefully it will be happy there with the alpine strawberries, the Welsh onions and the wild garlic.
Stephen Barstow deserves the credit for bringing Hablitzia to the attention of the UK (and beyond). You can download a PDF version of his Permaculture Magazine article on it, The Unknown Woodlander, from his Edimentals website. There’s some growing tips on the Incredible Vegetables website, and you can buy seed there, too. When it comes round to harvest time, check out Spinach Vine on Eat the Weeds, and Time for Hablitzia tamnoides on the Backyard Larder blog.
Speaking of leafy greens, there’s a lovely photo essay on the National Geographic website: We Are What We Eat: Spring in Crete Means a Feast of Wild Greens. If you’re feeling down because the days are so short at the moment, it’s bound to perk you up. That and the fact that they’ll start getting longer again in a week or so 😉
You’ll have to wait slightly longer for Christmas, but the wonderful Advent Botany is keeping us interested in the meantime. One of my favourites so far this year (apart from my own submission, on Caraway 🙂 ) is a very festive and minty Christmas with Wintergreen, with links to some recipes I might try when I get my first proper wintergreen harvest next year!
Researchers have noticed that plants appear to be trying to save us from climate change by using up more carbon dioxide. And they’re having an effect, but it’s likely to be short-lived, so we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to shrink our carbon footprints.
Speaking of carbon footprints, one easy way for gardeners to help out in that depratment is to go peat-free, and Fertile Fibre has got the skinny on how bad peat compost is for the environment?. Going peat-free is much easier than it used to be, as companies are bringing out some great peat-free products. My book on the topic, The Peat-Free Diet is next on my to-publish list, and will hopefully arrive by spring 🙂
Well, I’ll let you get back to wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards and panicking about the Brussels sprout shortage. This year’s Sproutpocalypse is due to diamondback moths invading from Europe, but plant scientists are developing new virus-resistant Brussels sprouts varieties to cope with other threats.
Of course, if you’re one of those organised types that has Christmas all sorted and is now stuck with putting the Christmas cards in colour-themed arrangements, you’ve got time to read about growing weld, how to grow papaya from pips and mistletoe and other plant parasites.
I’ll see you next week for the last pre-Christmas edition of Tendrils!
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.