Sunday, July 17, 2011

I had a grand time.

The new Good King Henry plants are installed, two under plastic sawn-off water bottles, two fully exposed to the rabbits for experimental purposes. I did the same sort of thing with the runner beans – you will remember that Robin Lane Fox wrote in the Financial Times earlier this year that runner beans are of no interest to wildlife. He was thinking of the badgers who emerge from the river bank in Oxford to devastate allotments, but I have tried runner beans in the unprotected part of my garden to see how rabbits react.

So far, so good, but the beans, too, have been started under plastic water-bottles. It makes them hard to weed – the bottles fill up with chickweed. So yesterday I took three of the six bottles off entirely. (They are growing up a six-legged teepee.)

Rabbits abound, but so far they haven’t penetrated my ill-protected sanctuary where the lettuce and peas and brassicas are. And they have left a whole row of perpetual spinach in the unprotected part. Perhaps they are just growing it on a bit.

I consulted my books, and was horrified to discover that Sturtevant’s “Edible Plants of the World” doesn’t mention, under chenopodium album or chenopodium bonus-henricus, the fact that under the name of “bathua” it is widely eaten on the subcontinent. Rather diminishing my faith in Sturtevant.

(And in the evening, pursuing an entirely different train of thought, I discovered that the Oxford Latin Dictionary lists "Hadria" -- the Adriatic sea -- as a feminine noun. It's not. That rather diminished my faith in the Oxford Latin Dictionary. You really can't trust anybody.)

None of my books had much to say on the taste of GKH. Hessayon says that the leaves are “succulent”. Simons, I think it was, compares the taste to spinach beet. Bob Flowerdew, in an article on unusual vegetables in the April issue of Kitchen Garden magazine, says that the shoots, eaten as asparagus, aren’t too bad. None of that would prepare one for the actual bitterness of the stuff.

Poking around in Amazon to provide you with those links, I found – indeed, Amazon suggested – the Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America, which sounds fascinating. I have ordered it, and will consult it on this question the moment it shows up. It was written by a Frenchman who lived off the land in the US for some years.

Not much knitting: I have successfully resumed the Mourning Shawl.


  1. Jean, your comment about following different trains of thought (GKN, Hadria), and consulting various more or less reliable 'authorities' en route, suggests to me that we are kindred spirits - I'm always pursuing something through the pages of someone - but your comment about the rabbits growing the spinach on a bit confirms that you are funnier than me ... I'm still giggling, and so is my husband with whom I shared the joke :)

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