Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

The ox eye daisy is a perennial plant from the asteraceae or compositae family. It is also known as margarite, maudlinwort, common daisy, dog daisy,horsegowan and moon daisy. The old botanical name was Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. They are similar to the more prevalent daisy (Bellis perennis) normally seen in lawns but are taller with a much larger flower. The foliage is dark green and smooth.

Ox Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

Native to Europe and northern Asia, ox eye daisies are commonly found in fields, clearings, disturbed areas and by the side of roads. Unfortunately, they are listed as a noxious weed in many countries of the world including America and Australia.

Raw Edible Parts

All the aerial parts are edible raw. The flowers and leaves can be used in salads and the flower buds can be pickled like capers. Many references say to eat the petals only on the flower but we find the whole flower very tasty although too many seems to make our tongues numb! The fresh or dried leaves and flowers can also be used to make a tea. The upper stems usually die back in the colder months but in milder areas the basal leaves may still be seen.

Other uses

Ox eye daisies were used in folk medicine for centuries. The Herbal Manual by Harold Ward lists it as antispasmodic and a tonic. It was used to treat whooping cough, asthma and internal wounds and ulcers, amongst other things. Like chamomile it has a calming effect. It is a really pretty little flower and is very long lasting. The open flower heads attract a large range of pollinating insects particularly bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Growing Ox Eye Daisies
Seeds will germinate in the autumn or the spring although they can actually be sown at any time of the year. Seeds are able to remain viable in the soil for many years. This plant is generally dependent on seed for regeneration. However, a new plant can grow from a piece of rhizome which makes it difficult to get rid of (as if you'd want to). Basal cuttings can be taken in the spring from existing plants. Plants grow to around half a metre high and they do best in soils with a low fertility. They are hardy to -20°C. Now is the time to see them as they flower from around May to September.

NEW EBOOK ... coming soon
New ebook Raw Edible Flowers & Leaves

Raw Edible Flowers and Leaves contains over 250 plants with raw edible flowers and leaves. As the title suggests, they all have raw edible flowers and leaves. However, most are blessed with many other raw edible parts and these are also listed. Everything can be grown in the temperate maritime climate of the British Isles as well as other areas of the world, including much of Europe and North America.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Amelanchier species

Amelanchier (pronounced am-ul-lank-ee-ur) is a genus containing around twenty deciduous species of shrubs and trees from the rose (Rosaceae) family. They are more commonly known as serviceberry, juneberry, saskatoon, sarvisberry, shadbush, wild pear and wild plum. Amelanchier are native to the temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere and so do very well in the British Isles. A. x lamarckii is thought to be a natural hybrid and is also naturalised throughout Europe although it is not a native here.

Canadian serviceberry (A. canadensis)

The shrub in the photo is of the species A. canadensis. It was taken today and shows clusters of unripe fruit. They look a bit like unripe blueberries. However, unlike blueberries, they are much much easier to grow. These little berries will increase in size and turn a purple black colour when they are fully ripe. We think these shrubs are well worth growing since they don't take much looking after and have reliably produced really nice fruit each summer.

Canadian Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

Amelanchier species are often sold as ornamentals in the UK and there are various cultivars available. Pretty white flowers appear in the spring and edible fruit in the summer which is also very popular with the birds. The berry is 5-15mm in diameter and while it is called a berry it is actually a pome which is related to an apple. Trees or shrubs can be pruned in June if needs be or, if space allows, they can be allowed to do their own thing. Amelanchier can grow to around 20 metres high. Species to try which are reported to have decent fruit include A. alnifolia, A. canadensis, A. laevis and A. x lamarkii. Planting different species apparently ensures cross pollination and a better fruit.

Raw edible parts

All species from the Amelanchier genus have edible fruit but some taste nicer than others. It is important to ensure the fruit is dark and ripe before eating to get the best of the flavour. The berries can be eaten fresh, cooked or dried and used like raisins. We haven't tried drying them yet due to the fact that the birds always get most of the fruit before us.