This week, I’m speaking to one of the world’s foremost experts in ornamental, edible plants, Stephen Barstow. Stephen grows a dazzling range of plants, some you probably haven’t even heard of, let alone eaten and more still that you may have heard of but may not have considered to be edible.
Stephen’s book Around the World in 80 Plants looks at perennial, leafy plants from around the globe that play a big part in the diet of those living where these plants naturally occur in abundance. He’s grown and studied these in his garden in Norway and selected varieties for taste, growth performance and for nutritional, ornamental and entomological value. that please the eye, work from a maintenance perspective and can evolve successfully over time. We talk about what he grows in his garden, his passion for onions, his book and some of the varieties mentioned therein.
About Stephen Barstow:
“Stephen Barstow has devoted 30 years to trialling the world’s perennial vegetables. It is unlikely that anyone anywhere has tried as many different species of edible plants – just witness his salad comprising 538 varieties in 2003 – earning him the title of ‘Extreme Salad Man’!
Stephen grew interested in green issues whilst studying in Norwich. He began eating whole-foods baking bread and learning the names of birds and plants. He became vegetarian when studying in Edinburgh and began a vegetable patch at his landlords flat. He was even sold with the building to the new owner as a lodger/gardener. In 1981 Stephen moved to Norway for work and found vegetarianism was only a small underground movement and that supermarkets stocked little vegetables. To survive they grew their own, and now Stephen has a garden that takes over two days to tour and 2,000 or so edibles, each with their own ethnobotanical story to tell.” – Permanent Publications
What we talk about:
Stephen’s book and how he came to write it, plans to release further editions that go beyond leafy veg?
Advice for interested in growing edimentals, where to source seeds or plants, in the UK and internationally?
If you’re ‘blessed’ with Japanese knotweed, what can you with it?
How to carry out blanching to improve flavour
How onions propagate themselves? Stephen’s favourite ornamental edible onion?
If it’s possible to be self-sufficient in ornamental veg all year round? How much space would you need?
How vital is it that we use our gardens to at least supplement our diets?
– Other good resources for those interested in Edimentals
Edulis Nursery www.edulis.co.uk
Incredible Vegetables www.incrediblevegetables.co.uk
Cool Temperate Nursery www.cooltemperate.co.uk
Edgewood Nursery edgewood-nursery.com
Eric Toensmeier www.perennialsolutions.org
Plants for a Future – Online Database
Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants by Stephen Facciola
With thanks to Jackie Currie, National Collection Holder of Alliums and Jake Rayson – www.forestgarden.wales