Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ground Elder/Skvalderkål

Aegopodium podagraria

Ground elder in the edge of a ditch
Ground elder is found in many forests, in the edge of ditches and in fences. In gardens it is not very popular. This weed is very difficult to eliminate as it is usually growing among other plants. In some areas it is considered among the worst of weeds, since it is extremely invasive and crowds out native species. It is also known as herb gerard, bishop's weed and snow-in-the-mountain. It

Ground elder was introduced to northern Europe by monks from the south in the Middle Ages -and to Britain possibly already by the Romans , as a pot-herb and a medicine against rheumatism and gout (hence the common name). It has a long history of medicinal use and was cultivated as a food crop and medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. The plant was used usually as a food that should counteract gout, one of the effects of the rich foods eaten by the monks, bishops etc at this time. The plant is little used in modern herbalism.

All parts of the plants are antirheumatic, diuretic, sedative and vulnerary. An infusion is used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and disorder of the bladder and intestines. Externally it is used as a poultice on burns, stings, wounds, painful joints.

The plant is harvested when it is in flower in late spring to mid-summer and can be used fresh or be dried for later use. The leaves can be boiled like spinach, or fresh young ones can be added to a salad - too much has a laxative effect. The dried root can be grounded into a flour for baking.
So maybe we could eliminate some of this weed by using it in our kitchen - and it is for free!

It was probably introduced to Denmark by monks in the Middle Ages as a food and medicinal plant. It was used against indigestion, it was used as a spring fodder for the cattle and the pigs and small leaves for the chicken. In the kitchen it was used as a cabbage. A special dish at Easter 'Skærtorsdagskål' (Maundy Thursday Cabbage) contained 7 or 9 kinds of cabbage, and ground elder was one of them.

Nicholas Culpepper, a famous 17th century's physician said about ground elder:
'Upon experiment it is found to heal the gout and sciatica. It is also used for aching joints and other cold pains'.

Common Blue Damselfly/ Almindelig Vandnymfe

Enallagma cyathigerum

The common blue damselfly is widespread and common. Adults can be seen from May to the end of August. It is a common species typical of lakes especially deep open sites. It has been recorded at greater altidtudes than most other damselflies.

Old English country names 'horse-stingers' and 'devil's darning needles' suggest that they were once feared. Neither dragonflies nor damselflies have the capacity to sting although they are predatory insects both in the larval and adult stages.

photo Vest Stadil Fjord 070608: grethe bachmann

Black-tailed Skimmer/ Stor Blåpil

Orthetrum cancellatrum

Black-tailed Skimmer/ Stor Blåpil
Vest Stadil Fjord,West Jutland
Black-tailed skimmer is common in North Africa and the most of Europe. In Norway it is considered extinct. In Denmark it is known from all districts. Since Denmark is on the northern border of its area of distribution it is possible that the Danish occurence of black-tailed skimmer might be influenced by climatic changes.

The male has a blue abdomen with a black tip and transparent wings and the female has a yellowish brown body with black zigzag marks along the abdomen and the transparent wings. It is an active skimmer that patrols its territory aggressively frequently resting on patches of bare ground or stones although it will occassionally rest up in vegetation. It favours open areas of still water that has a hard not muddy substrate.
Leave patches of bare ground around the edges of larger water bodies and leave cut grass and other vegetation to dry out in ‘habitat piles’. These pale areas will attract basking dragonflies. Skimmers hunt from low perches, so placing a few sticks or twigs close to the water’s edge will also encourage them.
photo Vest Stadil Fjord 070608 : grethe bachmann

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sea Kale/Strandkaal/ Crambe maritima

Sea Kale by the beach, Jernhatten, Djursland

The salt-air tolerant Sea Kale/ Strandkaal grows wild along the coasts of Europe from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea. In old garden books the use of sea kale is often described. The young pale shots were popular in dishes in the early spring, often mixed with the winter leftovers of curly kale. The plant contains lots of C-vitamins and was also used as a means against scurvy.

In England sea kale was a common plant until a botanizer in 1799 mentioned its good qualities. Then it was used so much for food that it became almost extinct. The stems taste a little like asparagus, but also the leaves are good with a taste a little milder than curly kale. The young flower shots taste like broccoli. The plant was earlier cultivated in gardens by manors and eaten as an early asparagus. In Denmark it was called 'Herrremandens asparges'. (Herremand = Lord of the Manor).

By the early 18th century sea kale had become established as a garden vegetable and it was very popular in the early 19th century where it was served at the Prince Regent's Royal Pavillion in Brighton. The shoots are fine served like asparagus, steamed with either bechamel sauce or melted butter , salt and pepper.

photo 310508: grethe bachmann, Glatved Strand, Djursland

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Honey Buzzard/ Hvepsevåge

Pernis apivorus

Honey Buzzard, Jernhatten, Djursland

The Honey buzzard, sometimes known as the 'pern', is despite the buzzard-name related closer to the kite than to the true buzzard (Buteo). It is a summer migrant to most of Europe and western Asia, wintering in Africa. In Denmark were ab. 650 breeding honey buzzards in the year 2000.

It is mainly living on larvae and nests of wasps, although it will take other small prey. The Danish name hvepsevåge refers to its eating wasps. The Latin apivorus means bee-eater.
It has larger and longer wings than common buzzard, a longer neck with a small head and a longer tail.

This week-end was a big migration of honey buzzards in the wellknown migration places in Jutland.(esp. Skagen & Djursland)

photo 310508: stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan Foto

June - John Clare


Now summer is in flower and natures hum
Is never silent round her sultry bloom
Insects as small as dust are never done
Wi' glittering dance and reeling in the sun
And green wood fly and blossom haunting bee
Are never weary of their melody
Round field hedge now flowers in full glory twine
Large bindweed bells wild hop and streaked woodbine
That lift athirst their slender throated flowers
Agape for dew falls and for honey showers
These round each bush in sweet disorder run
And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.
John Clare, (June)

photo: grethe bachmann, Mindeparken, Århus

A Sunny May in 2008 - 347 sunny hours

347 hours of sun in Denmark during the month of May, a record since 1920. The farmland needs water now.

photo 310508: gb