Allium schoenoprasum

preview hoep 00002 allium schoenoprasum schoenoprasum schnittlauchPlants having a sharp or bitter taste are often rejected by children - with one exception: chives. Interestingly enough, it is even one of their favourite plants in many cases. Even two or three-year-old children often demonstrate their preference for this plant.

Although the herbaceous growing chives is one of the most inconspicuous species of the genus Allium, it gained people’s attention quite early due to its spicy aroma. In Europe, the plant is used at least since the early Middle Ages as a culinary herb. Over time the German language developed some very descriptive names for it: Graslauch and Binsenlauch (because of the dark green bins like leaves), Jacobzwiebel (because onions=Zwiebel were harvested around 25 of July, the St. Jakob day in the old days), Schnittling and Suppenlauch (often used for soups). Meanwhile, the main designation has generally been chives, and there is hardly anyone who doesn’t know this herb.

Common evening primrose or Evening star

Oenothera biennis

preview hoep 00018 oenothera biennis gewoehnliche nachtkerzeThe Common evening primrose or Evening star frequently grows along waysides, sunny embankments and on fallow land. The name of this two-year plant emphasizes the special flowering behavior: The individual blossoms, which appear in June, open only during late afternoon or in the dusk. It happens at an astonishing rate within a few minutes. During the night these blooms remain luring far open to attract nocturnal butterflies. They wither usually during the first hours of the following day, while the next flower buds prepare already for blossoming.

The Common evening primrose can be regarded also as an old agricultural crop. Every part of the plant is edible, and because its roots turn red when cooked, it is also called “Schinkenwurz” in the vernacular. Another use finds the plant in the production of certain cosmetics.

„Dead man’s fingers“

Decaisnea fargesii

preview hoep 00010 decaisnea insignis blauschoteThe „Dead man’s fingers“ is noticeable particularly in the autumn, when the small tree loses gradually its yellow discoloured leafs and the blue-rimy and cucumber-like pods emerge even more clearly. In late autumn when the leaves have mostly fallen off completely, the fruit burst. Inside the pods black seeds show up, which are surrounded by a gelatinous mass.

In South West China, where this plant has its origin and usually grows in thickets of shrubs, the wild fruits are collected.

European Cornel or Cornelian Cherry

Cornus mas

preview hoep 00007 cornus mas echte kornelkirscheThe Cornelian Cherry is a wood with an impressive history and has been valued since ancient times as a valuable timber. According to a report by the Greek writer Pausanias the Trojan horse, which Odysseus and its companions got out of, in order to conquer Troja, was built of this wood. Even the famous bow of Odysseus, which only he could draw and the best javelins at that time were made from this wood. But the cultural and historical evidence on the use of the plant go quite far back. In lake dwellings of the Stone and Bronze Age in Italy and Austria large quantities of Cornelian cherry kernels could be found. Apparently, the fruits of this wood were an important part of people’s nourishment in those times.

For children - and of course for us adults - the ripe (!) fruit is still a pleasant, tart-tasting wild fruit that can be eaten raw. For jam making, the cornelian cherries are mixed with low-acid fruits like melons, pears and apples. They are also suitable as an accompaniment to game dishes especially when applying a sweet and sour taste and marinating the meat in wine-vinegar.

Garlic Mustard

Alliaria petiolata

preview hoep 00001 alliaria petiolata knoblauchsraukeIn lucid, rather humid deciduous or mixed forests, between shrubs and on shady, grassy roadsides, Garlic Mustard is one of the most common flowering plants during spring. However, it is rarely observed, because it’s small, white blooms as well as it’s leaves are rather inconspicuous.

This plant nevertheless shows one remarkable feature, which makes it an interesting agricultural crop: Glucosinolates (organic compounds of sulfur and nitrogen) are considered phytochemicals which are believed to have health-favourable properties. The latter turn Garlic Mustard into a very aromatic spice for salads, spreads and cream cheese preparations.