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Berberis darwinii produces barberries which are an important ingredient in Iranian cookery


shrubbery ‘Taste’ is the first in a series for Country Gardener by popular writer Gill Heavens looking into the five human senses and how they relate to the garden. When it comes to taste the garden always has some surprises

Naturally I had to do a little research on this subject, which unfortunately did not entail eating cake but did mean swotting up on my biology. Taste, or the wonderfully named gustatory perception, occurs when receptor cells on the tongue send messages to the gustatory areas of the brain via the cranial nerves. This gives rise to the sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savoury or umami that we experience when we eat or drink. How does this relate to the garden? Aside from grand estates and monasteries, historically, domestic gardens were used for growing food and medicinal herbs with perhaps a few flowers for ornament. These would have been what we now call a kitchen garden or potager. Space, time and money was limited, so it was essential that everything grown had to have a practical purpose. The garden was no place for frippery. It performed a basic function of providing food from base vegetables to herbs, spices and whatever wonderful varieties could be created to bring pleasure to the taste buds. In this day and age, mixed planting such as this is less widespread, although it has had a recent revival. Modern living can bring similar restrictions on time and space as our forebears experienced, and growing fruit and vegetables 18

amongst your herbaceous perennials works well and is practical and colourful. The urge to cultivate useful spaces is returning, with forest gardening and permaculture becoming more popular. Many edibles, such as rainbow chard, lettuces, beans and peas, can be attractive in their own right, earning a place in your garden through aesthetic merit alone. There’s been a much wider interest in plants eaten raw which won’t mind having a few bits removed regularly, such as edible flowers; such as heartsease or cut-and-come-again lettuce such as salad bowl, rocket, purslane, chives and garlic chives, buckler-leaf sorrel, mangetouts and podding peas. If you have no desire to grow cabbages amongst the chrysanthemums, do not think that taste must be confined to the vegetable garden or allotment. There are many familiar plants which are edible, some of which might be a surprise to you. Fuchsia berries have a high vitamin C content and can be eaten raw or made into jelly. I have sampled many varieties and they are quite variable, some having a rather odd peppery after taste. The one I cannot fault is the exotic and beautiful Fuchsia boliviana, which is delicious. Fuchsias have other joys to offer. When I was Country Gardener

Canna edulis or the arrowroot plant has a starchy rhizome which can be baked or boiled

Hemerocallis fulva - it’s tubers, shoots and flower buds can all be eaten

Devon Country Gardener April 2018  

The April 2018 issue of Devon Country Gardener Magazine

Devon Country Gardener April 2018  

The April 2018 issue of Devon Country Gardener Magazine