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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Books By
Alan J Hartley




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While watching a gardening program, a few weeks ago on the TV, I saw a little feature on the Magnolia Vine, or Schisandra Chinensis. The Chinese name for this vine means “Five Berry Flavour,” as the berries are said to exhibit all five of the taste characteristics; - Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Spicy. The berries are also sometimes called “The Youth Berry,” as they are claimed to give longer life because of their effects on the Liver etc. In fact the “Expert,” that the presenter was talking to, said that the berries were effective as a hang-over cure, although the presenter wasn’t very impressed with their taste if her face was anything to go by when she tried eating one or two! Commercially, the berries are used in both China and Russia for the production of juices and they are also used in various medicinal type products. It is not only the berries that can be harvested as it is said that the young leaves are also edible when cooked and the leaves and bark are all used medicinally. The “Expert,” went on to say that the vine was very hardy and was ideal for a small garden as it didn’t grow too big and would be happy to grow away from the Sun in partial shade. The vine does produce fragrant flowers hence another common name of “Magnolia Vine,” and these are followed by the scarlet, edible fruits that are only produced if both a male and female plant are present.
To be honest I had come across the plant before in the course of my writings and not been able to buy one, but low and behold after the TV program was shown a gardening catalogue fell through the letterbox advertising, amongst other things, the Schisandra. Naturally, I ordered one for my allotment. I had been trying to decide what other fruit to plant in my plot and this seemed to good an opportunity to miss! In the catalogue was another small growing plant that caught my eye – the Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus, variety “Strawberry Sticks.” When I looked it up I found that it was commonly called “Goosefoot,” because of the shape of its leaves that are reminiscent of the feet of Geese. Apparently, in Britain, a few hundred years ago, it used to be a regular part of the diet for many people, but it is one of those plants that has fallen out of favour and is now rarely grown here in the U.K.

Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus goes under many common names including “Good King Henry,” “Licolnshire Spinach,” “Mercury” and “Poor Man’s Asparagus.”
The perennial, “Good King Henry, Strawberry Sticks,” grows up to about 2 feet high and flowers during the months of May and July after which small edible Strawberry like fruits are produced along the stems on this new variety. More traditional uses for the plant were to use the leaves like Spinach and the young Spring shoots could be blanched to give an Asparagus like crop – hence the nicknames.

After reading about the varied uses for “Good King Henry,” I hastily added some of these plants to my order. I thought that as perennials they would be ideal for a small permanent bed on my allotment to go with my other perennial vegetables and fruit. Later that day I found more information about “Good King Henry,” and many references to the fact that some considered it to be a troublesome weed! The price should have given the game away as the plants were very cheap, but I consoled myself with the thought that there isn’t a bigger pest than Raspberries growing where they are not wanted and most of us have them on our allotments!

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