3 May 2017

Red Valerian at the allotment



Red Valerian aka Centranthus ruber.  I was excited to read recently that this plant is edible - some say gorgeous flavour, others that the taste is bitter. I've just treated myself to Mark Diacono's latest tome The New Kitchen Garden (an excellent informative read, by the way) and he reckons that the leaves have a taste reminiscent of broad beans.  In my opinion that would make them rather yummy.

It's a perennial that is happy to self seed itself around and can be evergreen in a mild climate.  This one was photographed on a path near to my shared allotment and has come into flower in the last week. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers which might make them a good sacrificial plant to grow near brassicas but, if you want fresh greens for salads, etc, you'll have to cut the flowers off to stimulate new growth.  (Or perhaps have some for flowers and more for eating?)

Mark writes that while the new shoots are good to eat in spring and young leaves can be picked throughout the year, it's best to keep the plant watered in a dry spell to prevent leaves becoming bitter. As we've had some good rain in the past couple of days, I feel I'll be tempted to have a nibble next time I'm at the allotment and will definitely be encouraging a few of these plants to grow on the plot. I noticed that a few white ones seem to have made their way into the veg patch borders as well. Very serendipitous!

I'd be interested to know if anyone has tried (or would try) eating this plant
or do you prefer to leave it as a flower?  
Or perhaps are not fussed about valerian at all?


16 comments:

  1. It's so pretty, I always love to see it about. I didn't know it was edible though, I'll be interested to know what you think! CJ xx

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    1. I'll be sure to let everyone know, CJ. Bearing in mind that I don't subscribe to eating dandelions (way too bitter for me) so it will be an interesting taste trial. xx

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    2. You could always try blanching the dandelions, Caro - excluding light with a bucket so the leaves are pale, tender and less bitter! Or eat the flowers....

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    3. I'll think I'll pass on dandelions, Emma, although thanks for passing on the tip. Around here I'd be concerned that passing cats, dogs, or foxes had stopped to do their "business" nearby! And, being urban, there's road traffic fumes as well. Valerian, being taller, might just manage to evade those creatures leaving the leaves untainted.

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  2. I have some red valerian in the stone feature which I think I'll leave to flower for the wildlife to enjoy and me to look at rather than eat. xx

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    1. The butterflies will thank you for it and you'll probably have loads of photos as a result! x

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  3. I love the red of that Valerian. I spotted it yesterday growing with the perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'. It was a great combo and I'll try and photograph it.

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    1. It's such an eye-catching colour. I'd love to see your photo of the valerian/erysimum combo if you manage it. I have white valerian growing near the Bowles' Mauve in the drought border, along with grasses, silver leaved plants and irises, it makes a really lovely filler plant.

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  4. That's very interesting to find out that the plant is edible. We planted in our previous home and it ended by spreading all down the street! There are lots of these plants growing wild here so I will have to try it and let you know what I think! Sarah x

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    1. It does seem to be one of those bargain plants where, once grown, you'll have it forever. Wondered about that aspect when I saw that white valerian had popped up in the garden here - it will join the self seeded orache, cerinthe, fennel, forget me nots, calendula, etc - I've probably forgotten loads! Luckily these are all attractive plants! xx

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  5. I am sure I made a comment earlier, it was similar to Margaret's. We pulled ours up as it not only spread on our plot but our neighbours plot too. Some of the plants took some uprooting as they have a strong grip once established.

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    1. Good to know that they have a strong grip. I noticed that the white valerian in the drought border is looking very healthy this year, having self seeded itself in there last year. I've noticed one or two other escapee plants on the allotments; rose campion, salsify, mullein all grow on the paths around the plots.

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  6. Hi Caro - I have it in my garden, never thought about eating it - and sorry, but you've not enticed me really! I agree with Sue Garrett's post - it can be a right pain, particularly I find if you let the flowers seed - I've pulled out at least 100 seedlings from my paths.... so beware!!! x

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    1. Ah, well, each to their own Simone! The gardens here are large enough to cope with a few self seeded flowers so I hope that they do multiply, otherwise the concrete paving slabs dominate. And, as you're all too well aware, it's relatively easy to pull out unwanted seedlings. (We have the same with horse chestnut seedlings at the allotments.

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  7. I've got the white valerian planted in the flowerbed and red growing out of the bottom of the raised vegetable beds where it is self sown but looks quite pretty. I was intending to try it in salads this year having read over the winter that it was edible...

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    1. Sounds fab! I have only the white in the flowerbed at the flats, the red is at the allotment but I wouldn't mind some in the veg patch here. I've tasted it now and Marc Diacono is right, the leaves have a nice 'green' taste (obvs!) but they're slightly sweet rather than bitter. Not bad at all and, yes, I'll definitely be adding some of the younger leaves to salads. Let the taste adventure continue!!

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Caro x

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