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Speech review: Around the World in 80 Plants – an Edible Perennial Vegetable Adventure
Stephen Barstow, famous Norwegian plant expert, visited Switzerland during the first week of April 2018 to share on several occasions his vast knowledge about the many benefits of perennial vegetables. For ProSpecieRara he made a stopp at the head office of the foundation in Merian Gärten Basel at the 4th of April, to welcome an audience of 30 enthusiasts. In the evening at Markthalle Basel a speech was given that attracted more than 40 visitors.
Stephen Barstow has devoted 35 years of his life to test over 6'000 different edible plants, most of them perennials. Several are even common ornamentals, for which he coined the term «edimentals»: edible ornamentals. Is there anyone, who has tried to eat more different species of plants than him? As a young vegetarian he was told in the 80s that vegetables cannot be grown in his living area in the near-arctic Norway, because of too low temperatures. Fast forward twenty years, and his megasalads consisting of 537 species earned him the title of the «Extreme Salad Man» in 2003. He is the author of the book «Around the World in 80 Plants», published in 2014, and he is leading the Norwegian Seed Saver organization KVANN (see kvann.org)

Perennial vegetables have many benefits, as they are more robust against climate change, they are easier to grow organically, they require less water, fertilizer and other energy input, they sequester more carbon. And they are not only healthy for us, but also for our planet. Perennials prosper as well in marginal areas, e.g. in the mountains or in arctic areas, at both of which plants have to face short seasons. But many perennials would also grow far better on shady spaces in our gardens, where many other plants wouldn't grow easily. In our areas of central Europe, perennials offer a very potential opportunity to fill the «hunger gap» during spring, when storage vegetables are thinning, and fresh vegetables are not yet ripe. Perennials have deeper roots than annuals and thus are better able to use the water of the ground, so they are more robust to drought.

Examples of edible perennials of the ProSpecieRara conservation work are:

Ewiger Kohl
Rhubarb (Different varieties)
Scorzonera or black salsify (different varieties)
Welsh onion

But many more wild and cultivated perennials are worth trying like:

Hablitzia tamnoides

Or more known species like:

Stephen Barstow held some very inspiring speeches, in which he introduced the audience to a selection of his top 80 perenniel vegetables. But he also inspired some thoughts on alternative ways for the use of plants, by recounting local foraging traditions and experiences from small scale agriculture.

In case you missed his presentations, you can find out more on his website:

We highly recommend his book:
«Around the World in 80 Plants», Permanent Publication, November 2014. ISBN: 978-1-85623-141-1 (link to publisher here)