Reseda alba - white mignonette


Reseda alba flower in early spring, Kefalonia, Greece.

Reseda alba flower in early spring, Kefalonia, Greece.

Native to EuropeAsia, and North Africa, Rseda alba can be found in parts of the Americas and Australia as an introduced species. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant for its spikelike racemes of fragrant white flowers. This is an annual or perennial herb growing up to a meter tall.

In Kefalonia, Greece the plant grows wild from fall through winter, then flowering in early spring.


White mignonette is a sought after species of horta (wild edible greens) in parts of Greece. The leaves are pinched off and simmered in water for 10 min often mixed with other horta, then strained. Lemon juice and olive oil and a pinch of salt are added. The dish is eaten hot or at room temperature. The young inflorescence shoot is also edible. 

Reseda alba L. are considered to be healthy by being “good for the liver” and having blood-cleansing properties (Nebel et al. n.d.).

Reseda alba, edible leaf. 

Reseda alba, edible leaf. 

In the article Wild Gathered Food Plants in the European Mediterranean it is recorded that "The tops of the shoots are eaten raw seasoned with olive oil or after being cooked and then stir- fried with garlic and olive oil. In the literature, only two references to the use of R. alba as food were found. First, young leaves of R. alba were used as vegetable in Greece (Heldreich 1862) and, second, as salad by Greek farmers of the surroundings of Larnaca in Cyprus (Arnold Apostolides 1985)."

The article goes on... "both records are from regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, which were, in historic times, part of the Greek and Byzantine empires, as the Graecanic area in Southern Italy. For some plants from Greece (GR) and Gallicianò (I), cognates were detected, which suggests that they have been used as vegetables since pre- Roman times: “tsochos” (GR) and “zuccho” (I) for Sonchus asper L. & S. oleraceus L., or “andrakla” (GR) and “andrácla” (I) for Portulaca oleracea L. (see Table 2 and Nebel and Hein-rich n.d.)."


I have only used this species when collected from the wild. It is used by some as a annual or perennial ornamental species, and seed can likely be obtained easily. On my land in Greece it tends to seed most aggressively in marginally fertile disrupted soils. 

References: Wild Gathered Food Plants in the European Mediterranean: A Comparative Analysis.... Available from: [accessed Mar 29 2018].

Agroforestry species database from the World Agroforestry Center

The World Agroforestry Center recently announced and released a new multi-database search engine, or switchboard for information on Agroforestry species.

The 13 websites the Switchboard links to include The Plant Resources for Tropical AfricaThe Useful Tree Species for AfricaTree Seed Suppliers DirectoryThe UNEP-WCMC Species Database,  and The VECEA interactive vegetation map. In addition to directly harnessing information from these 13, the switchboard also provides hyperlinks to The Plant List,  Tropicos,  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and The Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

The Switchboard’s main strength is that it shortens the time and energy spent on searches, and generates quality information drawn from trusted sources,” says Roeland Kindt, the senior ecologist at ICRAF who led the development of the tool. “Its creation was driven by a need expressed by users, for a “one-stop-shop” for good quality and detailed information on species of interest,” says Kindt.

Users can search for information in two ways:

– See more at:

Brassica rapa - Rapini


Actually more closely related to the turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa) then broccoli, Rapini is likely the semi-domesticated descent of a wild herb originating either in China or the Mediterranean region.

Rapini (commonly marketed in the United States as broccoli raab or broccoli rabe


The edible stems and buds buds somewhat resemble broccoli, and are closely related, but do not form a large head. Rapini is known for its slightly bitter taste and is particularly associated with Italian, Galician, and Portuguese cuisines.

All tender parts of the plant are traditionally sautéed with olive oil or butter, garlic and chilis, then eaten as a side dish or used in sandwiches, etc. It is a traditional side dish for porchetta. 

Rapini is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron. The leaves, stems, buds, and flowers are edible. Photos of the flowers and buds below.

Brassica rapa.jpg

Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Silverberry, Oleaster


Elaeagnus x ebbingei, commonly called oleaster or Ebbing's silverberry, is from temperate / subropical Areas of Asia. It is a cross between Elaeagnus macrophylla x Elaeagnus pungens. It is a large, bushy, rounded shrub that typically grows to 8-10' tall and as wide. Branchlets lack spines. Leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates, but semi-evergreen to deciduous near the northern edge of its growing range.


Elaeagnus fruit

The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and are a good source of protein and fats. The fruit is edible, somewhat astringent until fully ripe (almost falling off), then very good and produced in large quantities. Fruits ripen in the middle of winter when few other fruit are available. Fruit will grow to be 3 cm long by 1 cm wide when ripe.

The fruit of all Elaeagnus species are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and E, flavinoids and other bio-active compounds. The fruit is also a good source of fatty acids, which is unusual for fruit. 

Reportedly, current research indicates that consumption of the fruit greatly reduces the incidence of cancer in humans. Not only that but the compounds in the fruit are possibly capable of slowing or even reversing the growth of cancers that are already in the body.

Flowers are inconspicuous but emit a very agreeable aroma.


The plant is nitrogen fixing, meaning its roots have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria which form nodules on the roots of the plant and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is used by the plant itself for its own growth, however some of the nitrogen is also available for plants growing nearby. Thus, planting E. ebbingei near other food crops can improve growth and increase productivity.

Due to the versatility of this plant, it has a wide range of uses for use in regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and agroforestry systems. It can grow in full sun or shade and can handle hot dry summers. 

Elaeagnus can have a vine-like growth habit, especially when growing in the understory of a larger tree. Prune back annually to keep the plant contained as a dense hedge or shrub, the plant can take heavy pruning and produces abundant biomass.

Elaeagnus is very wind tolerant and can be utilized as a superior windbreak. It is also highly salt tolerant. It can be heavily pruned as a hedge or let to grow freely, reaching 5 m in height.

I have planted this species in temperate Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, as well as in California, its a tough shrub with with many diverse uses. I believe Elaeagnus ebbingei has major potential for use in sustainable agriculture systems and deserves further investigation, selection and development of superior fruit / seed varieties. 


Cornus mas - European Cornel


Cornus mas is a species of flowering plant in the dogwood family, native to S. Europe and Southwest including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.


Cornus mass fruit leaf.jpg

The fruit tastes like something between a sour cherry and cranberry, turns dark red when ripe. The fruit is used to make jams, sauces (similar to cranberry sauce). In Montenegro I found concentrated juice sold in the market.

The fruits when ripe on the plant bear a resemblance to coffee berries, and ripen in mid- to late summer. The fruit is edible (mainly consumed in Eastern Europe, UK, and Iran), but the unripe fruit is astringent. The fruit only fully ripens after it falls from the tree. When ripe, the fruit is dark ruby red or a bright yellow. It has an acidic flavour which is best described as a mixture of cranberry and sour cherry; it is mainly used for making jam, makes an excellent sauce similar to cranberry sauce when pitted and then boiled with sugar and orange, but also can be eaten dried. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, the fruit is used for distilling vodka, in Austria and German Alps is used for distilling Dirndlbrand, in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina it is distilled into raki, and in Greece cranberries are used to make home-made liqueur. In Turkey and Iran it is eaten with salt as a snack in summer, and traditionally drunk in a cold drink called kızılcık şerbetiCultivars selected for fruit production in Ukraine have fruit up to four cm long. It is eaten in Eastern Europe in many ways including as a medicine. It is very high in vitamin C and is used to fight colds and flus.

The fruit of C. mas (together with the fruit of C. officinalis) has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Known as shan zhu yu, 山茱萸, it is used to retain the jing, essence, to tonify the kidneys, and in cases of spermatorrhea.


Cornus mas tree.jpg

Cornus mas can be propagated from seed. The seed must be separated from the fruit flesh since this contains germination inhibitors. Stored seed should be cold stratified for 3 - 4 months and sown as early as possible in the year. Scarification may also help as may a period of warm stratification before the cold stratification. Germination, especially of stored seed, can be very slow, taking 18 months or more.

C. mass can also be propagated from cuttings of half-ripe side shoots. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, taken with a heel if possible, autumn in a cold frame. New growth can also be air airlayered. 

I took this photo in the Ljubljana botanical garden