Meeting 10th September 2019

Our first meeting of the Autumn season was a fascinating talk and slideshow presented by Paul Barney of Edulis Nursery in Pangbourne, Berkshire.

Paul’s nursery grows an eclectic range of rare plants including a large selection of unusual and edible plants including alliums, brassicas, gingers, mostly hardy and easy to grow which you won’t find in your local garden centre!

The Nursery supply many top restaurants including Le Manoir with produce also Buckingham Palace.

Fascinated by the great nineteenth century plant hunter Frank Kingdon Ward, Paul has travelled far and wide throughout  India, Burma (now Myanamar) China and South America in his search for rare and exotic plants.

In Paul’s talk he concentrated on a visit to Northern India where he explored the mountainous and lush forests retracing the earlier journey of Frank Kingdon Ward’s quest to find the ‘wild tea’ plantations.

Living roughly and with a team of local sherpas Paul found an amazing range of edible plants which are eaten every day by the local population. Their daily diet contains very many more and a greater variety of vegetables than diets in the West.

The colourful slideshow featured an array of unusual plants most of which have never been seen in the West. The evergreen  sausage vine so called as it’s fruit looks just like a string of sausages but has a taste between melon and a pineapple! Chilli guavas and the Nagar chilli which is the hottest. The allium hookeri whose attractive creamy flowers are also edible and used in bhajis as a substitute for onions. The bees love the flowers.

Many peppers are grown including the lemon pepper very similar to sechuan pepper commonly used in Asian cooking.

In Naga land in Northern India where English is widely spoken (due to the early English Christian missionaries) they have a novel way of growing cabbages. They insert stalks into the gaps in walls which keeps them clear of flooding whilst enhancing the appearance of the walls!

For further information on these incredible edibles contact Paul via his website or

The next Harpenden Gardening Society meeting will be on Tuesday 8th October (8.00pm at Roundwood Park School) featuring a talk on ‘Death in the Garden’ about poisonous plants by the well known Horticulturalist Author and Historian Michael Brown.

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