There are all kinds of pretty flowers and almost forgotten edible herbs in the landscape around the South Fyn Archipelago, which the Archipelago Trail runs through. Set off on a voyage of discovery on your country ramble. Here are five fascinating plants you may encounter in several places along the trail.
Sea kale is a distinctive plant with its bluish, very ‘meaty’ leaves. The plant is a common sight in the South Fyn Archipelago, growing between stones where seaweed lies or has lain previously. It is from the seaweed that this plant draws its nutrition in an otherwise barren location.
The plant can grow to a height of up to 60 cm and normally blooms in June and July, presenting a host of white flowers. It subsequently releases large, spherical seeds. As the name indicates, the plant belongs to the kale family, and in the same way as the other members of the family, it is fully edible. The flowers taste a little like broccoli, but the best parts of the plant are actually the first crispy spring shoots, which taste of fresh cabbage and are absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals.
In the early 1900s, it was sold in delicatessens in Copenhagen, and today – more than 100 years later – it is making a comeback thanks to the popularity of modern Nordic cuisine. Show consideration: pick only what you need, and only one or two leaves from each plant. Or take a couple of seeds home with you for your kitchen garden. This will also serve as a wonderful souvenir of your trip.
Wherever the seaside meadows run all the way down to the salty water of the Archipelago, you are more than likely to encounter sea wormwood. It is easy to spot, as it often grows in large bunches, lighting up the coastal landscape with its tiny, 1 mm narrow, silver leaves. The plant can grow to a height of 60 cm and blooms in and around August, displaying a host of small yellow/orange flowers.
Sea wormwood contains a range of aromas and bitters that have made it very popular as a medicinal herb. For example, it contains santonin which is an effective remedy for intestinal worms. In fact, the plant contains so many active substances and can cure so many ills, that even confirmed tee-totallers previously took it dissolved in schnapps to ward off illnesses.
Its ability to flavour schnapps is perhaps its best-known feature today. The famous Fyn painter Johannes Larsen recommended a type of schnapps left to draw for 12 hours on sea wormwood collected on Fynshoved. However, we’re sure that sea wormwood collected in the Archipelago will serve just as well. You are more than welcome to try.
When people began to move farms out of the village centre in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they had to find a way to mark their boundaries. A number of different solutions were found, and the preferred method on South Fyn (particularly South-West Fyn) was to plant lilac bushes. That is why beautifully flowering lilac hedges grace the landscape in many places along the trail.
Lilac is ideal for creating hedges, as it readily shoots from the root when it is cut back, and it can grow so densely that even a cat may find it hard to force its way through. As such, it is perfect for penning animals in, while simultaneously protecting fields from the wind.
Lilac originally comes from the Balkans and Asia Minor, but is mentioned in records from as early as 1650 as a common plant in Danish gardens.
A distinctive plant in the loamy woods of South Fyn is the hollow corydalis, which often grows together with anemones to form thick beds on the woodland ground in spring. With its 6–16 purple or – more rarely – white flowers, it is easy to spot.
If you carefully dig up an individual plant, you will find a tuber. If you then slice into this tuber, you will find that it is hollow – hence the name of the plant.
Another distinctive plant in the South Fyn countryside is the smaller and more nondescript climbing corydalis, whose small yellow/white flowers bloom from July onwards. This plant is rare in most of Denmark, but you will often find it growing in large patches in the south of Fyn. In fact, you are sure to see it in many places along the Archipelago Trail. Keep a good look out in woodland clearings – particularly in areas of planted firs.
If you walk along the Archipelago Trail during the winter months, it is worth keeping an eye out for ‘Judas ear’ fungus, which primarily grows on old elder trees. It is an edible fungus, and thanks to its peculiar living conditions and distinctive appearance, it is easy to pick as well.
There is some discussion as to whether it actually tastes of anything, but it has a unique texture that is greatly appreciated in Asian cuisine. Judas ear fungus is from the same family as – and greatly resembles – the black mushrooms you will often find in bags of ‘Asian vegetable mix’ in supermarket freezers.
It is excellent for using in spring rolls, wok dishes, soups, etc. And it is easy to dry as well. If you then give it a long soak before use, it will be as good as newly picked again.
The story goes that when Judas had betrayed Jesus, he was overcome with remorse at what he had done and went into the garden to hang himself from an elder tree. However, anyone who has ever grabbed onto the branch of an elder tree knows how easily they snap. Therefore, Judas was frustrated in his attempt to end his life. The first fungus grew from the place where his ear struck the tree, and it continues to grow to this day – serving as an eternal reminder of his treachery.