Kaldirik dolmasi

Today has been fun. I've been finding out about how to cook oriental borage, Trachystemon orientalis. I first heard of this perennial vegetable when Emma Cooper mentioned it on her website leading me to an article by Susanne Masters. I was interested. Discovering that I could buy it online from The Beth Chatto Gardens I added it to my wish list but then forgot about it for a while.

About a year later our son sent us a link to some photos he'd taken in Bangor in Wales, mostly of birds, but including the shot below. I had to check but yes, those were the flowers of Trachystemon orientalis and I came home with a cutting after our next trip to visit him in Bangor.

Trachystemon orientalis in flower
Trachystemon orientalis (photo by Ewan Tindale)

So 'Abraham, Isaac and Jacob' (a common name for the plant) is now growing in a pot in a shady spot in the garden and this month I started to find out how to cook with it.

Trachystemon orientalis growing in the shade
Trachystemon orientalis happy in the shade

From a comment from GreatScot from Ankara on davesgarden.com I've learnt that Trachystemon is....
"highly edible and grows in the Black Sea mountains in Turkey. Much like spinach it needs a very good soak and rinsing several times because of the bristles, it is a lovely food, stem and flowers included, when chopped and added to sautéed chopped onions, then whisked eggs stirred in and allowed to cook through. Salt and pepper to taste. It is a seasonal plant and not available except by foraging for it, so when I finally learned its Latin name and then found my favorite ‘Kaldirik’ on the internet, I felt like a discoverer."
and from Bob Beer, commenting on the entry for oriental borage on Plants for a Future website,
"This is a common plant in the Black Sea area where it is known by a bewildering number of names: Hodan, Bodan, Bodana, Aci Hodan, Ispýt, Ýspit, Salut, Tomara, Tomare, Kaldirik/Kaldirik/Kaldýrýk/Kaldýryak, Doðuhodaný, Zýlbýt and there are probably more. It's a great plant, good to eat and as a tough garden plant that provides both attractive flowers and a tough groundcover that can stand up to fairly harsh conditions. It also tastes good. :)"
Bob Beer is an American musician and plant-lover who has lived in Istanbul for many years and has an interesting blog Bahçe Hastası - Garden Freak in Istanbul where I found out more:
"..the rhizomes are cooked in various dishes (but I find them slimy); the petioles are gathered and pickled and are one of the most popular pickles in the Eastern Black Sea region."
I got the impression that kaldirik is usually gathered earlier in the year than this but one recipe I came across, kaldirik dolmasi (stuffed kaldirik) seemed to be using older leaves so I thought I'd try that one. Several online recipes written in Turkish were put through Google Translate (with some quirky results, 'go ahead with our internal mortar'!) and this video was enjoyed (very much enjoyed - worth a watch) before I felt able to piece the following recipe together.

Kaldirik Dolmasi
500g kaldirik leaves
1 lemon
250g cornflour (should be cornmeal! - please see comments)
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 egg
salt and black pepper
100g butter
1 tblsp tomato puree 
500g yoghurt 
I hope that is roughly right at least - if you are Turkish and/or familiar with cooking kaldirik dolmasi  and I've got the wrong idea please leave a comment below and correct me. But it seemed to work and here is the result:

Kaldirik dolmasi (photo by Ewan Tindale)

With their flavoured, floury filling the dolma were rather like dumplings and the tomato and onion sauce that they were cooked in was especially tasty. It was comforting food. (I also gleaned from my researches that the dolma can be made from dried leaves so you could enjoy them in the depths of winter as in this second great video here.)

N.B. I sell a range of perennial vegetable plants on my website.