Know your Rampion

  • The Rampion, Campanula rapunculus, formerly regularly cultivated in English kitchen gardens, and much valued as a wholesome, edible vegetable, is seldom grown for use now, though its graceful flowers are sometimes seen to advantage in the borders as an ornamental plant.
  • The plant is found wild in England, on gravelly roadsides and hedgebanks and in open pastures, from Stafford southwards, but it is uncertain whether it should be held as a true native in the localities in southern England, where it is now established.
  • Rampion provides:
    • flowers to grace the vegetable patch and attract pollinators,
    • long edible roots,
    • leaves that can be eaten as a spinach substitute,
    • young shots can be cooked like asparagus in the spring.
  • Sow in Autumn for harvest the following Spring or in Spring to harvest in November to be lifted for Winter storage.
  • Rampion is still much cultivated in France, Germany and Italy, and occasionally here in England, for the roots which are boiled tender like parsnips and eaten hot with a sauce. 
  • The roots are sweetish, with a slight pungency, but though wholesome, are considered inferior to other roots now more widely grown for culinary use. 
  • The larger roots are reserved for boiling, sometimes the young roots are eaten raw with vinegar and pepper, and occasionally the leaves, as well as the roots, are eaten as a winter salad. 
  • The leaves can be used in the summer and autumn as a substitute for spinach. 
  • The young shoots may be blanched like asparagus and prepared in the same manner.

  • The roots are fleshy and biennial (but can be made perennial), the stems are 2 to 3 feet high, erect, stiff, though rather slender, generally simple, more or less covered with stiff, white hairs, which almost disappear when cultivated. 
  • The leaves are variable, 1 to 3 inches long, the radical leaves oblong or ovate, on long stalks and slightly crenate, the stem-leaves narrow and mostly entire, or obscurely toothed. 
  • The flowers, which bloom in July and August, are about 3/4 inch long, reddish purple, blue or white, on short peduncles, forming long, simple or slightly branched panicles.
    •  The corolla is divided to about the middle into five lanceolate segments. 
    • The capsule is short and erect, opening in small lateral clefts, close under the narrow linear segments of the calyx.

  • Drayton names it among the vegetables and pot-herbs of the kitchen garden, in his poem Polyolbion, and there is a reference to it in the slang of Falstaff, showing how generally it was in cultivation in this country in Shakespeare's time.
  • There is an Italian tradition that the possession of a rampion excites quarrels among children. 
  • The plant figures in one of Grimm's tales, the heroine, Rapunzel, being named after it, and the whole plot is woven around the theft of rampions from a magician's garden. 
  • In an old Calabrian tale, a maiden, uprooting a rampion in a field, discovers a staircase that leads to a palace far down in the depths of the earth.
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