Archive for July, 2011

July 27, 2011

Edible weeds #3 and #4

As the growing season continues, so does the growing season for weeds.

At their peak now, in Minnesota at least, are edible weeds #3 and #4: Purslane and Stinging Nettle.  I have to admit, aside from snacking on Purslane I haven’t “really” eaten these yet, as in a meal, but will in a matter of hours.

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a garden at the Arboretum.  It’s through him that edible weed #3 was brought to my attention – Purslane.  He came home from his garden day with a huge harvest of a spreading succulent called Purslane.  My first thought was “Okay, what are we going to do with this?”  His response?  “Eat it!” Since then he’s been spotting it throughout our garden, yard, containers, pretty much everywhere we go.  After doing a little investigation and having a few samplings, I’ve determined we’re most likely going to have it in a salad or on sandwiches (or both since he’s harvested so much of it).  You can also stir fry it, steam it, put it in soups… the list goes on. It is, of course, loaded with nutrients too, so while you weed your garden, you can harvest your next dose of vitamins and minerals. Two birds, one stone.

Edible weed #5: Stinging Nettle.  Yikes!  Anyone who has inadvertently run into stinging nettle can attest to the fact that well, it stings!  I’ve done it more than a couple of times in my life and sadly, yes, I’ve felt the pain each time.  (You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you?)  Most of the time when this happens I’m irritated with myself and while running cool water on my hands, arms, etc. I think “Why?  Why do we have this plant?  What is the point?”  The point is… again… they’re good for you and from what I understand, quite tasty.  How to harvest these without pain?  The first step is to wear gloves!  Next go down to about the 3rd set of leaves, then clip the stem.  Throw them in a paper bag for safe transportation and if drying, you can leave them right in the bag.  Otherwise, nettle can be blanched (boiled briefly then dropped into ice water) and used in a variety of ways.

Funny isn’t it?  The more you know about a weed, the less “weedy” they become.  It’s all about perspective… 🙂

Weeds.  Get to know ’em.


July 22, 2011

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Weeks, I think.

Life has taken me for a bit of a ride lately which I won’t go into detail about, but I hung on, kept my arms inside the car at all times and managed to make it through.  There’s a break in the action, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity to post.

We’ve had the absolute craziest weather in Minnesota the past couple of weeks.  We’ve had hot, we’ve had torrential downpours, we’ve had tropical rainforest humidity. Hopefully everyone’s garden is flourishing.  My garden is great!  And no so great…

Where to start?  The kale has been beautiful. It’s loved the weather and I’ve loved it back by eating everything that’s grown thus far.  The cabbage is starting to form heads.  I only planted red cabbage this year (my favorite) and aside from a couple of bugs doing a tiny bit of dining they are coming along nicely, as are the tomatoes and peppers. The asparagus is outgrowing its space, but is absolutely beautiful, its soft feathery stalks add grace to the garden. Cucumbers, squash and melons haven’t produced much fruit yet, but I planted them late, so their blossoms should drop and fruit should form any day now.  What else?  broccoli.  Ahhh broccoli. Big, tall, handsome broccoli has, well, nothing… yet.  It might be another year of “not so much” in that category.  The raspberries, on the other hand, were loaded.  They loved all the early rain, plumped up well, then we got more rain and intense heat and many turned to mush right on the canes.  Bummer, HUGE bummer!  The fruit that originally formed on the kiwi is gone.  Not sure if conditions were wrong and they dropped off or if critters just stole them.   Pear trees bloomed beautifully, but only produced about 20 pears (compared to over 100 that the squirrels dined on last year).  They’re still growing so I’m hopeful, but not confident, that we’ll get one of them this year.  Apples… nothing.  My neighbors have had great success with theirs this year, ours have had great success with bugs.  Not sure what yet, because I haven’t really had the time to investigate, but something got to them before they could even produce fruit.  Onto the grapes.  The grapes are flourishing.  They’ve grown at least 15 – 20 feet long this year and are loaded with fruit.  Until a week or so ago they were lush and beautiful.  That was until the onslaught of Japanese Beetles arrived and turned most of the leaves into lace.  I have many names for the Japanese Beetles, but I won’t write them here.  Thankfully they like the foliage more than the fruit, so other than pooping on my grapes (and raspberries), they didn’t harm them.  And nasty as that is… it washes off.

So what did I do about the beetles besides swear at them?  I blasted them with the hose.  Unfortunately that only got them excited, made them flurry around even more and land right back on the leaves.  Prior to this year I’ve never really had much of a problem with Japanese Beetles.  I interplanted curly parsley with my roses, which did a pretty good job of keeping them away.  I could also pick them off the other plants they were bothering.  Until now, I haven’t even felt the need to make insecticidal soap (a nice little concoction of soap, water, garlic, cayenne pepper, etc.).  Although I thought about it, I didn’t spray them, mostly because the plants they were attacking have fruit so it would make picking stuff right off the vine soapy, spicy and well, garlicy.  Yes, it would wash off, but there’s something about picking fruits and veggies right off the vine and eating them immediately that I just love.  Besides, there were so many beetles I would have needed to call in the armed forces to come in and blast them away, so I left them.  I left the nasty, metallic backed, over sexed little beetles to eat my leaves.  And now…. they’re gone.  The plants look awful, but are all recovering. The scary part is, they are now laying eggs in the soil, breeding the next batch of beetles, which will eat the roots and shoots of grass, the garden and anything else that appeals to them.

Basil!  I got so distracted by the beetles I almost forgot to mention the basil!  It’s gorgeous and full and needing pinching practically every day to keep it from going to seed.  I love basil!  And tonight, on my break in the action night, I’m going to make bruschetta.  I have a couple of tomatoes from the farm stand (because other than cherry tomatoes, mine aren’t quite ready) I have basil and need to run and get some garlic.  Friday Farmer’s Market is open for a couple more hours so I’m going to swing by and see if they have garlic (because I didn’t plant any of my own) and grab a baguette.  Then I’ll come home, whip up a little bruschetta, kick back with a book and a glass of wine and enjoy.  I can taste it now.

Ahhhh…. summer, it doesn’t get any better than this.


p.s. – Did I mention I have bunnies?  Uh, huh.  Two for sure… INSIDE the fence around my garden.  I know I’ve talked about living in harmony with nature, but by harmony, I wasn’t thinking I would give them a home inside the garden.  While enjoying my bruschetta and wine tonight I’ll also be trying to figure out a way to encourage them to leave my garden.

July 6, 2011

Letting go of the garden…for the love of a dog

Sometimes things happen in life that I just don’t understand.  I’m the type of person who tries to figure out how everyday things fit into the big picture.  Often if it’s not obvious at first, given time, things begin to make sense to me.  This weekend, something happened that still doesn’t.

While working in the garden on Sunday, the gate to our backyard was either inadvertently left open or didn’t latch and our dog got out without anyone realizing.  This wasn’t the first time.  Usually when she “escapes” she heads down the block to play with other dogs in the neighborhood.  Sunday, for some reason, she did not.

At one point, I glanced up from gardening and couldn’t see her. I didn’t think much of it because I’d seen her just a couple of minutes before and there are many little corners that she normally goes to in the yard to torment chipmunks, search for bunnies or just bask in the sun.  A few minutes later, as I sat on the back steps to take a break and cool off, she came around the corner of the house and sat by my feet as she often does.

I had just started to pet her when my husband came around the corner where she had come from and said a car had just stopped to tell him that our dog had just been hit by a car.  The side of our house is on a busy street.  Apparently when she got out she headed up the street and was by the nearby gas station when she got hit.  It didn’t seem possible.  At first we questioned whether they had the right dog.  That’s when I noticed the deep cuts on her back leg which she simultaneously started licking.   My heart sunk, tears started running down my face.  I was sick to my stomach.  The thought of something like this happening to her without even knowing she was gone had every emotion welling inside me.

Thankfully the car that hit her had not driven over her with their tires, but had “bumped” her. The speed limit on this road is 35 mph but people often speed so we have no idea how badly she’d been hit. Thankfully she could still walk.  Thankfully she headed back home and thankfully the people who witnessed this followed her home so they could tell us what had happened.

Grateful as we were that it wasn’t worse, a small dog is no competition for a car.  After an hour or so of observing her at home, we decided to taker her to the ER Vet. In addition to her cuts, she had swelling in her belly and started bruising pretty badly.  After a lengthy exam and a number of x-rays they decided to keep her overnight to observe her.  Even after x-rays and an ultrasound, they weren’t confident that she didn’t have internal injuries.  This was heart wrenching news.  Having lost our previous dog to cancer just 2 short years ago, all the emotions came bubbling back up and I was incredibly fearful that I was going to lose “my little girl”.

We adopted this little rescue dog just a month or two before my fever and fatigue started in 2009.  From the beginning, she has always been by my side.  Wherever I was, she was.  She wouldn’t get up in the morning until I got up no regardless as to how hard anyone tried to convince her.  If I went to lay down, she would follow me and snuggle with me no matter how long I slept.  Having finally gotten my energy back a couple of weeks ago, I promised her we’d get out walking every day.  As I laid in bed Sunday night, trying to go to sleep, I was fearing the few walks we’ve gotten under our belt would be the end.  I was a mess.

Thankfully, the morning of July 4th the ER Vet called with good news.  Her breathing remained clear overnight, the swelling in her belly/abdomen hadn’t gotten any worse and they’d sent her x-rays and ultrasounds out to radiologists and had a surgeon look at her.  Everyone was comfortable letting her come home.  I was elated! Tears welled in my eyes while I filled with relief.  I couldn’t get to her soon enough.

So, my “little girl” is home.  She’s moving slowly and on some pretty hefty pain meds, but she’s on the road to recovery.

As I sit here typing on my laptop, with her by my side, questions are running through my mind.  Why did she go that way?  Why didn’t I check to make sure she was in the yard?  Why did this happen?

Was it a big fat sign that I need to get the latch on the gate fixed? (That seems like a pretty strong message, doesn’t it?)

Is it to teach me to not get so frustrated when she plows through my flowers to chase the chipmunks?  To remind me that perennials will come back, but there’s only one of her?

Was it to remind me just how precious life is, in any form and not to take it for granted?

Perhaps.  Perhaps all of these, or perhaps I’m way off base.

What I can say is that as much as I love all forms of gardening, I let a lot go this weekend.  The planting, the weeding, the watering… I let it all go…  All for the love of a dog.