Gardener's Grapevine 2012.06.27

Written by David Green.

I get so much information on nature from so many people and it amazes me how much you learn simply by listening. My friend Carol Sutton Zych and I were discussing my number one enemy in the gardening world (next to a snake)—poison ivy.

I have a huge problem with poison ivy at the church. She said it grows so big in South Carolina it can be on a vine as big around as your arm. Well to me, that’s like seeing an Anaconda. No thanks and never. If I get a little vine growing anywhere I just start itching and blistering. If it were that size, I’d never get rid of it.

My friend Mary Lampe and I were talking instead of sewing Saturday due to the fact that the weather had given me a sinus headache and I can’t concentrate well with a brass band in my head. We have a lot of ideas for the bazaar this Christmas and it takes some communication to get them accomplished. Plus, if she doesn’t have something, I might, so we trade back and forth. We come up with a lot of ideas because neither of us wants to throw out things that could be repurposed into something else. This keeps things out of the landfills and cuts down on the costs of the items we make.

I’ve said before that I like the birds that are at Mary’s feeders. Many of them we never get in town and many people never see. I noticed that Mary had different food in her feeder than usual and it had a lot of millet in it. Millet is a pain in the backside in that it is very small and the birds drop a lot of it. Anything that is dropped has the potential to be a plant in a short period of time.

That conversation got us discussing weeds and how I find them annoying. Mary informed me that most of what we consider weeds are actually very edible. A lot of our “weeds” were brought here by early settlers for use as food or medicine. She has a book on edible wild plants and one of them is called calf’s foot. Supposedly it is very edible and tasty, but I had no idea what calf’s foot was. So we went outside for a lesson.

It is one of the most persistent weeds in my garden. I have been pulling this stuff out by the handfuls for 30 years. I didn’t know we should have been putting it on the dinner table. Another weed that is quite edible looks like jade plant. Apparently it has been used in history as a thickener for soups when boiled. It is also OK to prepare and eat like spinach. 

Chicory root can be peeled, roasted, ground, then used for coffee. Chicory is the pretty periwinkle blue flowering plant you see alongside country roads. I knew this was done during war times past when coffee was rationed because my mother-in-law told me her mother had done it. My own great-grandparents ate dandelion greens and so did I…once. They are bitter beyond my belief. My grandmother said they did this because it was often the first green edible thing in the spring and with no green grocers they welcomed something fresh and green.

I don’t know that I will be making any calf’s foot salad in the near future, but I’m not against trying it. If it’s as bad as dandelions we will just toss it out and have another lesson learned.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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