Newsletter 24 October 2011

by Green Deane

From the Village Green

If you visit the home page of you will see, as they say, a new and improved website. And with that comes an improved and new newsletter: now shorter and weekly, rather than longer and monthly. My original website was a hijacked blog program never intended to hold data on 1,000 plants. All the information on the old site — which MAC will phase out by June 2012 — is on the new site. There have been many changes and we plan to add a lot of features soon including a Foraging Forum, an archive page, podcasts, resources, more videos and some one-on-one time with yours truly. I’m also adding new edibles all the time. The web team has been working very hard to make all this happen and have done a great job so far. I also think we’ll tweak the search function and the home page graphics a bit in the weeks to come. On the home page you will also notice feed buttons and a category filter. If you have any refinements to the categories please let me know. There is also my upcoming class schedule and links to all my 133 videos. Please visit the new site and look around.

False Hawksbeard

Locally we are just starting our fall foraging season, which means many of the plants found in the summertime in northern climes are beginning to emerge as they prefer our winter. I’ve just started seeing Crepis japonica aka Crepis youngia, False Hawksbeard, and an occasional sow thistle, Sonchus asper. Expect to see them increase in population as warm fall turns to temperate winter. Both make excellent potherbs or when young and tender — at the meristem stage… there will be a vocabulary test later — both can also be added to salads. One way to do that is to learn how to identify them as seedlings and juveniles. More on that later in season, part of my subscribers’ continuing education program. The read more about False Hawksbeard click here or sow thistles click here.

Winged Sumac

Across most of the northern hemisphere Sumac berries are now available. Soaked in warm or cold water the malic acid on hairs on the berries can make a lemonade-like drink. Soaking them in hot water or boiling them brings out tannins and makes a passable tea. Once soaked the berries can be dried then ground into a powder to make a lemony spice. Our local sumac, Rhus copallina or Winged Sumac, is in high season fruiting significantly. However teaching in Tampa recently at Highland Preserve I noticed not a single Sumac had berries. Every terminal cluster was naked or chewed off and carried away. Woodland creatures have to eat something. To read more about Sumacs click here.

Baby and mom

Two other events made the Tampa outing special. First, we saw a young alligator in a small residential retention pond with no suggestion of a large lake nearby. Cute at that age, we were more concerned where Mom or Dad might be. One of the odd things about alligators is that adults, male and female, will respond to the distress cries of young alligators. You might be able to catch a baby alligator but you can easily find yourself confronting a reptile first responder… and over a short distance they can run as fast as a horse. Can you? If you find yourself in that carnivore situation do not run in a straight line, say the experts. Zig and zag. Your pursuer can’t zig or zag too well and you have a good chance of getting out of dinner range. To read about alligators as food, click here.

Yellow Commelina

Also during this class one of my long-time students, Maryann Pugliesi, happened to spot a Commelina I had not seen in my several decades of traipsing around America. Three-petaled Dayflowers are usually blue, or blue and white. This was mustard, or yellow. A bit of research showed that it is the Yellow Commelina, Commelina africana, from South Africa and once imported as a ground cover. Edible cooked. (I am now of the opinion all edible Commelinas need to be cooked, save for the blossoms). How it got to be in Tampa seems to be a mystery. To read about the Dayflowers click here.

80% of packaged food is already genetically modified

As foragers we side step the issue of Genetically Modified Foods. That is one reason why some people forage, to avoid GMFs but for others GMFs are not a significant issue, or is it? According to a recent CBS poll 87% of Americans want genetically modified ingredients mentioned on the label. That means only 13% don’t care. More so it was the poll’s other question that turned heads. Fifty-three percent of the people polled say they would not buy GMFs. There’s the rub because some 80% of packaged food in the United States already contains GMFs as ingredients. Those GMF ingredients usually are soy (93% of soy in the United States is genetically modified), cotton (93% usually in the form of oil), corn (86%), and Canola oil (90% modified). Chances are you are already eating GMFs, or GMFs used as ingredients. The disparity between manufacturing practices and what people want is significant and sure to be a contentious issue. Foraging can reduce your consumption of GMFs and those unlabeled GMF ingredients. I have one student and his family who get a third of their food from foraging.

Hull proposes pedestrian and bicycle ban

Did you know? The Town of Hull, Wisconsin, is considering banning bicycle and foot traffic. The 31.8-square mile town has experienced five pedestrian-vehicle accidents and one bicycle-vehicle accident since 2002, none since 2008. The ordinance would either ban pedestrians, runners and bicyclists within the town or require pedestrians, runners or bicyclists to register their travel plans with town officials. While there has not been a significant safety issue in Hull, apparently there have been a lot of complaints from vehicle drivers about runners running in the road and bicyclists going the wrong way. The town has some 2,000 plus households of which 40 percent or more have kids.

According to Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge: “A formal notification system is established which provides contact with known groups who walk, run or bike in the Town of Hull. Groups will be informed of the state law and the Hull ordinance to control their operation on Hull roads. Groups operating on Hull roads shall be required to have a permit based on an application which details travel plans (time, date, roads used, and numbers) prior to operating on Hull roads. They will need to certify to following all applicable laws and ordinances.”

Holdridge added, “The way I see this working is, we’ve got the names of the athletic directors and we’ve got the names of the cross country track coaches so once we get this, maybe even before we can approve that particular provision, the Town will invite them in and have a discussion.

Critics say the proposed ordinance is not enforceable and is unconstitutional. Winter may put off arguments until spring.

In the “for what it’s worth” department my second case of poison ivy in 20 years is slowly clearing up after three weeks. As I say it’s proof I get out in the field. I avoid poison ivy very well and wash immediately on contact with Fels Naptha soap. Somehow I missed this contact — yes I do have an excu…ah…. explaination. That meant no washing which has led to three weeks and a day of itching. I’m now down to a pink rash, right knee. Could have been worse. I sat on a patch of Stinging Nettles. Once. To learn more about poison ivy, click here.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Tillman November 3, 2012 at 19:40

Great change in the newsletter!

Please do not feed the unwarranted hysteria against GMFs and by extension GMOs. Lay people do not in general understand the origins and production benefits of GMFs and GMOs. They simply react to media sensationalism against these crops.

The expanding population cannot simply rely on the productivity of crops derived through less primitive methods.


Green Deane November 5, 2012 at 06:28

I had to look up what you were referring to… that was a newsletter from 2011… I agree that it is difficult to feed humanity without GMOs. I think it reasonable to have a practical alternative if one is going to get rid of GMOs because if one ceased their use tomorrow billions would starve soon after. On the other hand, much of the GMOs are species that produce simple carbs which while keeping folks alive also make them subject to many diseases, so there is a trade off, fed but more disease. Also it is also difficult test GMOs for long-term safety. Only time and death rates will tell. GMOs appear to be a dark necessity which I personally prefer to avoid.


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