Newsletter 14 March 2017
Just as the last couple of weeks have been the time to easily find the location of wild plums — small trees with white blossoms and no leaves — now is the time to find pawpaws as well.
Several hundred miles north of here where winter still reigns this won’t work but locally pawpaws are starting to blossom. And unlike farther north where pawpaws are tall trees and common locally they are scraggly bushes at best. Pawpaws are also more selective where they grow. While you can find them nearly anywhere the easiest place to locate them is in pastures, essentially any open stretch of grassland or the like. They also like scrub and along fences. Pawpaws can be an understory tree but it affects their growth pattern.
There are several species but the pawpaws I’m suggesting you look for have five-foot shrubs with large creamy-light yellow blossoms, similar to magnolias, which they’re related to. I suggest pastures because grazing animals tend to leave them alone making pawpaws easy to see. This time of year they dot pastures along interstates 4 and 75. Smaller purple-blossom pawpaw are commonly found just outside pasture fences or the like. My guess is they are more edible than the larger pawpaw, to livestock in the pastures at least. Or perhaps the small pawpaws miss being mowed because they are next to the fence. Pawpaws growing as understory trees are spindly with few branches. Those get about 10-feet tall and are very easy to miss unless you happen to see one when it’s blossoming. To read more about pawpaws go here.
Spiderworts got me in trouble once. I let them cover my entire lawn in suburbia. That caused a visit by Lawn Enforcement Officers. I was cited in writing for have an unkept lawn which meant covered with weeds (that they were pretty, native “weeds” was deemed irrelevant.) As I the citation wrong I read the pertinent law. It said a weed was a plant unintentionally over 18 inches high. Problem solved. My spiderworts were intentionally over 18-inches high. I watered and fertilized them. Consequently I beat the rap. And while Spiderworts can be found blooming nearly all year they favor the spring and are painting the landscape now with the attractive blue flowers (and sometimes white and occasionally ruby.) Spiderworts are quite edible, at least all the parts above ground. They can be consumed raw, cooked or fermented (I have a jar of them.) While this is not too descriptive they taste “green” to me, not distinctive but pleasant. Spiderworts have a history, by the way, being connected to John Smith of Pocahontas fame. You can read about them here.
Foraging Classes: Except for hurricanes foraging classes usually are held as scheduled. We’re hungry when we are cold and wet so foraging classes are held when it is wet, when it is cold, and when it’s hot.
Sunday, March 19th, Dreher Park, 1200 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 33405. 9 a.m. We meet just north of the science center.
Sunday, March 26th, Florida State College, south campus, 11901 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, 32246. 9 a.m. We will meet at building “D” next to the administration parking lot. (This class is full but if there is enough interest I can also hold a class at the same location the day before on Saturday March 25th, 9 a.m.)
Sunday, April 2nd, Red Bug Slough Preserve, 5200 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL, 34233. 9 a.m.
Sunday, April 9th, Wickham Park: 2500 Parkway Drive, Melbourne, FL 32935-2335. Meet at the “dog park” inside the park (turn right after entrance, go 1/4 mile, dog run on right, parking at run or on previous left.)
Saturday, April 29th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, Bayshore Drive. Port Charlotte. 9 a.m. Meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Bayshore Road and Ganyard Street.
To read more about the foraging classes go here.
It’s deadly Water Hemlock warning time. In fact, this year I have seen this quick killer growing throughout the winter. Usually I have to wait until a little later in the season before I add it to my classes under plants to absolutely avoid. This past weekend during a class in Blanchard Park one plant was tall enough to show its characteristic coloring. Soon it will be developing blossoms which lead to seeds not fruit. To the casual observer the deadly Water Hemlock and edible Elderberry bear some resemblance and share wet habitats. While there are many differences long ago I created a special page showing how to tell the two species apart. To read about them go here.
Spring orders have started their annual increase. All of Green Dane’s videos available for free on You Tube. They do have ads on them so every time you watch a Green Deane video I get a quarter of one cent. Four views, one cent. Not exactly a large money-maker but it helps pays for this newsletter. If you want to see the videos without ads and some in slightly better quality you can order the DVD set. It is nine DVDs with 15 videos on each. Many people want their own copy of the videos or they have a slow service and its easier to order then to watch them on-line. They make a good gift for that forager you know. Individual DVDs can also be ordered. You can order them by clicking on the button on the top right of this page or you can go here.
First came foraging then agriculture. In fact, foraging originally meant finding food for your livestock. But by the time Rome was leader of the unfree world foraging included finding food for its roaming army. Foraging remained common and popular for the next two millennia or so. Most folks, including farmers, foraged for wild food until after World War II. That’s when suburbia was invented and man became estranged from nature. That’s also when he surrounded his home and neighborhood with toxic ornamentals because they didn’t require much upkeep and the insects left them alone. But a couple of decades ago some folks started talking about the edible landscape (Tom Maccubbin for one) and now we have permaculture. But the idea is not new.
I am reading for the second time “Dying Every Day” a biographical work about the life of Seneca. He was a Roman senator, ill-fated adviser to Emperor Nero, the best known Stoic of his day — his brother knew St. Paul — and also extremely rich. That Seneca claimed to be a Stoic and was rolling in Denarii bothered many of his critics. They accused him of having a double standard, praising poverty as a Stoic while living in extreme luxury as an advisor to the young Nero. Seneca argue that since he was, as a Stoic, immune to the lure of money it only made sense that he should have a lot of it. It would not corrupt him like did other men. As one might guess he also owned huge amounts of land including estates, wineries and agricultural property, some of which we still know of today. His critics said he was extravagant and wasteful. Two of the charges were he drank wine that was older than himself and that he intentionally grew trees that produced nothing but shade! Even 2,000 years ago people expected trees to earn their keep by producing something more than just shade. That we now plant trees just for shade accentuates how attitudes have changed. We are, however, in small ways, heading back to before with permaculture. As one wag said there is nothing new under the sun which includes productive trees that produce more than shade.
Want to identify a plant? Looking for a foraging reference? Do you have a UFO, an Unidentified Flowering Object you want identified? On the Green Deane Forum we chat about foraging all year. And it’s not just about warm-weather plants or just North American flora. Many nations around the world share common weeds so there’s a lot to talk about. There’s also more than weeds. The reference section has information for foraging around the world. There are also articles on food preservation, and forgotten skills from making bows to fermenting food. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.
EatTheWeeds Time Capsule: 2012
Being bitten or stung by insects just comes with my advocacy. I’m rummaging around plants all the time and one just has to accept that one will get attacked now and then. Mosquitoes top the list followed by Elongated Twig Ants. Mean little creatures, they produce pain far beyond their size. Occasionally a wasp will get me — usually flying out of a Silverthorn or a Southern Cedar — and a couple of Pine Bark Scorpions have tried to make my day miserable. A tick grabs a hold now and then including deer ticks and the Lone Star tick which can confer a lifelong allergy to red meat. But the most common irritation I get after mosquitoes is red mites, also called chiggers, too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Spanish Moss is commonly believed to harbor the mighty mites but to my knowledge I have never gotten Red Mites from Spanish Moss, at least not any moss from trees. What I have noticed over the years is that I get Red Mites from dry field grass, usually about knee high. I taught three classes this past weekend, Friday through Sunday, and I have Red Mites. I was going to use my usual remedy but a recent email prompted me to try something else.
For over three decades I have used clear fingernail polish to squash my Red Mite infestations. I put a drop on each flare up. However, I received an email from a reader telling me that was unnecessary. Included was a Goggle search link showing a couple of dozen sites saying clear fingernail polish is bunk and that washing the Red Mites off works. Although all the sites said exactly the same thing in nearly the exact same language — meaning there was a whole lot of massive cut and paste going on — I decided to give washing them off a try. Three days and a lot of washing later, they are still clinging to itchy dear life to my hair follicles and setting up housekeeping. No doubt in time they will be raising families and growing into a mite metropolis. Out came the fingernail polish, a little dab will do ya. The itching has stopped. The invasion up the legs has been repulsed. For something that doesn’t work, it works for me, very well, every time, and has for decades. The only alarming thing is how expensive a small bottle of clear fingernail polish is.
Incidentally something that repels Red Mites well and I didn’t have with me this trip is sublimed sulfur. It’s a powder available in most drug stores. Put some in an old sock and powder cuffs and collars before embarking on your adventures. It also repels ticks, of which I saw three on me this weekend. I clearly need to dig out my sulfur sock. Just make sure you’re not allergic to sulfur first. If you want to read about edible insects click here.
This is issue 248.
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