Newsletter 19 June 2012
I have good news and bad news: The Strawberry Guava is about to blossom. The bad news is that if you live in some areas of Florida, the Caribbean, or Hawaii — especially Hawaii — that invasive species will be producing more seeds and taking over more land.
It took several seasons of my Strawberry Guava fruiting for me to learn to time it just right. The fruit starts out green, then turns mottled with green and red and finally a dull red. And they go, in taste, from not palatable to sweet/tart then just sweet. Plus the fruit’s skin transforms from tough to hard to very soft. At the latter stage, if one has a bit of imagination they can taste slightly strawberry-esque. Personally I think they taste like Strawberry Guava. Why folks have to name them like some other fruit is beyond me. But that’s not the real issue. The real issue, besides it being an invasive species and naturalized, is worms, larvae really.
When green, the skin is too tough for most flies to lay their eggs through. But when ripening, they are quite soft. If you let your strawberry guava fruit fully ripen before you eat them, you will get a lot of larvae in each fruit. Depending upon your turn of mind, that might be free protein or disgusting. While the seeds are edible, they are quite hard so teeth beware. Also the leaves can be used to make a nice tea.
Pregnancy and wild plants. In his book The Green Pharmacy James Duke, PhD, lists several wild edible plants to be avoided while pregnant. They are: juniper berries, mugwort, balsam pear, mayapple, and evening primrose. Add to them Southern Wax Myrtle as well. There are also quite a few herbs to avoid as well including barberry root, cascara sagradea, feverfew, pokeroot, rue, senna, southernwood, tansy, thuja, mountain mint and St. Johns Wort. Carrot seed, incidentally, should not be consumed if you want to conceive. It has a chemical that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting.
Is all Seaweed edible? No, but most of them are. Two non-edibles one might encounter in North America are Desmarestia ligulata (pictured left) particularly found on the northwest coast, and Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) found in the Caribbean linked to ciguarera poisoning. D. ligulata accumulates hydrochloric acid, making it non-edible. However, they do use the acid for pickling. As for the alga it is why one is not supposed to eat barracuda any longer than your forearm. They think the fish collects some chemical in the alga making it toxic when an adult. So if in warm seas, avoid blue-green blobs and if in cold water a seaweed burns you, have D. ligulata. There might be some toxic red seaweed in the Southseas as well. But other than those two mentioned the seaweed found around North America should be edible.
Since most seaweed is edible, and nutritious, why isn’t it consumed more often? Taste and texture. I’ve collected sargassum here in Florida and entertained several ways to prepare it. Semi-drying and frying isn’t too bad but… bladderwrack is better, sea lettuce better still. Not surprisingly most land animals including birds don’t like seaweed. However, it does make good mulch and fertilizer. So while one may not use it directly in the diet it can still help sustain you with uses in the garden. Here are some of my articles on seaweed: Bladderwrack, Caulpera, Codium, Gracilaria, Sargassum, Sea Lettuce, and tape seagrass.
The question was asked nearly a century ago but began in earnest some 40 years later. The United States entered WWI in 1917 and got out in early 1919. That same year lyricists Joe Young and Sam Lewis with song writer Water Donaldson wrote “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm.” It was, as we say today, a smash hit. If you want to hear a jazzy dixieland version of the same song recorded in 1967 by Benny Goodman click here. The relevant verse is:
How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree’? How ya gonna keep ‘em away from Broadway, jazzin’ around and paintin’ the town. How ya gonna keep ‘em away from harm, that’s a mystery. They’ll never want to see a rake or plow. And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow? How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree’?
Some historians argue that WWI and WWII were actually just one war with a 20-year recess. Whether two wars or one, they or it made a huge difference in how Americans lived. Prior to WWI America was a rural country. Most folks lived on farms. After WWII came suburbia, housing developments, and lawns, the largest crop in America today. One might argue that WWI showed Americans there was a life off the farm — as the song suggests — and the boon after WWII showed them how to move off the farm permanently. Interestingly two related issues made their appearance then.
Prior to WWI nearly everyone raised their own food, and nearly everyone foraged for food. But in the boon after WWII people really did move off the farm. When people did move they separated themselves from their food. Foraging died out because the know-how was not passed on and their farming knowledge became a twisted echo of the past. It was difficult for folks to stop growing things after doing it for so long. But, instead of raising food in suburbia they choose to raise lawn grass and ornamentals, most of them toxic. It was almost a collective cultural statement of arriving by saying “I don’t have to forage or grow food anymore. I’m so modern I can raise non-edible plants.”
Millennia of knowledge on how to forage was allowed to wither and centuries of experience on how to raise food was diverted into raising grass and ornamentals. America became Mom, Dad, two kids, a dog, a station wagon and a lawn. Historically lawns were uncommon. But between the world wars what may have tipped the balance was the invention of the motor-powered lawn mower. It proliferated lawns which until then were cut by hand or by sheep or goats as the White House lawn was kept. It also made a big difference to trees. To listen to an editorial I wrote and read for National Dutch Radio (in English) about lawns and trees click here.
I have several neighbors who would be successful and well-fed farmers if their energies were put into an edible landscape rather than decapitated grass and poisonous flowers. One neighbor of mine has had an insect problem with his lawn for several years. Much time and money has been spent to fight the invertebrate invasion. It looks like this year he finally won and has to show for it… a patch of grass. And did you know 60% of drinkable water in suburbia goes to watering lawns? Or that millions of gallons of gasoline and oil are spilt every year while maintaining those lawns? Studies show lawn slaves use 10 times more herbicides and fertilizer than vegetable farmers. Facts I point out when I am asked if lawn grass is edible.
As I say in my NDR editorial, lawns are not green. Fortunately zoning regulations — prodded on by shortages of drinking water — are now changing. Local regulations are changing, but only slowly and often after law suits. But who knows, perhaps in the not too distant future if you want a patch of decapitated grass you will have to pay a lawn tax, by the square foot, rounded up, of course.
If you think Home Owner Associations are bad then Code Enforcment Boards aren’t far behind. This one in Tulsa, Okalahoma, does not care for the rule of law. Without legal cause they eliminated an edible landscape. HOA and CEB remind me that some folks have dictator personalities. To read the story click here.
Classes This Week:
Saturday, June 23rd, Jervey Gantt Recreation Complex, 2390 SE 36th Ave., Ocala, FL, 34471, 9 a.m.
Sunday, June 24th, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, 2045 Mud Lake Road, DeLeon Springs, FL.9 a.m.
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