Newsletter 21 February 2017
While many readers of this newsletter are still snowbound — or getting rained on — locally we are in the midst of spring “busting out all over.” During a class this Sunday we were able to spend an hour at a dirt pile covered with spring greens. This brings up where to look for forageables.
While I am inclined to wander around to find edibles there are some prime places to look. The first is disturbed soil. This can be ground broken for a garden, a construction site, land cleared for a housing division, or piled dirt ignored for a while. These can be good places to look for several reasons. Weed seeds can stay dormant in soil for decades if not centuries and some for over 1,000 years. Exposure to some sunlight can bring them out of dormancy. This is why your garden gets populated by weeds once you turn the soil.
Disturbed soil can present some puzzles. It happened this weekend during a foraging class. On a very large pile of dirt — house size — there were plants that like lawns and plants that liked to be wet and they were growing high on this dry pile. If you follow our writing we use I.T.E.M. to help you remember points that you need to check: Identification, Time of Year, Environment, Method of Preparation. A plant that likes to grow in damp or wet place normally would not be found on the top of a dirt pile. Either you might have the wrong plant or you need to find a good reason to explain the plant out of its usual environmental. In this particular case there was an answer: A front-end loader cleared a large number of over grown drains in several playing fields. That was where the lawn-liking and moisture-liking plants were growing. When piled up the plants just took off in the rain and grew where they were dumped. This can also be the case when several acres are cleared and the debris piled. It can be amazing what you can find growing there from discarded ornamentals to vines that like to climb on the piles with little competition from other plants.
A second area to look are transitions zones. This can be road to lawn, lawn to shrubs, shrubs to trees, field to trees, pond to shore, shore to higher ground. Where ever you can see a change in plants and or environments one can often find edibles. (Include mulch around trees, and bare ground around ornamentals.) Plants in transitions zones can happen for several reasons. Sometimes the transition zone provides the optimum environmental conditions the plant likes from a balance of sun and shade to humidity or proximity (some plants like to be with other plants and some do not.) Besides the change of environment transitions zones are also where various creatures travel. They tamp down ground for paths (open ground) and they can deposit seeds for plants to grow. I’ve often wondered if that is the case with persimmons which are very often found in transitions zones between field and forest. Do they grow there because the like the edge environment or do they grow there because animals that eat persimmons drop the seeds there? Animals, who can carry seeds on their fur, feathers and feet, also escape into nearby transition zones when frightened.
It is also true that certain plants like to grow near other plants. A colony of one species of plants might lead you to find a friendly species as well. This can also be man made. An excellent example, to the irritation of many, is Latex Strangler Vine. You will find it near Citrus Groves. Fruit of that vine is a staple vegetable in the tropical Americas. They are a pest growing on citrus trees. While killed off in the groves themselves you can find them in the areas around the groves, particularly ignored groves. If the grove has not been worked in many years you can also find the vine in the old grove. Another example is Ivy Gourd. I have always found it growing on chain link fences. I know it will easily climb on other things but virtually every time I have found it here in Florida “in the wild” it has been on a chain link fence. That’s probably because such fences are not closely mowed and it gives the ambitious perennial vine something sturdy to grow on.
Today I rode 42 miles along a bike trail. In one area the transition zone was very productive. The pave trail transitioned to a six-foot wide occasionally mowed shoulder, then a wire fence (think birds dropping seeds and animals walking along the fence) then a forest. There were a huge amount of edibles there. In another area along a grove a strip of grass met a tall hedge of fruit-bearing Silverthorns: two transition zones, the trail to the grass, grass to the shrubs (and then the grove beyond it.)
A third place to look is water. Food is where the water is. This is true whether you are referring to your yard, your neighborhood, county, state or nation. Water is complex. All you need is a slight grade to create a change in plants or a slight depression. Irrigations systems are also ‘water.” I know where there is a Hackberry tree that usually likes to grow in damp places but is happy on the top of a dry hill. But it is also right next to a lawn watering system. Bodies of water are prime places to forage, not only in the water near the shore but the shore and further away. Some plants are riparian, they like to be on the banks of waterways or at least nearby. A good example is Harry Cowpea. One does not find it in water nor away from water. It’s a very environment specific species. (Don’t forget lack of water is also a place to look for plants as well such as cactus and nopales and sand spurs.)
Those are three basic locations to keep in mind while looking for edible species. There are more select techniques as well which can be covered in a future newsletters but here is an example: Blueberries like acidic soil. So locally —Florida is a limestone plate — it pays to look for blueberries with plants that produce a lot of acid such as oaks and pines.
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. This weekend I am teaching at the 2017 Florida Herbal Conference near Lake Wales.
Sunday, March 5th, 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.
Saturday, March 11th Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817, 9 a.m. We meet at the tennis courts next to the WMCA building.
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.
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.
Now’s the time to get a jump on spring. 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 the 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. If that link is not working — there have been some site issues — you can use a donation link and email me your order and address.
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.
This is issue 245.
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