Newsletter 24 June 2014
One of the aspect of foraging in Florida is the length of the state, a situation Californians can also relate to. The zones range from temperate to tropical, Canadian plants on one end, Hawaiian on the other. This can make foraging fascinating and frustrating. It means a lot more plants to consider and you’re never quite sure what you’ll run into as in Dreher Park this past weekend in West Palm Beach.
The park was the work of Paul Dreher, a German immigrant between the world wars. He changed waste and swamp land into a large park. Though damaged by hurricanes a decade ago it is thriving and something of a treasure hunt. What did he plant, and where? And as it was to be a public park, I also suspect nothing toxic was allowed. When I first started holding classes at Dreher park I tried to find someone who knew what was planted there because the place is not small — 113 acres — and most of what’s growing there is by design. Finding no source I have just had to muddle through on my own visiting the park about once every six to eight weeks. Nearly every time I am there something new is in fruit. And so it was this past weekend.
Global warming might be an issue now but it was warmer locally decades ago. Old mango trees still survive the increasingly cool winters here in Central Florida only because they are old, big and well established. Getting a young mango to thrive here is a challenge. I have a star fruit growing in a microclime but it is easily now 50 miles north of its zone. And locally there is one Jambul tree, found by my friend Marabou Thomas. I’ve never seen it fruit. I suspect it will be a victim of the cooler weather as well. Thus it was a pleasant surprise to find one in fruit in Dreher Park.
It was a tree I have walked by several times over the past few years but not at just the right time. And as it is a tree I am not hugely familiar with I was cautious at first. Fortunately, one of the students in the class, Robert Dagit, thought he recognized it and thus I became the student for a while, which I like because its fun. Not only are the fruit edible but a close relative provides us with nutmeg and mace. To read more about the Jambul tree go here.
The email recently brought a comment from a reader who said he couldn’t find purslane (Portulaca oleracea.) My first thought was it grows everywhere… which is not helpful. In fact just this past week someone wanted me to bring some purslane to a foraging class. So on the morning of the class I was looking for some. Where do I look to find purslane? In suburbia I look around landscaping, particularly hedges and edges of lawns. Unattended berms are good as is unmown areas around landscaping trees, such as in city parks. Flowerbeds and gardens also usually have a plant or two. You can also find purslane at stop signs and the like, even sidewalk cracks (which is where I got mine that has been reseeding itself for some 14 years. ) Look for niches and disturbed soil. That’s where purslane likes to grow.
Upcoming foraging classes: Sunday, June 29th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, 23000 Bayshore Rd., Port Charlotte, FL 33980, 9 a.m.; Saturday, July 12th, Mead Garden,1500 S. Denning Dr., Winter Park, FL 32789, 9 a.m.; Sunday, July 13th, Florida State College, south campus, 11901 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, 32246, 9 a.m. For more information about upcoming classes go here.
On the Green Deane Forum we post messages and pictures about foraging all year long. There’s also a UFO page, for Unidentified Flowering Objects so plants can be identified. Recent topics include: Help Me ID a Few Plants/Weeds; Need Help With These Too; Different Pinus Sap; Garlic, The Medicine of Longevity; Lots of New Plants; Sugar Pine Chewing Gum, Making my own Camphor, Bee Balm, What Is Your Favorite Flower To Eat? The link to join is on the right hand side of this page.
My foraging videos do not include alligators but they do cover dozens of edible plants in North America. The set has nine DVD. Each DVD has 15 videos for 135 in all. Some of these videos are of better quality than my free ones on the Internet. They are the same videos but many people like to have their own copy. I burn and compile the sets myself so if you have any issues I handle it. There are no middle foragers. And I’m working on adding a tenth DVD. To learn more about the DVDs or to order them click here.
Because this site gets some 11 million hits a month it has to be moved to its own server. This will include some graphic changes and as we noticed this past week some minor irritations such as the search button disappearing (temporarily, even I use it.) Also because of the holiday, a bit of a vacation, and a one year In Memoriam, there will be no newsletter July 1st.