Sunday, June 30, 2013

New plant to identify

THANK YOU to all who have helped me identify a few plants. The ragweed and others are now pulled out of my orchard, and the trumpet vine is no longer threatening the house foundation or the neighboring herbs. I left some purslane in a few areas and I'll try nibbling on it.

Now for a new one. We have an open space with freshly dug dirt and I noticed a plant today that I've never seen before. It looks "purposeful" if that's a term, but I have no idea what it could be. While mowing I spared it to see what it is.

The green leaves have a silvery tone to them, and the stem and underside of the leaves are quite silvery.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weed identification - the answers

Thank you to the many folks who helped identify the following seven plants.

Ragweed. I did my neighbors with allergies a favor and pulled it.

Perhaps a type of mustard or shepherds purse, but as Molly wrote, "Anything that flowers that fast is suspect." Math and Tamara think it's field pennycress. I pulled it, but oddly, before ID'ing it, I bought a pennycress plant from a farmer's market herb stall. Unsure, I pulled it.

Yarrow, an insect attractor, tends to be on permaculture lists of "good plants." I did get one warning that it spreads and is hard to get rid of once it's established. I decided to leave it.

ID'd as pigweed or redroot, amaranthus. Most people thought it was edible, though one said no. I pulled it. 

Zinnia - an annual flower from seed I threw in with the clover just to see what would happen. The largest of these plants have a flower starting, I left it.

Purslain - edible and delicious according to most people. I left it.

This domestic number is fast outgrowing my patience. I'm going to hack it back this weekend.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More plant identification

While the comments on my blog post asking for help identifying weeds don't reflect it, I got a lot of great email helping ID the plants. The comments function on the blog seems to be broken, my apologies for that. Regardless, here are two more plants to identify.

This is a low-growing plant I found among my onions. Any ideas? Edible, useful?

And this is a photo of a perennial planted near the foundation of our house. It's starting to vine all over the place. What is it?

Close up of leaves

Friday, June 14, 2013

Edible weeds from the orchard

The other day I wrote a blog post about trouble I was having identifying weeds growing in the orchardI've been weeding the orchard to give the clover an unfettered opportunity to create a solid ground cover to protect the soil, fix nitrogen and prevent weeds from coming up. 

One weed I can readily identify is known to me as lambs quarters. I've also heard it called Aztec spinach. Regardless of the name, I think it's delicious.

I pull the lambs quarters well before it goes to seed, which is also when it's tender and effortless to remove. And since the whole idea of this orchard is to be a food forest, I eat everything edible it produces.

As I pull lambs quarters, I gather it in one hand with the roots facing the same direction. After weeding, I cut off the stems and roots with a garden shears, though taking them into the kitchen and chopping them off with a knife would've been fine too.

Here are my two favorite ways to prepare this spring green. If you have a favorite way to prepare this green, or if there are other so called "weeds" that you eat, please share them in the comments.

Lightly sautéed

  1. Rinse the leaves and stems and spin out in a salad spinner. 
  2. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a frypan and warm-up. 
  3. Put the greens in the frypan and turn a few times until the leaves are coated with oil. 
  4. Then allow the bottom leaves to fry a little bit (we're not talking deep-fried here think stirfry), and stir them up a couple of times. 
  5. Serve hot.

Nearly done sautéeing.
Steamed with vinegar

  1. Rinse the leaves and stems and spin out in a salad spinner. You don't need to get the water off, I just find this helps get the last of the dirt off.
  2. Put in a large saucepan with a couple of table spoons of water and a tablespoon of your favorite vinegar. 
  3. over and steam for just a few minutes. The leaves will turn a bright green, will wilt and the stems will become tender. 
  4. Serve hot.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Weed or keep?

I'm pretty good at identifying annual vegetable plants. I don't know their family names (although I am learning) but I can tell you what's a tomato, what's a squash, and what's an onion. And compared to annual vegetable plants, I can pretty easily identify what a weed is; weeds are what's left after I identified the vegetables!

While weeding the orchard this evening, I realized there are some plants I'm having a hard time identifying. The majority of the orchard groundcover is white Dutch Clover, a low growing groundcover. However, when I planted the clover, I found some packets of flower seeds and mixed them in with the clover; and I don't remember what I sowed nor what they're supposed to look like. Also coming up in the orchard are lambs quarters and pig weed, both I can identify.

If you can identify any of these, use the corresponding numbers and let me know what's growing.

#1, looks a little like a cross between a marigold and a carrot. Any guesses? Weed or keep?

#2, very upright, tubular stem, pretty white flowers.

#3, I'm pretty sure Judy Skog gave me this one, but I don't recall what it is,

#4, flower or foe?

#5, maybe a flower, though I honestly have no reason other than to think that some of the flowers seeds must have germinated.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kale chip recipe, first harvest of the spring

Kale! I discovered kale last year. I know, but until then, I didn't really know what to do with what we got in our CSA box except give it all to Jeff and Erin (sorry guys, that explains ALL THAT KALE last year :)

Until we discovered kale chips. Then I was all over kale and started two varieties from seed this spring. After an unfortunate early spring sunburn when I killed four plants by putting them out without properly hardening them, the four replacements are growing and I harvested leaves after work today.

Little known fact I can't prove but have heard - up until recently, Pizza Hut was the largest user of kale in the U.S. What for? Decoration around their salad bar. My bet is they don't turn them into kale chips at the end of the day.

Kale chip recipe

  • Preheat oven to 300f
  • Rinse kale leaves and tear into "chip" size pieces. Tear the leafy parts away from the thick stem (compost the stem). 
  • The leaves don't shrink much, what you tear is pretty much what you get.
  • Pat dry, though this is not really necessary. Maybe give them a spin in a salad spinner, or don't worry. They are about to get very dry.
  • Oil a cookie sheet, I use an olive oil mister. You don't need much.
  • Lay kale leaves flat on sheet.
  • Oil the leaves.
  • Sprinkle a little salt on the leaves.
  • 10 minutes in the oven; watch them, they can go from chips to charcoal quickly.
  • Turn them over for the last 5 minutes. The don't hold heat, you can do this with your fingers. Some may be flattened on the tray, a little nudge with a spatula will get them off.
  • I had enough for two trays, and I swapped the racks after turning chips over.
  • After they are light and crispy, let cool on the trays.
  • Store in an airtight container so they don't get stale.
First harvest of the season, kale chips.
What are your favorite kale recipes?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rabbit-proof fence

While traveling for three months in Australia, I dug into the culture and watched the movie "Rabbit-Proof Fence." It's the dramatic true story of three aboriginal girls who followed a fence that had been erected in Western Australia to keep non-native rabbits on one the east side out of the pastoral grounds in the west.

While I am not facing ultimate destruction of every living thing in my country, it certainly is starting to feel that way.

I started to get this feeling when two weeks ago something ate all of the marigolds I planted in my community garden plot. "Marigolds?" I thought they repelled things, and were not interesting food for anything. I replanted them and this time stretched row cover over them and fixed in place with 6 inch ground staples. To my horror, the other day I found that something had pulled the ground staples out and ate all the marigolds.

I also discovered this same creature ate an egg plant and a pepper plant! "A pepper plant?" This is the first time I've had any plant damage from anything but insects. It think it's fair to say the mammals have found our community garden.

So Saturday morning before going to my garden to finish planting and doing a little weeding, I stopped at the hardware store and purchased fencing and fence posts. You have no idea how much this pains me. The aesthetics alone I find distasteful, the inconvenience even more so. Then there's the maintenance, the sagging, the rusting, etc.

Everything in my garden is once again covered in row cover, but has previously discovered this may not help at all. But I ran out of time on Saturday morning and so the fence posts and chicken wire remain in their original packaging.

I know that if I don't assemble this I will return to my garden regularly and cry silently or yell loudly if no one is around. I also know each time I return after putting the fence up I will feel like I gave in to some four-legged creature that hasn't given me the courtesy of a thank you note.

New photos as the fence goes up.