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Call of the Wild

Hello fellow revelers,  please check out my post below on my impressions of Wildman Steve Brill’s wild edibles tour that I took in Prospect Park last month (some of the pickings remain for edification and identification purposes in my living room — my oh-so-patient partner would be rightfully impatient right about now but, luckily for me, is not).  I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear from someone in another part of the country as to whether there are such tours going on elsewhere, and what you all are learning from them.  One of the things that surprised me was the sheer number of people who showed up for the tour.  What was even more surprising was that there was enough such sizable audience to support several more of the tours this summer.  Happily for all of us here in Brooklyn, there are monthly tours in Prospect Park through the end of the year (though I’m sure each is unique and worth checking out, given the movement of seasons).

So, revel friends, I am definitely looking for feedback on all things wildly edible outside the great Northeast (or even outside nyc for that matter).  Perhaps what got me thinking about this is an announcement on a podcast late last week: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/episode-702-chef-maribel-the-food-diva.  It occurs early in the podcast (fair warning – the whole podcast is rather lengthy but an entertaining listen if you’re inclined), and announces that a town in Michigan is trying to ban a resident’s vegetable garden in her front yard.  From what I can tell, she’s not growing lewd zucchinis — it’s just that there’s some ancient regulation about only permitting “suitable” gardens visible to the rest of the world.  I didn’t hear any quick follow up on today’s podcast but the link above gives a rally cry for anyone wishing to give Michigan a piece of their gardeners mind.  I’ll let you know if I place a call tomorrow.

In the don’t be meantime, please pass around my

QUESTION: for residents outside the greater NY area, are there any Wildman equivalents in your neck of the concrete woods?  How about for non-urbanites?  Are wild edibles passe for you country folk?  Or are there tours and meetups and affinity groups for all you all too?  Anyone care to share some stories of their own adventures in foraging?  We would love love love to hear a review of any other wild edibles tours going on across the country.  Go ahead: Austin, Beloit*, Chicago, Detroit, Eden Prairie, Fargo, Grand Forks (anyone tell I’ve got family in ND?), Honolulu, Independence, Janesville, Kansas City, Lexington, Madison, Niagara Falls, Orfordville (anyone tell I’m from WI?), Potters Grove**, Quakertown, Reno, Seattle***, Tupelo, Universal City, Vancouver, Wichita****, Xenia, Yellowstone, Zion … Gimme the dirt!!!

*Boston, you almost made the cut.  This was a hard one because you’re so irresistible for so many reasons, not which of least that you rhyme with Austin.  But you’re not my hometown.  Sorry, you’re just not.

**Phoenix, I thought of you too.  Pasadena, you too (and I do hope to see you someday soon).  But, Potter’s Grove … how could I resist?  It just doesn’t get the attention it deserves anymore.

***I also thought of you, St. Paul, St. Louis and San Francisco.  I just always wanted to go to Seattle so I thought I’d send her a little shout out here.  You do still have my heart, SP, SL, & SF.  And you’re just so saintly.  You’re number 1 in my book.  Just not in this list.  sorry.

****Weehawken, I love you too.  You’ve always been there for me.  And you really are very awesome, even being in New Jersey and all.  We’re just a little close, you know.  And Wichita has just been sitting out there waiting for so long now.  I knew you’d understand.

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6 responses to “Call of the Wild

  1. Ralph ⋅

    Last night I heard an update on the Michigan garden under attack. It seems a decision was made to stop going after the garden for now. A great move for the poor gardener, but I would have liked to see the politicians out there getting hundreds if not thousands of phone calls on Monday protesting. I suspect the politicians had more pressing things to spend their time on, like fixing their budgets.

    Back in the garden, my sunflowers are starting to open. Like most of my plants this year, their growth is stunted. Last year I needed sticks to hold them up, this year they are maybe 2-3 feet tall and the flowers are tiny by comparison. Has anyone else noticed their plants getting a slow start this year?

    One container I was starting swiss chard seeds in before putting them in the ground is finally producing leaves that look like they may have a future on the dinner table. For weeks they just seemed to grow a bit, and stood the same size. I suspect the heat has had something to do with that. Up until this year I was always trying to give my containers as much sun as I could, moving them around. Recently I have them so the sun is partially blocked. Has anyone had a ‘bad’ garden year? Any thoughts on the slow growth?

  2. Ralph ⋅

    Last year’s garden I am pretty sure got off to a late start, especially since I plant almost all seeds. This year I started a number of seeds inside while it was still too cool outside. Many grew too fast even though I followed the seed packs for when to plant. Apparently ‘timing is everything’ also applies to the garden. On a podcast I heard about a slide rule of sorts that takes the guess work out of a lot of those planting questions. Clydes Garden Planner http://cdmplanning.hypermart.net/ was mentioned as an easy to use tool. At a mere $5 I am going to get myself one and see how it works. Check out the website above and see what you think. There’s a demo link to a video on the site. There are spring and fall charts, and since I want to try a fall garden this year I am going to order one real soon and see how it works out.

  3. Ralph ⋅

    I just checked the yard, the string beans are larger and some should probably be picked. My onions seem to be getting there, but are not big enough to pick. One thing I’ve noticed with the onions is they seem to keep pushing themselves up and exposing the top of the bulbs. Maybe I didn’t plant them deep enough, or it’s the soil’s way of saying ‘you stink’. Is anyone else growing onions- seen this happen to them? These are Sweet Spanish onions, although I don’t think that matters since a number of scallions are doing the same thing. Any ideas??

    • I’m not growing onions this year and in fact ended up having to pull up a whole bunch of bunches of them in the front yard before treating it for all the new wonderful native plants I put in there.

      To another point you made — that it seems this year the plants just aren’t as productive as last … I have noticed the same thing and am not sure what to attribute it too. Although my tomato plants are doing alright, the herbs – which I usually have no problem with – are very erratic, with the sage crying out for more space and the rosemary barely able to keep alive. As I may have mentioned, I now have more pumpkin plants than I remember planting (although that’s not to say they’ll fruit — we’ll have to wait on that one), while my wild ginger, which I thought would be a hearty addition to the native garden, wilted and left me. I only have one of three that I planted in early June still surviving. What’s weird is that the others just seemed to disappear. It’s almost as if I never planted them. They are just gone … much like that weird mushroom alien invader. Maybe the plants are talking to each other from the front to the back yard, and conspiring against me. Let’s just hope they don’t talk to the very happy (for now) jalapeno on the upstairs terrace. I was thinking about bringing him down to hang with the other plants out back but now I’m gonna reconsider. Lesson to be learned from this season: DON’T MESS WITH A GOOD THING! Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

  4. Ralph ⋅

    I’ve had a couple things vanish when I first planted this year. I know some small plants and seeds became bird food, but sometimes there was signs of things that looked like they were pulled or dug out. There is a chance it may have been raccoons since I know they are around, but I’ve never seen any in the back yard.

    I suspect the heat is a problem this year. I’ve been keeping containers where they get less direct sun instead of moving them to keep them in the sun. Now my mint looks healthy again and the parsley is growing back green leaves to replace the yellow. The sun even killed off a lot of my seed starts early this season. Here comes the sun- and it’s NOT alright.

    BTW, I keep forgetting to mention I may have found an ID for your invading alien vanishing mushroom thing. Look for a Japanese Knotweed. If you have a copy of Wildman’s ‘Shoots and Greens of Early Spring’ it’s In there. I downloaded a copy with color pictures from his website before the tour so I can have something on my computer to ID plants without carrying a book. If you haven’t got a copy and decide to, I would go with the color picture version for a few extra dollars. It has good IDs, medicinal info, and recipes.

  5. Ralph ⋅

    While out watering the yard I noticed a tall plant sticking up from the ‘wild area’ of my yard. A closer look and the leaves had a familiar look. I took a leave inside for a positive ID against some catnip (cat mint) I started from seeds and it was a match. The catnip in the ground was kind of yellow and had what was no doubt seed bearing flowers on top. I wasn’t surprised the plant was yellowed since I never water back there- it’s a real survival of the fittest section of the yard. Wanting to grow a lot more catnip than I now have, I gave it a good watering to help it along. Next time I am going to check it to see if I can get some seeds off it. By coincidence I just heard a program where catnip was mentioned. He said he didn’t grow it for his cat, but for himself. He uses it to make a tea which he said is relaxing and helps you sleep.

    Catnip is in the mint family and apparently grows and spreads like mint- invasive. I think I’ll take the chance and leave it in place since it is out of the way- for now. This is the second time I had a surprise discovery out back. First a wormwood plant showed up, now catnip. Usually after failed attempts at starting seeds in containers I dump the dirt out in the yard. Apparently an occasional seed likes the yard better than my containers.

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