While I look forward to most flowers in my garden the basil flowers are not my favorites. Basil is an annual and when the plants start to make flowers and eventually seeds the quality and quantity of the leaves diminishes. It is imperative to keep after the blooms and trim them off as soon as they appear. Trim down to just above where you see smaller leaves or new stems emerging. Before you toss the blossoms into the compost heap they do have another use. Like turning lemons into lemonade you can transform the basil flowers into another culinary purpose. You can use other herb blossoms the same way. I flavor vinegar with chive blossoms, lavender, roses and even lilac blossoms. You can later use them in salads, marinades and well, anywhere you use vinegar in cooking.
It’s really simple. Just place clean blossoms into a clean jar. For every cup of blossoms add 2 cups of any vinegar you like. Be sure it is 5% acidity- the bottle will tell you and most vinegars are 5% acidity. Put on the lid of the jar and store in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks- or longer. Once aged enough, strain then filter the vinegar and store in bottles until ready to use. It can be stored at room temp- but colorful vinegars- like chive blossom- will hold their color better when kept cold.
There is something to be said for doing yard work on a cool day. I managed to clean out and prep the bed for greens and beets. Emptied out all the containers of compost I got from Carl yesterday at Blue Pike Farm. Thanks Carl. Worked them in to the herb garden and greens bed. Planted lots of basil, too. I have at least 24 in the ground and in large planters and still have more basil. Pesto for everyone!!!! Didn’t get everything done but this time of year there is always more to do.
I did get distracted for a while by Parker and his pursuits. Parker is going to be 13 soon. He is down to three legs and his remaining back leg gets a little stiff on cool days. When he is with me in the garden he generally finds a shady place and settles in. Today was different, though. Today there were squirrels. A rowdy group of 4 squirrels were having a big time row about something. They chattered and ran up and down the tree next door. Its branches hang low into my yard. Parker was so excited he ran and barked and bounced around like a dog half his age. They even ran along the fence several times with Parker in hot pursuit. The “Gang of Four” went on with their fight for over an hour seemingly oblivious to the dog barking below them.
Parker is now fed and happily nodding off. All in all a good time.
First, let me say before my foraging friends attack me- I do not want you to kill all your weeds. Most are benign, some are pretty and many are edible. But sometimes there are plants in unwanted areas. I am referring to plants growing up in cracks in the pavement or sidewalks or between brick walkways. I used to pour boiling water on them- at it worked pretty well. But it is annoying if you have large areas to cover. It does notwork all the time, either. I got a post from a friend the other day suggesting using white vinegar. Cheap, eco- friendly and using it will make your yard smell like pickles. Now be advised- do not pour the vinegar onto areas where other desirable plants are growing. It will kill everything and mess up the pH of your soil. This is for use on concrete and other paved areas. Just pour vinegar over the plants and well, wait. It will take a few days to completely kill then but after day 1 they should be looking pretty sad. The pesky plants in my driveway are all brown and dried up. No dangerous herbicides around- extra important if you have children or pets and it is very inexpensive Let me know how it works for you. To keep the area weed free for the whole season mist the cracks every week with more vinegar.
First day of Spring and 80 days into my challenge of not going to the grocery store means being creative and resourceful. I was out planting peas today and decided to see just what was ready for harvest. I have really been been missing fresh greens. Sure, I have been sprouting seeds for fresh greens- but in between harvests just now.
My harvest today consists of Swiss chard that has weathered our mild Winter, ramps, fennel greens, dandelion greens that are very tiny, but also less bitter at this stage, violet leaves, one violet flower and chives. Pretty decent haul for March in Cleveland! It will only get better.
I thought of what Dr. Peter Gail taught me years ago about Spring tonics. Not to be confused with gin and tonic, Spring tonics were made from the first edible greens in the Spring. Prized by people in cold climates they signaled the start of a new year and thus fresh vegetables. They were also full of nutrients that had been lacking during the winter. Our ancestors would crave them and I understand why. I can’t say that I have been lacking too much this winter but fresh greens sure sound good about now.
Makes me also think about how much of what I grow is not edible. Inspired by Mari Keating and her group Food, Not Lawns. Their goal is to plant completely, or nearly completely edible landscapes. Sounding better to me everyday. Happy Spring!!
I am always encouraging people to forage. There are so many common plants that are both edible and tasty. As the new season starts I also want to be a little cautionary. As much as there are common plants out there that can nourish you there are also common plants that are dangerous and even deadly.
Be sure you know what the plant is. If you can’t identify it for sure find someone who can. Your local Extension office can help.
There are also plants where some parts are edible and others not -like tomatoes. Tomatoes are wonderfully edible but the foliage on tomato plants is poisonous. There are also plants that are only edible in certain stages of growth or when prepared a certain way. If you aren’t sure- don’t eat it!!!!
While this is not meant to be a complete list here are some plants you should watch out for. Even more true if you have small children or pets that might ingest them. Some are quite toxic, others might cause skin irritations etc.
Some Poisonous Plants
Bryony (Bryonia): all parts are poisonous, Boxwood (Buxus),: contact with the sap may irritate skin, Christmas rose, Lenten rose, hellebore (Helleborus): all parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested and the sap may irritate skin, Clematis, old man’s beard, virgin’s bower (Clematis): all parts are poisonous, causing mouth pain if eaten and minor brief skin irritation, Columbine (Aquilegia): contact with the sap may irritate skin, Comfrey (Symphytum): roots and leaves may cause severe discomfort if eaten and leaves may irritate skin, Daffodil (Narcissus): bulbs toxic if eaten in large quantities; skin may be irritated by handling bulbs, flowers and stems Elder (Sambucus): all parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested and the leaves may irritate skin, False acacia (Robinia preudocacia): all parts may cause severe discomfort if eaten, Foxglove (Digitalis): all parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested and the leaves may irritate skin, Ivy (Hedera): all parts may cause discomfort if eaten and the sap or airborne hairs may aggravate allergies and irritate skin Juniper (Juniperus): contact with foliage may irritate skin allergies, Lobelia (Lobelia): the sap may irritate skin, Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis): seeds can cause stomach upset, Lords and ladies (Arum): all parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested and the sap may irritate skin, Lupine (Lupinus): the seeds may cause severe discomfort if ingested, Mountain laurel (Kalmia): all parts may cause severe discomfort if eaten, Potato, potato vine, false Jerusalem cherry, eggplant (Solanum): toxic compounds causing weakness and confusion are concentrated in stems, leaves, sprouts and fruits. They are increased by exposure to light, damage and age. Levels are kept low in food varieties and the compounds are mostly destroyed by cooking. Privet (Ligustrum): all parts may cause severe discomfort if eaten, Rhubarb (Rheum): leaves may cause discomfort if ingested. Use only the leaf stalk in recipes. Windflower (Anenome): contact with the sap may irritate skin, Wisteria (Wisteria): all parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested
Some Poisonous Flowers
Aconite, Anemone, Anthurium, Atamasco Lily, Autumn Crocus, Azalea, Baneberry, Black Locust, Bloodroot, Boxwood, Burning Bush, Buttercup, Butterfly Weed, Caladium, , Carolina Jasmine, Castor Bean, Cherry Laurel, Chinaberry, Christmas Rose, Clematis, Daffodil, Deadly Nightshade, Death Camas, Delphinium, Dogbane, Dumbcane, Elephant Ears, False Hellebore, Four O’clock, Foxglove, Gloriosa Lily, Golden Chain Tree, Goldenseal, Heavenly Bamboo, Henbane, Horse Chestnut, Horse Nettle, Hyacinth, Hyacinth Bean, Hydrangea, Iris, Ivy, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Jerusalem Cherry, Jessamine, Jetbead, Jimsonweed, Jonquil, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Lantana, Larkspur, Leopard’s Bane, Lily of the Valley, Lobelia, Marsh Marigold, May Apple, Mescal Bean, Mistletoe, Morning Glory, Mountain Laurel, Nightshade, Oleander, Periwinkle, Philodendron, Pittosporum, Poison Hemlock, Potato, Privet, Rhododendron, Rock Poppy, Schefflera, Spring Adonis, Spurge, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Pea, Tobacco, Trumpet Flower, Water Hemlock, Wild Cherry, Wisteria, Yellow Allamanda, Yellow Oleander
I don’t know about you but the fruit flies have arrived. I guess because I keep a pail for fruit and veggie scraps for the compost bin they are worse.This time of year they are a real pain. I learned an easy way to get rid of them. Just take a jar or glass and put some cider vinegar in it and a few drops of dish soap. Then cover the glass with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic and leave it on the counter in your kitchen. The fruit flies fly in but can’t find their way out. Because of the dish detergent, if they do touch down on the vinegar they will sink.
With summer fast approaching and warmer temperatures upon us the inevitable insect population explosion is here. Whether you are concerned with critters in the house or in your garden it is important to strike a balance between getting rid of bad bugs and preserving the environment. The other day while potting up some basil I came upon a colony of ants in my driveway. Before running for some chemical solution I remembered what my Mother used to do. I went in and put on the tea kettle. No, I wasn’t running away from the problem. Once the water was boiling I went out and poured it all over the ants- problem solved for free- and without chemicals. Now I tell you this hoping I won’t get flak from an ants rights group- but I am willing to take that chance. You can also use boiling water on plants in between cracks in the driveway or sidewalk. Don’t pour boiling water on plants you don’t want to kill.
There are plenty of ways to reduce or eliminate problem insects without running to toxic chemicals. In the next few weeks I will continue to post some less toxic solutions to your insect problems. I am also happy to respond to questions. If you have ideas you’d like to share I’d love to hear them, too.
A couple of things you should know. First, most insects are either harmless or even beneficial. When you use a chemical that destroys all you can be doing more harm than good in the long run. Second, when you do resort to a chemical solution- and you might- understand what the words on the package mean. On every bottle of pesticide there will be one of 3 words Caution, Warning or Danger. These words are not placed randomly- they mean something. They will also show up on things like household cleaners. There is a fourth option- non-toxic which is really not going to apply to pesticides as a rule.
Unless a product is labeled non-toxic there is always going to be some risk involved. Caution is only used on the least toxic chemicals, Warning on products that are more dangerous but not considered a poison to humans. Once the word Danger is used- also with a skull and crossbones- you are dealing with a poison- plain and simple. Whenever you are looking for a product to use in and around your home- try to find product that fall into the caution category. While I will be promoting organic controls whenever possible just being organic does not insure non or less toxic. There are plenty of poisons found naturally all around us.
Sometimes solutions are as easy as when to plant. Squash vine borers are areal problem. You have a row of healthy zucchini plants and walk out one day to find them all wilted. You water and the plants may recover for a day but then wilt again and eventually die. The borer laid eggs in the stem and as the larvae develop and grow they clog up the plant’s vascular system and kill it. If you wait to sow the seeds for your squash until after the 20th of June you can avoid the problem altogether. By the time your plants are up the borers have stopped laying eggs. Simple. Simple is good.
Well I am back to my garden now. Transplanting kale and chard seedlings and finishing planting my basil. May even get the grass cut if I find the time.