Updates on eating plants from our backyard #2

From my husband:

“Day 2 of eating wild edibles. Wild Lettuce, Dead Nettles, Wild Green Onions. So far I have observed better mental clarity, more fiber and consistent bowel movements, getting full when eating less. So far so good….”

I too notice that with adding these things to our diet, while it may be strange at first, has so many wonderful benefits.  Sometimes the best thing to do it just pick a day and start adding different plants to your meals.  Last Sunday I enjoyed planting marigolds and a mixture of flowers including echinacea and calendula.  I was delighted to find an article stating the benefits of adding marigolds and other flowery plants to your diet, therefore, not only will this plant keep bugs from taking over your garden but is loaded with many healthy vitamins and minerals.

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Marigold uses

The bright marigolds flanking my doorway and alternating with the vegetables in my garden provide much more than a cheerful bit of color. Indeed, marigold uses are so wide-ranging that their function as decor is almost surpassed by their other services!

Most gardeners are aware that marigolds’ pungent flowers and foliage discourage many insects from feasting on nearby crops. But even the odorless varieties are effective: Planted as a border around the garden or in rows next to the vegetables, they act as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. Since those noxious insects like to congregate on the flowers, the gardener simply can shake the collected pests into a can of kerosene, where they’ll expire.

Meanwhile, the marigolds are just as hard at work underground, controlling nematodes (those tiny, eel-like worms that attack the roots of plants). While scientists can’t explain how the plants affect the subterranean spoilers, they do admit that marigolds are effective! In comparing the soil of two plots, one with marigolds and one without, researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (and at other agricultural labs as well) discovered 75% to 85% fewer nematodes in the flowered plot. Apparently, a substance is exuded from the little plants that deters these almost invisible crop-destroyers.

Edible Marigolds

Toward the end of the growing season, I often pull up most of my marigolds and feed both them and their collection of beetles to the chickens and the pigs. However, the blooms are edible not only for livestock, but for humans, too! Dried and crumbled petals can pinch-hit for oh-so-expensive saffron in casseroles, breads, and omelets, adding a unique, subtle flavor to these dishes. Stir-fried—alone or with vegetables—the petals add zip to any meal. They’re also colorful and tasty in rice, soups, or stews, or when sprinkled on salads. Furthermore, the flowers are nutritious! They contain carotene, which can be converted in humans to vitamin A.

I’m always looking for good substitutes for store-bought items, so after trying the petals in cookery, I decided to experiment with them as a tea! To prepare it, I harvested plump flowers and separated the petals from the green calyxes. I put the petals into a warm teapot (2 teaspoons of flowers per cup of liquid), poured just-boiled water over them, steeped the blooms for 5 minutes, and strained out the blossoms.

The brew was beautifully colored, but—as it turned out—bland in flavor. So this year I’m growing quantities of peppermint, which has wonderful flavor but no color worth speaking of. Together, the marigold petals and mint leaves should make a drink that appeals to the senses of both taste and sight!

Marigold balm makes a soothing rub for tired, aching feet. Just put 5 tablespoons of petals into a bowl, covering them with 1 cup of heated (about 120°F) sunflower oil. Let the mixture soak for about 4 hours, then strain the petals through a coarse cloth and store the oil in a jar.

Truly, this little flower’s virtues are legion!

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/marigold-uses-zmaz83jazshe.aspx#ixzz2RcIcqHhA

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Updates on eating plants from our backyard

Thanks to my husband who posted these updates about our experience and results on eating plants from our backyard!!

Alright those who enjoy wild edibles, here is our pics of the 2 plots we have cordoned off just for wild organic greens. One plot is approx. 10×15 and the other is approx. 15×20 (6 photos)
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Eating Weeds….

A good article about eating the weeds and growth in your backyard…..  You can obtain these article by joining the Farmer’s Almanac newsletter or request their magazine.

by Margaret Boyles

April 6, 2012

In late March, three weeks after knee-replacement surgery (which explains my lengthy absence from this space), northern New England experienced a record-breaking heat wave.

Daytime temperatures soared into the 80s. The buds on the maple trees burst and the sugarers took down their sap lines. The  lilacs and forsythia leafed out, and some forsythias bloomed.

The ice on our backyard pond melted, and we had visits from migrating waterfowl: Canada geese, mallards, and wood ducks.  A blue heron flew in to fish in the shallows.

Gradually recovering my ability to walk—albeit it slowly and awkwardly and with trekking poles at first—I ventured into the fields and gardens looking for signs of the first wild foods of spring that typically don’t emerge until mid-April.

Sure enough! Spritely dandelion rosettes poked through the thatch of dead grass in the back yard. The devilish (but delicious–cooked of course) stinging nettles had emerged from the mulch in the raspberry patch. Wood sorrel appeared along the edges of one vegetable plot, and a few wild violet leaves announced themselves in the lawn beside the pond.

Bowls of wild salad and cooking greens (“weeds”) span the weeks until our cultivated lettuce, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, purslane and others—not only wild leafy greens, but also roots, flowers, berries, and stems.

Why bother eating weeds?

We live in a nation of extraordinary food abundance. Foraging wild foods requires knowledge, skill, and a lot of work (and time). Plus, it takes most people a while to acquire a taste for the often-stronger flavors of wild foods and to learn to prepare them creatively.

  • Unlike our cultivated food crops, which we pamper with selective breeding, fertilizers, and chemicals that protect them from disease-causing microbes, wild plants have evolved sophisticated strategies for foraging everything they need in an intensely competitive, often-hostile environment. They often contain higher nutrient levels than those found in cultivated food plants, especially trace minerals.
  • Wild plants also must manufacture all the compounds that protect them from excess solar radiation and from the attack by fungi, viruses, and bacteria, as well as larger predators. The same compounds plants manufacture for protection from environmental assaults may serve humans as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, pain relievers, and in many other ways. These health-promoting compounds, which generations of selective breeding have all but eliminated from our cultivated crops, are responsible for the stronger flavors of wild foods. You’ll need to experiment to find tasty ways to serve them.
  • Finally, for me anyway, foraging a little of my food from the wild satisfies some deep, primal need, connecting me to the natural world around me and to my hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Before you start foraging: Important rules of thumb

  • Never use any plant for food, beverage, or medicine, unless you can identify it with certainty. How do you learn? Read books on wild-food foraging. Check to see if your local Cooperative Extension office, Master Gardener program, or community education center offers wild-food foraging workshops. Seek old-timers who know their weeds and ask if you can accompany them on their foraging trips.
  • Never forage weeds from lawns or agricultural fields that have been heavily fertilized or sprayed with pesticides. Know the history of the land you forage on.
  • Don’t harvest wild greens and roots from lawns or other areas frequented by domestic pets whose droppings may contaminate your harvest. This is especially important if you plan to eat your wild foods raw

Weedless gardening is possible….. article

As the snow is melting and we are getting a taste of spring and summer with nice temperatures, this article is the newspaper was very timely, especially considering our families choice to forage off our yard….  For those who are planning big or small gardens this article may be of interest to you.

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(Nearly) weedless gardening is possible

By Lee Reich

The Associated Press

For a time many years back, I would become nervous every time I went out to my garden to weed. The weeds were so few that I feared something was wrong with the soil.
True, I had taken deliberate steps to create this condition, but initially it was hard to believe that results could so well bear out theory.
The first step in creating this “weedless” condition was to stop turning over or tilling the ground.
Buried in every soil are countless dormant weed seeds just waiting to be awakened by exposure to light and/or air. Not tilling- whether with a shovel, garden fork, or rototiller- keeps those seeds buried and dormant.
Added bonuses to the no-till approach are preservation of valuable soil humus (organic matter), earlier planting in spring, more efficient water use and, of course, not having to go through the trouble of tilling.

Keep the soil intact, covered

I now take great pains to avoid disturbing the layering that naturally develops over time in any soil. I clean up old marigold plants, tomato vines and other spent plants during and at the end of the growing season by just jerking them out of the ground, coaxing out plants with large roots, such as corn, by first cutting around their main roots with a garden knife.

I also enrich the soil from the top down, spreading fertilizers and compost or other organic materials right on the surface. Most of the feeder roots- the roots that benefit most from organic materials and fertilizers- grow near the surface anyway. And near or on the surface is where organic materials can also do the most good offering protection from the pounding of raindrops and the summer sun.

Still, there are always those weeds that arrive in the garden as seeds hitchhiking in the wind or dropped by birds, each year, I smoother them by spreading a thin, weed-free mulch over the soil. The mulch of choice depends on the look I want, the plants, and the soil.
Poor soil and hungrier plants demand the most nourishing mulch, so every year, compost gets slathered an inch thick over the ground where vegetables grow.
Buckwheat hulls, straw or wood chips are adequate and attractive for most flowers.

Don’t walk on my bed!

Of course, you can’t just stop tilling, throw mulch on the ground and garden as usual. Walking on the soil and rolling a wheelbarrow, garden cart or tractor over it compacts the soil; tillage is then needed to aerate it. The way to avoid compaction in the first place is to lay out the garden with permanent areas for plants and for traffic. Trafficked areas also need to be mulched, in this case with some lean, weed-free material such as wood chips, gravel or straw.

Planted areas in my vegetable garden consist of rectangular beds 3 feet wide surrounded by 18-inch wide paths. Beds in my flower garden are more free-form or have stepping stones.
Planted areas in a vegetable garden don’t need to be raised beds, however; they can be laid flat on the ground.
A big advantage of bed planting is that you can pack more plants into less space. Instead of planting carrots with 18 inches between rows, four or five rows can be planted with only a few inches between them. (That 18 inches is to let you walk between the rows for planting, weeding and harvesting. With a 3-foot-wide bed, you can do all that from the paths.) Also, different vegetables, flowers, or vegetables and flowers can be grown together in beds.

Drip that water

Changing watering technique was the final step on my road to “weedlessness”. Not all plants need regular watering, but for those that do, drip irrigation is the way to go. Drip irrigation puts water near garden plants, so none is wasted, or promoting weed growth in areas between plants or in paths. This is not to say that with the above four steps- drip irrigation, mulching, keeping traffic off  planted areas, and not tilling- weeds never appear.

They do. But weed problems do not. What few large weeds do appear get yanked out of the soil, roots and all, coaxed out, if necessary, with a garden knife or trowel at their roots. Colonies of small weeds are quickly done in with a “winged weeder,” colinear hoe or some other hoe with a sharp blade that can be slide along parallel to and just a fraction of an inch below the soil surface. Also important in keeping a garden weed-free is to search regularly for them. With the above four steps, this activity is pared down to nothing more than a few pleasant minutes.

 Lee Reich is the author of “Weedless Gardenin