I have a Buddleia globosa, also commonly known as a butterfly bush in back yard that is a bit rangy, an awkward to be honest. I can seem to corral it and have stopped trying, too. Regardless, the bush is doing its job, attracting butterflies of all varieties, with its perfumed, rich in nectar flowers. The magnetism is amazing. I’ve looked up to see some gorgeous creatures floating through the backyard. The plant is almost too easy to grow and can be done in a container. Get it here or here.
Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum, has the fragrance of mint and the flavor of anise. Commonly referred to simply as “licorice mint,” this perennial herb in the family Lamiaceae is praised for both its culinary and medicinal uses (though not to be confused with Hyssop, the biblical healing herb). Anise Hyssop is traditionally used to make tea – hot or cold – that aids in digestion. The velvety leaves are also good stewed with fruit, or cut fresh over green salad. They also make a superb summer ice cream. Anise Hyssop is native to North America and in the wild, will bloom from June through November. Its lavender-like flowers can be cut and added to summer bouquets, or dried for winter arrangements (the petals retain their color and shape particularly well.) Bees make a mild honey from the blossoms. Anise Hyssop can be grown from seed and the plants are easy to care for. Once established, Anise Hyssop will reseed itself naturally, popping up volunteers throughout your garden.
Anise Hyssop is an ideal garden herb – especially in the heat of summer. Source some seed – or a fresh bundle from the growers market – and start by brewing a batch of Agastache sun tea. I can’t imagine a more refreshing combination than anise and mint. Happy summer.
Anise Hyssop ice cream (adapted from the Saltie Cookbook)
3 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 large bunch fresh anise hyssop, including the stems, leaves and flowers, thoroughly washed and dried
4 egg yolks
rum or vanilla extract
Combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and then toss in the pod. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until the cream comes to a simmer. Be careful not to burn the bottom.
Remove the cream from the heat and add the anise hyssop, submerging it in the liquid. Cover the pot and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the steeped cream into another pot, squeezing the liquid from the anise hyssop. Heat the cream over medium-low again until very hot.
Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Add the hot cream to the yolks one ladle at a time, whisking all the while to temper them. Put the custard base back in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flat wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens to the point where it will coat the back of the spoon. Remove the custard from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Season with a good pinch of sea salt, and add a splash of rum. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight to let the flavor develop. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions and serve.
“The history of psychoactive and hallucinogenic drugs is long and deep. Plants, like the ones described in the next pages, have been used for thousands of years in ritual, ceremony, healing and recreation. They have been distilled, imbibed, smoked and chewed. They have been praised for their power and banned for their potency. They have been gifted to the gods and bought from dealers. They have altered consciousness and inspired creative thinking. They have become addictive and they have been abused. Across the board, they have changed minds: each of these psychotropic plants has the ability to alter the way a brain functions, which affects the way one feels, thinks, reacts and imagines.”
See the full guide to our favorite psychotropic plants including Wormwood, Morning Glory, Ayahuasca and more here.
Lately, the temperatures where I live have been in the triple digits. Dropping down to 99 degrees by 9:30 at night. The heat is hard on me, but harder on my plants. Under extreme conditions like this, you have to watch for bolting in your garden. A plant “bolts” when it is under stress and believes that its chances to reproduce are threatened. In response, it will siphon energy away from its edible parts and channel it into making a flower. This shift is unfortunate for the gardener, as bolting almost always renders the edible parts woody, bitter and mostly useless. With a different perspective, however, bolted plants become an opportunity to taste less familiar, often more interesting food.
Two examples: Arugula bolts very quickly under heat stress, sending up delicate white flowers. Next time you see one, eat it. You’ll recognize the taste. Suddenly you have edible, peppery flowers for your salad. Fennel is another spring plant that lingers into summer. Leave the plants and allow them to flower. Snip the stems and lay on a flat, draft-free surface to dry completely. Store them flower side down in a paper cone to collect pollen. Fennel pollen is sweet, citrusy and woodsy in flavor. I have heard it is a good substitute for the (very expensive) saffron. I love having it in the kitchen to sprinkle on grilled pork or vanilla ice cream.
Plants are going to react to the conditions of their environment. The key is discovering unexpected rewards in these changes.
The locust trees are blooming right now- pendant racemes of pearly white blossoms, jangling their odiferous bunches all over the east coast.
Want to know why?
Sometime around now last year the Cherokee moon goddess acquired herself a new moon. She began to whittle it down, hurling it into the night sky each evening for fun. Every day she’d retrieve it, and whittle some more. On and on it went for a whole year until, come June, she was thigh high in shavings.
There stood the burly black locust, bare-branched and waiting so she descended from her celestial realm and adorned it in slivers of moon…
Compost tea, that is. Many of us rely on tea for its soothing, curative properties. Really, what is more restorative than a hot cup of green, mint or rose? Your plants feel the same way. One of the best and easiest ways to naturally fertilize your garden – ensuring optimal, healthy growth – is with batch of home-brewed compost tea. Compost tea adds nutrients to your plants in a soluble form, introduces beneficial microbes to your soil and treats disease. The process is simple – steep aged compost in water over a period of days. Provide a food source for the microorganisms – kitchen molasses works well – and an electric pump to aerate the solution. An air supply will activate good, bacterial action. At the end, you have a kind of wonder tonic for your garden. The true meaning of garden tea.
What you’ll need:
2 5-gallon buckets
1 gallon aged compost (make sure to use compost that is mature, this will not work with fresh kitchen scraps)
1 aquarium pump
1 gang valve
4 gallons water
3 ft of aquarium hose
1 0z. un-sulphured molasses
What you’ll do:
Cut the hose into 3 ft long pieces and attach to gang valve
Attach the gang valve to the rim of the bucket and make sure the hoses reach the bottom
Add water, leaving 6 inches of space between the solution and bucket rim. (If you are using city water, run the water through the pump and bubbler for at least an hour before mixing in the compost. This will evaporate any chlorine. Chlorine will KILL the beneficials organisms in your tea.)
Add the molasses.
Turn on the pump and run for 3 days, stirring occasionally.
After brewing, stain the mixture using cheesecloth suspended over the second bucket. (Return wet solids to your compost pile.)
The tea should smell like sweet and earthy- it should NOT smell bad. Do not use if it smells foul.
Apply the freshly-brewed compost tea to your plants immediately using a watering can or by running it through a slow-drip irrigation system. You can reapply every two weeks.
The Huffington Post recently (as in, today) shared a list of ten of the world’s most tranquil gardens. The folks at the HuffPo have it right. Whether it’s zen or inspired by the English countryside, I always find myself in a state of calm when I am in a garden. Perhaps it’s the curated wildness or the effortless symmetry. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
“Few spaces are more calming and zen-inducing than a beautiful garden. It’s hard not to feel at peace when you’re surrounded by flowers, fountains and the sounds of nature, and research has shown that walking through green spaces can put the mind into a state of meditation. A University of Michigan study also found that subjects had improved memory and focus after walking through an arboretum.”
Gardens—who would have known? They do a body good. These gardens are nestled all around the world. Been to any?
Ponderosa Pines are easy trees to love. They smell like vanilla cupcakes, maple syrup and sausages, or pineapple to some lucky noses, and when the sun strikes them in the right way, they light up like pillars of pink salt. 40 to 150 foot tall pillars that can reach up to 8 feet wide and 600 years old under the best conditions. And they are everywhere, pouring over the Rocky Mountains, covering the southwest, and standing off against the prairies to the east.
The Scottish botanist David Douglas named them Pinus Ponderosa for their “ponderous” size (he hadn’t seen the Redwoods yet) but the trees have a particular aspect and mood that goes beyond bigness, approaching the sublime. Qualities that have everything to do with two factors: drought and fire.
Drought forces their roots deeper and wider than most conifers, spacing them well apart and making Ponderosa forests feel airy, peaceful and light. Dry seasons inevitably lead to combustion, whether by lightning strike or, now, by people who grasp how deeply fire is woven into the character of Western woods.
In fact, Ponderosas are quite literally fire bugs. They need it so bad, they provide their own kindling by continually shedding bark and limbs en mass every year. Bare trunks keep flames from reaching vital crowns and lanky, draping needles shield their cones from heat. Brush fires clear out shade-bearing competitors like White Pine or Incense Cedar without seriously injuring older trees. At the same time fire coaxes sap into the lowest, deepest parts of Ponderosa trunks, bracing the heartwood so it can stand under its own weight for hundreds of years.
Fire is tough, necessary love. It’s the natural history lesson of a century and a funny thing to learn from any tree.
Purple Orach from Wild Garden Seeds
If you are growing food and flowers, take a moment to consider your seeds- how were they developed? where do they come from? Are they treated, untreated? What is the different between OP, F1 and GMO, really? All plants go from seed, well- to seed. The selecting, saving, sharing and sowing of them is highly valuable work.
In the world of seeds, Frank Morton, and his Wild Garden project is nothing short of heroic. When I first learned about Wild Garden, I was immediately turned on by their philosophy and approach.Perhaps more importantly, however, I quickly discovered that the seeds speak for themselves. Morton’s basic arugula is my gold standard. His Purple Osaka grows with muscular strength and the taste of wasabi. Wild Garden’s lettuce mix – the company’s original offering – stays speckled, vibrant and tender even in desert heat. And I suppose that is the point. The success I have experienced with their varieties, does indeed, inspire me to save the seed from that sweetest head of lettuce and the deepest hued Osaka leaf. Regardless, though, of whether or not you’re interested in saving seed, Wild Garden is a superior source for growing inspiration and high quality varietals.
To learn more – and purchase seed – visit Wild Garden Seed
Listen to Frank Morton describe the relationship between humanity, agriculture and seeds here
When it comes to understanding container gardening, my old boss came up with a saying I like to use: ‘first you thrill, then you spill.‘ I think it gets at two of the most crucial elements to crafting a real whizzbanger of a pot quite nicely. Here’s three great tips for making a great garden container:
1. Height: Height is part of the ‘thrill’ element of a pot. You need something eye catching. A colorful, vivid, imposing ‘je ne sais quoi’ to firmly establish the pot’s presence in the world. Choose foliage over flowers for this part of the display- something that will give you volume and bulk. A great summer choice are canna lilies, as is woodland tobacco, or a big plume of elephant ears.
2. Stuffing: This is what goes along the edges of the pot and gets crammed in in every available blank space. No bare patches allowed. Feel free to choose 1-3 different annuals to make it interesting, but don’t select anything that will compete with the size of your background anchor plant. Something with lacy, differently colored foliage that stands out, like any of the wormwoods, is a good choice here. You can’t go wrong with coleus, either. Even something like coral bells is great for stuffing- the airy flowers it produces midsummer add another element to the mix, too. I like to use some of the salvias here. Don’t be afraid to step it up a notch on the color and texture. This is the layer to do it with.
3. Spill: My favorite part, this is where you can get buck-wild messy. Lantana is a failsafe for full sun and it comes in a myriad of tropical popsicle colors. Million bells is good in the same way. For shade, sweet potato vine is tenacious and brilliantly lime-green or purple, however you want it. And if you’re looking for an upward climber, try moonflower- it blooms at night!
While you’re at it, don’t forget the golden rule of container gardening: water, water, water.
Image by Helen O’Donnell
So, if you haven’t picked up on it yet let me tell you again: I am lazy. Fortunately the natural world is so beautifully accomodating, I haven’t yet found any incentive to turn over a new leaf and become a new me. Lazy suits me just fine. Which is why I’m partial to growing natives, particularly in the garden setting where they do all the growing work themselves. Below are my top three edible natives- where you can get ‘em and how to treat them right. Sit back, and enjoy.
The Ramp: Yeah, you’ve all heard of it before, but how many of you have actually gotten off your lazy behinds and grown it yourselves? The farmer’s market is a lot easier, right? (I know, I know. Look who’s talking). Rule numero uno when buying native plants for food, particularly in farmers markets is this: ALWAYS ask your vendor where their product comes from. If it’s wild foraged, stay away from it. Ramps are rare in the state of Vermont, and they take a long time to reach maturity in any of the woods that they’re found. A single picker can decimate a population in no time, and then what? There’s no coming back from that. Give ramps moist, rich garden soil and plenty of early springtime light and they will perform like total gems in the garden setting, steadily taking over if given ample space. This website sells both ramp seeds and bulbs.
Stinging Nettle: This beast is tough to wrangle. I love it for its nutritious, succulent spring greens and usefulness in cleansing tonics. It seems to pop up everywhere around my house, thriving in the sandiest of soils and hottest locations. However, give it good garden soil and it will go NUTS. So be careful, because this mother stings (hence the name- we all got that, right?). The cool weather of spring gives nettles an almost buttery texture and they are supremely tender when steamed. Buy the seeds here or venture out into your local park later in the summer with a pair of snips- you’re sure to find a tenancious specimen in seed.
Miner’s Lettuce: This plant is a rare example of an exceptionally yummy garden variety weed that Americans took to Europe- and not the other way around. Dandelions, chickweed, mustard, and lots of other popular edible plants are European in origin- having arrived here in the ballast soil of ships and other supplies the colonist brought over hundreds of years ago. Miner’s lettuce was first discovered, named by botanists, and cultivated as an edible on the west coast. What a joy its been since! Buy the seeds at Territorial. The plants are cold hardy, and can almost tolerate those early unpredictable spring frosts. They like freely draining rich soil, but they’re beautifully weedy and will tolerate just about any circumstances (just the way I like it!).
Fun news! This Spring Wilder is pleased to present our first class series. All classes are held in the lovely loft and garden space above the restaurant Isa. We’ve also gathered some of our favorite experts and farmers to teach you everything from plant propagation to the basics of flowering arrangement. One May 19th, we’ll be focusing on flowers and food. And in June, we’ll be focused on the business of growing and horticultural.
At the end of each class day, we’ll be hosting two special educational dinners. The first will be hosted by famed farmer, Annie Novak of Eagle Street. Annie will be helping you eat your way through some the yummiest plants New York State has to offer at this one-of-a-kind Native Plant dinner. One the second day, June 9th, we take stock of the grooviest of them all, the mushroom. This dinner is hosted by Ian Purkayastha is the owner and founder of Regalis Foods. Ian is the go-to guy for New York based Michelin starred chefs seeking shrooms and truffles.
Classes can be purchased individually or as an entire day long package. If you have any question about the classes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Floral and Food – May 19, 2013
Classes on this day focus on flowers as design element including floral arrangement and dyeing. You’ll also find beginner level food growing classes including a look at the wonderful world of herbs. The day ends with a one-of-a-kind native dinner highlighting some of the best and yummiest plants in New York State.
See all the floral and food classes here.
Horticultural Explorations – June 9, 2013
Classes featured on this Sunday in June are all about the business of growing from turning a brown thumb green to understanding the basics of window farming. The day ends with a special dinner that takes stock of the wild and wonderful mushroom.
See all the horticultural exploration classes here.
The cherry tree has always had a powerful grasp on the hearts and minds of the Japanese. Come March, an entire nation turns their ears to hear the cherry blossom forecast- whole crowds wait, eager to gather and picnic under pink and white blossom clouds. In Japanese culture, the tree represents lavish beauty, and transience, and the inevitability of death. Kamikaze bombers adopted the flowers as their symbol, painting them on their planes, and some even believed they would be reincarnated as next season’s blossoms.
Some of the USA’s greatest cherry displays come direct from the land of cherry blossom. Washington D.C obtained it’s first donation of more than 3,000 trees as a gift from the City of Tokyo in 1912. The Brooklyn Botanic garden’s 220 Japanese cherries are the centerpiece for the garden’s ‘Hanami’ celebrations, where visitors can revel in the scents and sights of spring.
And what better way to celebrate spring than with a flower whose lifespan is as short as the season itself?
We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,
And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,
It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you
Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.
From the poem “I Don’t Miss It” by Tracy K. Smith
Carrion flower does it. Corpse flower does it too. So guess which of our USA natives is gifted with the talent for thermogenesis (producing it’s own heat)?
Are we noticing a theme yet? First of all, it bears mentioning that these three plants are all in the same family: the Araceae. Second of all, these plants all use strong scents to attract pollinating flies to their flowers- why? Because heat aids in dispersing these scents to further flung locales, and getting more pollinators in to do their duty, more quickly.
Skunk cabbage’s heat-producing capabilities serve a second purpose, too. Ever notice it is always the first plant up, come spring? Forget daffodils or snowdrops. Increasing air temperatures directly around the plant by as much as 50 degrees F, skunk cabbage is able to melt snow, and get a serious jump on the season. Thermogenesis is such a production, it requires the plant to use a whole different kind of metabolism than it usually does. In terms of energy use, the plant kinda starts acting like a hummingbird, or fleet-footed rodent. It’s weird.
So next time you’re out enjoying that first sliver of springtime green thanks to skunk cabbage (or maybe cursing it because it smells so nasty), stick your finger inside it’s flowers- feel the difference!
Growing up, I was a picky eater which means I remember when I had my first strawberry. It was late Spring in Southern New Hampshire. My friend’s mom had just picked dozens and as everyone took their first bites (of the season), I sat and watched. I was one of those children who feared fruit and vegetables, thinking salads consisted of croutons, shredded cheese and ranch dressing. Taste like that didn’t get me far and it was only a matter of time before my opt-outs became full subscriptions.
As a late adopter of many foods, I have the pleasure of recalling those precious moments of first taste. Sinking my teeth into the ripe strawberry, the flavor burst in my mouth. Overcome by a voluptuous sweetness as I discarded the stem, I went back for more. I learned, then and there, the luxurious bounty of berries, the utter delight of juice-stained fingertips. I’ve been going back for more ever since.
As May descends upon us, so does the promise of strawberry picking. In anticipation of too many cartons to know what to do with, I’ve complied a list of recipes that call for the fresh ingredient:
Strawberry Panzanella – This summer salad reminds me of one of my favorite breakfast treats, strawberry jam on toast.
The River Café’s Strawberry Sorbet – A frozen, icy scoop to be eaten outside in the sunshine. Then call it a day.
Strawberry Thyme Jam – A simple guide to jamming, this recipe offers an alternative to the water bath canner and keeps for up to 3 – 4 weeks in the fridge.
Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting – Okay, I cheated because this ruby deep cake doesn’t call for actual strawberries but it does call for strawberry jam, strawberry extract and red food coloring. It’s a strawberry reincarnated as a cake.
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