"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Wild Mustard
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

The tiny white cluster of flowers you see perched atop a long, green stem (a foot to more than 3 feet) probably is one of many strains of wild mustard. It could be something else, but I don’t know what.
Actually, there are thousands of strains and species of mustard in the world, and a few in this country, including the most common, black mustard. Others are classified as wildflowers.
Ordinarily, the flowers of mustard are bright yellow and dominate at this time of year in fallow fields and along roadsides. This, though, may be a white mustard, which originated in Mediterranean Europe and elsewhere. 
I am not (thankfully) seeing it every place I go, but where it is present, it seems to be trying to rout other forms of vegetation. I guess, for lack of a better word, it might have to be called “invasive.” I do not like that word because this plant occupies a niche on this earth and probably has a purpose--culinary.
The flower is four-petaled, white, and appears to have a tiny, yellow, disc-like center. Bare seedpods (about 2 inches long) grow out of the stem below the flower. One or more miniature white flowers top every appendage, and tiny seedpods two inches or more long hug the stem immediately below the flowers.  Seedpods grow progressively shorter as they approach the flower.
Leaves are rather heart shaped and alternately veined on the back side.  Lower leaves are much larger (as much as four inches long) and grow smaller at the top of the plant.
The best method of killing the plant is to pull it (roots and all) when the earth is wet. It springs up from seed. Its roots are a few inches in diameter with a six-inch tap-type root from which many tentacles grow. Root systems are rather round.
I have not eaten leaves or stems, but grew up eating mustard greens. Some are said to be poisonous.

In this spring when morel mushrooms appear to be scarce as hen’s teeth, I’m now finding pokeweed and stinging nettle poking up through the earth in the central part of the state. So the smorgasbord of wild still is on.
If stinging nettle has not yet graced your table, a very good application is achieved by cooking the tender spring leaves with a touch of onion, chopped bacon, and wild or domestic mushrooms (chopped fine). But, as difficult as it may be, don’t eat them . . . yet.
Instead, drain the dish, stir in an egg, roll them in patties dredged in finely rolled Club Crackers and flour, and fry them to a golden brown. If you like, cover the patties on plate with a light gravy or cheese of your choice, or both.
You’ll be glad spring came.

DNR DOPE--Mitch Marcus of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, a resident of Greenwood, recently graduated from the National Conservation Leadership Institute (NCLI), an intense seven-month experience designed to address one of the nation’s most significant conservation challenges—preparing and retaining leaders. 
Marcus was one of 36 in the nation chosen for the second NCLI class, which culminated in April 2008. The class included 21 state fish and wildlife employees, six federal conservation agency employees, one industry employee, and eight nongovernmental agency employees, who worked together during the past seven months on priority leadership challenges and solutions 

The DNR Division of Forestry (DoF) draft environmental assessment of the forest management program on state forests is posted on the DoF Web site for public comment and review over a 60-day period.
The document, titled “Increased Emphasis on Management and Sustainability of Oak-Hickory Communities on the Indiana State Forest System,” is at http://dnr.IN.gov/forestry/6407.htm. Anyone unable to access the document online may request a copy from the State Forester, 402 W. Washington Room W-296, Indianapolis 46204 or by calling 317-232-4105 (not toll free). Review copies also are available at all state forest property offices. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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