We are approaching a time in late spring in spring
when Mother Nature puts out a few hints about the things she will be serving
up for the outdoor set a bit later. At this point, my observances suggest
that, in spite of a late wet spring, there is the hint of a rosy hue for
summer and fall produce -- some items could be quite good.
The cold spring suggests that buds and flowers
of some plants and trees could have suffered damage that would partially
stifle production. This may be true. But many of the plants seemed to delay
foliation as the cooler weather arrived, and it may be that blooms, which
determine production, have also been delayed
There is, however, a good flowering of male white
oak flowers (they hang down like green, fuzzy inch worms in clusters),
but to this point I can't see female flowers well enough to predict a crop
level of acorns. The odd-year theory predicts a crop better than last year's
failure. State nurseries were able last year to buy all of the white oak
acorns they wanted, but crops were limited enough that they bought acorns
from the entire state . . . not just the southern areas.
Black raspberry blooms indicate that this year's
crop of that culinary delight may thinner this year than last because of
winter damage to the canes (two-year-old canes produce) and it was a cold
winter for the year-old plants.
Wild strawberries produce little now because developers
of the last few decades have erected buildings on their haunts. Still,
the wild strawberries, as scarce as they will be, may be in better shape
than the buildings that replaced them.
Blackberries also have suffered large losses of
their grounds, but if you find patches of canes there will be fair crops
-- maybe good. They bloom a bit before black raspberries ripen in June.
Pokeweed, wild asparagus, and stinging nettle
are ready for the pot, now, and spring has (at last, sigh!) given us some
gardening weather. Pokeweed is said to have poisonous (or toxic) roots,
berries, and stems, but like some other green-type vegetables, cooking
in two or more waters will make them edible and delicious.
In preparing these "weeds" for the table, I change
the cooking water onceor twice during cooking. This is said to eliminate
toxins. I use just enough water to cover the greens, and in the second
water I dice a strip of bacon or salt pork. After boiling, when tender,
I cut the shoots in half lengthwise, dip them in a mix of cracker meal
and flour, and fry them to brown in butter (a la morels). An Arkansas reader
says Razorback folks use the entire tall stalk by slicing off the "bark"
(outer surface), cutting the interior pith into crosswise slices (like
carrot rings) and frying them (again like morels). The young leaves, of
course are eaten as greens, or may be incorporated in other dishes like
fried poke patties by adding an egg, cracker meal, onion and other favorite
White ash, sycamore and black walnut are leafing
out now. The walnut suffers less from spring frosts because their flowers
appear after leafing. Considering the long, cold winter, it seems that
we will have at least a fair year of natural production. Time -- weather
and precipitation -- may still alter the picture. It is still spring.
-- Garlic mustard, a European escapee to this country, is very much a threat
to our wildflowers. It crowds them out of existence. It grows about two
to three feet tall; one plant produces several stems, and has small white
clusters of flowers, and seed pods like minute horns. Garlic mustard should
be pulled up by the roots and destroyed -- even burned. Young plants winter
over as rosettes and reach maturity in the second year. They blanket forest
floors in then spring to kill wildflowers. It may be possible to spray
the rosettes in winter when wildflowers are dormant underground.
on thumbnail image for enlarged view.
|These are the
leaves of the garlic mustard, a very bad plant from Europe that came to
this country in the 1800s. The rosette stays green all winter and produces
plants in the second year. They crowd out wildflowers.
||This is the
garlic mustard plant (edible) that has made it to Indiana. Note horn-like
appendages below white flowers. They are millions of seeds and germinate
for as many as five years.