"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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It Is Still Spring
Copyright © 2009 by Bill Scifres

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 items.

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 -- 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.

 Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

leaves.JPG (46120 bytes)
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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.


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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