Friday, July 08, 2011

My Leafy Friends

My leafy friends are back!! Lamb's Quarters at the leash-free dog park are big as small trees (yes, I wash them really, really well). The leaves are four inches long and they stand as tall as me.

Thanks to Victoria Boutenko and her inspiring book, Green for Life, I'm gobbling them up raw in green smoothies. Amazingly, those quarter inch stems turn into froth along with the chickweed, spinach, dandelion leaves, blueberries, plums and apples I put in with them. If the dandelion tang threatens to overwhelm my palette, I just throw in a little stevia and lemon juice. Voila! Perfection.

Now I finally understand why the raw food people get so excited. Eating raw is not a viable lifestyle for me because me teeth are starting to leave me. But when the blender does the work, I'm all over it. Instead of having to count calories, or change my routine, I just add a morning blender drink and
1. I don't have to cook anything
2. I stop craving sugar, coffee and chocolate. (I still eat it. I just don't crave it.)
3. I feel jet propelled as though it was caffeinated
4. Strangely enough, the extra weight I've carried for years is sliding off me since I replaced store bought spinach with the wild greens in the smoothie.
Yep, those wild greens are my buddies and look, four years later, I still can't stop talking about them. Look at earlier posts for photos to ID these amazing plants for yourself. I bet you have them all over your yard. They like foundation walls, telephone poles, fences and, of course, snuggled up to your beets, lettuce, carrots and tomatoes in the garden.

I planted a bed of Jerusalem artichokes this year in rotted horse doo-doo and guess what I got? Wraparound pigweed! Another excellent blender buddy! I don't know why I waste my money on seed.

If you think about it and really notice the difference, cultivated veggies are a distant second in taste and nutritional power to lamb's quarters, chickweed, pigweed, plantain, purslane, burdock leaf stems, and a host of others too good to believe. I get more produce out of my alley, backyard and the city parks than my garden right now!

This blog started five years ago when the collards behind my former house kept reseeding and growing. Six generations of collards with no-gardener-in-sight were producing bigger and better plants than when gardener assisted. Note to self: they don't need us.

Even when I was sneaking back there
(note winter alley grazing outfit) and pulling them out of the snow , all beat up, moth eaten, and winter fried, they were soft and sweet as brand new when steamed.

What I see now is that the most powerful plants announce their nutritional vigor by the way they grow.
1. By being inventive & adaptable, i.e. growing in sidewalk cracks, out of the sides of compost piles, under decks, on roofs, up trees!!

2. By
growing to outlandish sizes, those showoffs.

3. By growing really fast, getting way ahead of conventional, garden-bred leafy greens.

In the plant world, they're clearly athletes.
Don't they just scream out, "Have I Got a Surprise for You!!"

Do you think maybe they're trying a little too hard to get our attention?
As if they know what's better for us than we do?!
excellent burdock photo by Andrew Williams/

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is Here Gardening Fiends

This is indeed the first day of Spring. And it follows the largest full moon in decades. That should mean something, though the damp and cold are here today, too.

I celebrated the first spring day by ordering heirloom seed varieties from Azure Standard:
All of these varieties, packaged by Heirlooms Evermore, have been around since the 1800's. How reassuring.

The Marvel of 4 Seasons Lettuce was the most prolific (photo above, front row), romaine type lettuce. It was the most delicious, juicy, and long standing lettuce I've ever planted. The Burbank tomatoes did really well too. Under the pink ribbons in the bed with marigolds, carrots and a zucchini. The green next to the bed is chickweed and mallow. In the foreground an irrepressible Manitoba Maple.

So I am sold on heirloom varieties for Montana. Last year was a rough summer on gardens-so people told me. My raised bed kitchen garden raised a bumper crop. My plants get a great start and good care for about six weeks. After that, it is fend for yourself time. In the next week or so I hope to start a hot frame bed to start plants I would normally start indoors. More on that next time.

I recently discovered I have some common food intolerance–dairy, gluten, sugar and yeast. Cutting out most of what I like has escalated my commitment to raw, fresh, local and seasonable edibles. Also, my commitment to exploring websites with cool recipes like living without. Can't wait for my chickweed which should be showing up soon in the backyard. YES, this early we can already start harvesting nutritious greens. You can find them on the south facing walls, along brick or cinderblock embankments, or in protected patios. The race is on.

I like remembering that agriculture started with alley grazing, before there were even alleys!! Women, children and elders with baskets, scouring the countryside. Isn't is reassuring to know that we're still doing it all these centuries later. Only now, men are allowed to do it too, unlike several centuries ago when it might have been frowned on as gender inappropriate. I remember reading that men and women weren't even allowed to use the same tools for the same job back then. Scythes and shovels...

Celestial Seasonings started with grazing, too. Those two hippie guys tromping over hill and dale filling up their backpacks with wild herbs and berries back in the '70's. Their product line was so superior to anything else on the shelves, they eventually grew their little storefront into a multimillion dollar operation. Even after Nestle bought them out, it's still great tea! Plus I think they invented the ethics of businesses giving back to the communities in which they do business. Or maybe that was Ben & Jerry.

Okay, that was a signature digression. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Happy Grazing!!