10 May Gardening Has Not Been Cancelled
Energetic, resourceful, tenacious, headstrong and capable are all strong adjectives that can
define one’s character. Adversity, struggle and hardship are words used in more strenuous
times. One discipline that has helped maintain a sense of “routine” is gardening.
Victory gardens, also called “food gardens for defense”, were gardens planted at private
residences and public parks. Primarily consisting of vegetable, herb and and fruit plantings, the
United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and Germany planted these gardens during
World War I and World War II. Governments encouraged people to not only supplement their
rations, these gardens also helped boost morale. Rewarded by what was reaped, gardeners also
felt empowered by their “contribution of labor” in their daily life.
March 21 st of this year was a gorgeous, warm sunny day filled with uncertainty. Not knowing
what quarantine restrictions, we would all be faced with, our garden center was very busy.
People eager to get supplies; top soil, mulch, grass & vegetable seeds and fertilizer, all in an
effort to prepare and have a project should they be home for a protracted period of time.
Gardening once again came to mind for many. Starting plants from seed, vegetable transplants,
potting soil, soil amendments and grow lights were all the rage this day. In a sense, this frantic
pace was not unlike that felt at our supermarkets. Happy to be a small part of people’s lives and
offering some comfort in an unsettled time, gardening once again proved to be a constant
value. Given the time of year, plants like lettuce, broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower and arugula
were suitable to start outdoors as they can all handle cooler temperatures. And aside from
these obvious commodities on the shelves, I got to thinking, what other plants have people
relied on or planted around their homes as a food source?
One of the more obvious plants for me is pawpaw, Asimina triloba. A small, native,
understory tree that occurs in low bottom wooded areas and along stream beds. Cup-shaped
purple flowers in the spring yield to edible, oblong, yellowish-green fruits, maturing in the early
autumn. Flavor likened to bananas, this fruit is usually eaten raw or mixed into pies and ice
cream. Rose hips or rose haws, are the accessory fruit of a rose plant. Typically, red to orange,
darker in certain areas, rose hips are the fruit that develops from the blossoms of wild rose
plants. Used for herbal teas, jams, jellies, pies and bread, this plant part can also be eaten raw.
Touted as a natural remedy for back pain, constipation, diabetes, gout & ulcers, rose haws are
purported to strengthen our immune system. Acorns, from oak trees, are another food source
many have held dear. While there are a number of oak species you can rely on, many have their
acorns tasting bland or bitter. One of the best for harvesting acorns, however is swamp white
oak, Quercus bicolor. A North American species, this tree can survive in a variety of habitats.
And while there is a process to eating acorns, leaching, drying and or roasting them, they do in
fact make great additions to coffee, flour, stews and potatoes. That being said, many still prefer
the old fashioned way of putting them in a frying pan with some salt. Finally, and this may be a
stretch for some, you need to look no further than your unattended lawns. Purslane, clover,
plantain, chickweed, mallow and dandelion all have edible parts. Gardeners often “wage war”
against these garden weeds, however there are those who welcome them into their soups, salads and stews. Dandelions, despite their bad reputation for blemishing your lawn, are said to
be “tasty” both raw or cooked. From its roots to its blossoms, dandelions have been a
component in salads, stir-fry, soups, syrups and wine. Disclaimer: make sure you positively
identify plants as edible, know how to prepare them and whether they were treated or
sprayed before eating any of them.
In conclusion, I leave you with two of my favorite gardening quotes: “The glory of gardening:
hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on
the body, but the soul” Alfred Austin. “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the
earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden” Thomas Jefferson.