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Posts Tagged ‘dandelions’

Some truly wild seeds - Honey locust pods, wild onions, autumn olive, cornellian cherries, purple asters, siberian pea shrub, and a wild black berry that was collected in Italy over the summer.

Some truly wild seeds – Honey locust pods, wild onions, autumn olive, cornellian cherries, purple asters, siberian pea shrub, and a wild black berry that was collected in Italy over the summer.

For a decade now, I have been a seed saver.  I have saved tomato seeds and squash seeds.  I have selected and saved my favorite beans to plant again, and I have tended garlic cloves and potato tubers from year to year.  I have collected perennial herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and have planted trees that will produce into my twilight years.

 

These seeds and genetics represent a true investment and a savings account for the future.  David Holmgren, one of the founders of Permaculture and author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways devotes quite a bit of time on the subject of saving seeds.  He argues that anyone preparing for a future that will have fewer fossil fuels available to use should include seed saving into their toolbox of skills and cultural knowledge.

 

Purple potatoes...

Purple potatoes…

When we save seeds, not only are we preserving genetic material, but also the accumulated solar energy of one summer’s growth to be used again in a future garden.  This tradition is as old as agriculture itself.  When we stopped roaming the wilds in search of food, and instead settled down to cultivate the Earth, seed saving assured a future harvest.

 

For right or wrong, feeding our world’s population now largely depends on industrialized, annual based agriculture.  It is very efficient at turning oil and natural gas into edible calories, but it comes with a steep price.  Habitat destruction, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity (both wild and domesticated), the dismantling of small scale farming traditions, and our seed sovereignty are all threatened by industrialized agriculture.

 

But as those of us who have seen the writing on the wall (when it pertains to the negative consequences of big ag) , and have begun the transition to a Permaculture based lifestyle because of these warning signs, we can begin to put a halt to all of this destruction.  One farmer or person alone is not enough to change the course of current events, but just like the seeds of a dandelion, the more of us there are, the better chances we have of thriving and finding a place to put down roots.

 

The world, or more specifically humanity, is at a cross roads.  We are at a place where we can decide as to whether we follow the path that industrial agriculture is leading us down, or the path that allows the wild seeds to flourish and heal the landscape.

 

Garlic for planting

Garlic for planting

Our gardens, as an extension of ourselves, our bodies, and communities, have a place in nature.  While humans may display traits similar to an “invasive specie” a lot of the time,  we can also play an important role in helping to heal some of the wounds we have created.  As more of us see the evidence that our current path leads to destruction, it is only through conscience choices and a concerted effort that we can find a better and more resilient path to walk on.

 

That path, the one that leads to a future where we care for the Earth and all its inhabitants is possible.  Its already there, waiting for us to first find it, and then be brave enough to follow it.  It is there behind the monocrops of corn and soy and wheat and rice.  It is there when the blood from CAFOs is washed away.  It is there when we can move past the “40 hour” work week and find truly meaningful work for ourselves to participate in.

 

That path starts in our hearts, our  homes and our gardens.  It is weedy, and gnarled, and imperfect.  It nourishes our bodies and inspires our dreams.  It starts as a young sapling and ends up an old, twisted oak with deep roots.  It is found in a tomato vine and a bean patch, a chicken coop and a beehive.


That path starts with our seeds.  Those that contain the genetics of the food we eat, and those that start as dreams and finish as stories that we tell the next generation.  Our seeds need to be protected and propagated, they are the future.  Save them and plant them and tend them so that others can do the same in turn.  Peace and Cheers.

A path into the future...

A path into the future…

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Freshly harvested asparagus and dandelion flowers!!

It has taken it’s sweet time to arrive, but I believe spring is finally here in Minnesota.  The dandelions are in full bloom, the lawns of the chemical aristocrats are full and green, and the first harvests’ (both wild and domesticated) of the season are starting to come in.  After waiting patiently for two years, we are finally able to harvest asparagus from our garden.  Asparagus officinalis, has been a cultivated plant since at least the time of the Egyptians, and has always been considered a delicacy because of it’s short growing season.  So far we have grilled it and used it in a quinoa salad, sautéed it in butter with onions, and have used it in a ham and cream sauce pasta.  As our patch of asparagus matures and fills out, I hope to be able to harvest enough to pickle it.

Mother's Day meal - Chipotle, raspberry chicken breast, quinoa salad with spring greens and asparagus, and beer battered, deep fried dandelion flowers!

Next up, Dandelions!  By far, these beautiful flowers and greens are one of my favorite plants (I have one tattooed on my forearm), both for culinary, and philosophical reasons.  Any plant that can grow in the cracks of concrete and society, and blaze the path for the return of wild(er)ness is a friend of mine!  I have been eating dandelions for about eight years now.  When I first moved into my house, my neighbor, who is of Lebanese decent, turned me onto eating dandelions.  We use the greens in salads and pasta, they can be used like spinach in Spinakopeta (a Mediterranean spinach pie) and any other way you might use lettuce or spinach.  Another aspect of dandelions that is overlooked is it’s contribution to healthy gardens.  Most people think of it as a weed, but dandelions are far from that.  Due to their huge taproot, they bring up nitrogen and other nutrients for other plants to use and they also attract beneficial insects for pollination.  The day that America can end it’s war against the dandelion will be a good day for our food security, our soils health, and the survival of the honey bee.

A plate 'O Morels!!

Another sure sign of spring is mushrooms.  Not just any mushroom, but the highly sought after and prized morchella esculenta, or also known as the Morel mushroom.  My son and I just found some yesterday while visiting my in-laws out in the country.  I have written about morels before so I won’t go into great detail, but for those of you who have never tried them, they are amazing.  We ate ours with chives from the garden and scrambled eggs.  Probably the best breakfast ever!  Depending on the weather, here in the Twin Cities we may have anywhere from a week to two weeks to continue finding them.  I have a new spot I am going to be hunting this year, and if I have any real success there may be another post about morels coming up!!

One last spring edible I would like to share with you is Garlic Mustard.  Alliaria petiolata, is a new plant to me.  I have heard about it, but never knew what it looked like.  All that changed a week or two ago when I found it growing in the back of my yard.  With the help of Wikipedia and a few wild crafting websites and books, I made a positive identification and mixed it in with a dandelion salad.  It is really good (it actually does taste similar to garlic), but it has a few down sides.  According to the Minnesota DNR website, garlic mustard is highly invasive and according to wikipedia, it also suppresses the growth of mushrooms in forests (maybe that is why it is getting harder to find morels in the spring)!  Anyways, now that I know what it looks like, it is all over the forest floor.  I will continue to use it as a salad green, but I will never feel bad about over harvesting garlic mustard, it is everywhere!  Now these are just a few examples of what you can basically get for free in the spring, don’t forget about burdock root, nettles, herbs like lemon balm, mint, chives and many other plants.  Keep your options and your palate open and you might find a new food that you can fall in love with!  Cheers!

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