Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good heaven's .... It's August

I don't know where the summer has gone....  I seem to have lost July completely and it's already mid-August.  The good news is that the 90 degree temperatures are now in the 80's and nights are getting cooler.  Think camping.  It's just about time to put up the tent, gather 'round the campfire, listen to the cicada's and watch the stars.  Anyone who hasn't done this does not know what s/he's missing.

Mushrooms are up again thanks to the hint of rain that occassionally occurs these days.  It might be on your block or it might be in your mother-in-laws block but there has been some rain and with some ferocity.  Where'ere it has occurred there are mushrooms.  Boletes, chanterelles, indigo lactaria.... the key here is that you make sure you are traveling with someone who knows what those mushrooms are.  One does not dabble in mushrooms.  Neither does one dabble in weeds...the edible types.

This past Sunday on the CBS program Sunday Morning, they did a wonderful segment on "weeds".  Guess what!  They started with the Palmer Amaranth, the same plant the Monica Pearson started with on her program regarding weeds.  I wrote about amaranth earlier in this blog and I'm sure you can find it if you are interested but the long and short of weeds is that they are organic vegetables or fruits and are probably more nutritious than those we buy at the grocery store.  Why?

Let's just say that in order for a weed or wild fruit to survive they have to establish relationships with their environment;  healthy relationships.  These are not just passing fancies like having a crush on the local blade of grass.  No.  They are intense relationships that allow the plant to thrive vibrantly.  First of all, no plant thrives without a fungal relationship to help sustain it in sickeness and in health.  It is though that fungus provide, not only antibiotic properties to specific partner-plants, but that they also provide certain nutritional suppliments to the plants.  In return, the plant provides sustainance to the fungus and the marriage remains intact throughout the life of both. 

Then, there are the relationships that plants establish with animals.  Now that isn't something we think about with any regularity but here goes.  A plant requires fertilization, doesn't it?  Who is going to do it?  It could be the wind just as much as it could be an ant or a bee or a bird or a passing marsupial.... the point is, if a plant is to be fertilized for procreative purposes chances are it will be an animal of some sort. 

Then there is the other side of the coin.  Animals need to eat.  What are they going to eat.  Most of us are familiar with cabbage caterpillars and japanese beetles and other pesty critters that decimate our gardens but the cold hard fact is that these creatures need food.  Just off the top of my head:  cows eat grass, so do cats and dogs.  Bears eat berries.  Birds eat berries and seeds.  If you want to kill off a species all you have to do is get rid of the particular food that species eats.  Panda's, for example, eat only bamboo.  Koala bears only eat eucalyptus leaves.  I am sure that there is a plethora of other animals that are equally finiky and with the destruction of habitat are left without food. 

Riddle:  what is the wonderful thing about hippopotomi?  Answer:  they rid the waterways of water hyacynths which would normally clog up the rivers. 

I can hear you saying, even now...well, we don't have hippopotomi in Georgia, so what is the point?  The point is that all creatures, great and small, are interdependent upon each other.  The reason that wild foods survive and thrive is because the interdependencies are strong and thriving.  This, in turn, makes the vitamins and minerals in the wild plants, robust which is why the label "organic" is so important when it comes to edible products.

It is fall.  The apples are coming in.  The mushrooms are coming up.  Nuts will be ready to harvest shortly.  All are organic.  All are healthy.  Time to learn something about foraging.  Sign up with your local park ranger or local mushroom club or foraging expert.  It not only saves your budget but it adds a richness to your dinner table.