Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Spring has suddenly morphed into summer, as it seems to do every Memorial Day. With the torrential rains, tornadoes, subsequent sunlight and heat has come the inevitable greening of Pennsylvania.
Trimming the Garden: Feverfew, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Sage, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Strawberries...
and a Few Weeds.
I'll discuss my vegetable garden in a later post, as I'm way behind on taking the appropriate pictures.  What I want to discuss today is the natural bounty I've experienced so far this spring.  Wild harvests have been possible for months already, with the first garlic mustard, ramps, morels, dryads' saddles, watercress, nettle, etc.  On Sunday afternoon, as I was waiting for the shuttle to arrive for our post-paddle trip home (we had a wonderful 17 mile paddle trip on the Pine Creek, near Williamsport, with a most-excellent group of new friends), I spent a few endorphin fueled moments gazing at the "weed" bank by the water.  It occurred to me that I could actually create a fairly decent meal from the abundant plants growing there.  There was stinging nettle (par-boiled and sauteed, a better-than-spinach green), burdock (the root is a prized vegetable in Asian cultures, though I've personally never tried it because it's a huge taproot, a long, deep dig...and I'm lazy), garlic mustard (spicy greens and root), upland cress (peppery), and some wild carrot.  We need never go hungry in the summer, if we know what we're looking at. 

Back at home, the herb garden in my tiny back yard is in full swing.  I harvested the comfrey because it was threatening to move into the kitchen, and I've begun harvesting the feverfew flowers.  The valerian is about to burst into bloom, and the tansy and pennyroyal are looking promising.  I have enough mint and lemon balm for the entire block.  My more traditional culinary herbs are holding their own; I've been topping the basil, parsley, rosemary and oregano for a few weeks as I need them for my cooking; the thyme is a little slower to get started, and my new chives are lagging behind. The perennial strawberries are enjoying a renaissance this year, after last year's hiatus, and the snow peas I put in after a glass of wine sometime a few weeks ago are doing surprisingly well considering their inappropriate position.

It's amazing to me how much you can harvest from a tiny spit of land, if you simply adjust your expectations about what a backyard should look like, and use your culinary and medicinal herbs and vegetables for greenery and flowers instead.  I have more than enough for my husband and myself, on a piece of land smaller than most people's living room; of course, my more expansive vegetable garden is off-site, and I'd dearly love to have that right at hand, but I'm happy to have it, regardless.

Gratuitous Snow Peas
More pictures to follow!

P.S.:  On the way home from the farm this afternoon, I saw two tiny spotted fawns.  What a blessing!  AND: a beautiful bloom of oyster mushrooms on the famous farmer's tree from last fall.  I stopped by to ask if he was still disinterested in them (!), but he wasn't home.  I sure hope no one spots them before tomorrow!

Watermelon Juice with Plum Vodka, a Watermelon Ball and a Backyard Mint Sprig. 
YUM!  When the Watermelon is Local, it'll REALLY Rock!


  1. I'm very impressed with everything you know about wild plants and how to harvest/prepare them. I am so behind in gardening this year it's pathetic. Hopefully, the gardens will be tilled today and I'll have them all planted very soon! I can hardly wait to see what your gardens look like.

  2. I checked in on mine this evening, and it really needs more mulching; but the plants are thriving and the double fence has kept the deer at bay so far! I'll try to take a few pictures tomorrow, if the weather holds.