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salon, Earth Poets &, environment

It’s calming to weed the garden. Anyway, it used to be, before this month’s Second Sunday Soup and Salad Salon! Harvey Taylor, one of my fellow Earth Poets, and Susie Krause led the discussion: foraging in our own back yards. And their contribution to the potluck was a tasty salad made up of about twenty-five different ingredients foraged from their yard.

The next day as I weeded my garden, each time I pulled up lambs’ quarter, plantain, dandelion, curly dock, or Virginia waterleaf, I had to stop and ask myself: should I use this as salad or as mulch between the rows? I’d been craving organic greens, and here was a free feast of them at my fingertips. Yet I hesitated to pull up all those “weeds” and sauté them or throw them into my salad. Finally I grabbed a lambs’ quarter and broke us in gradually, mixed it with the onion and garlic greens and cilantro that come up in spring without my help. In a couple of hours lamb’s quarter became an indiscernible part of a very green and delicious egg-white omelet.

We began the discussion outside, in back yards and alleyways. Harvey mentioned that today’s weeds are not native. Immigrants from Europe intentionally brought them along on the voyage here, for their nutritional value. In fact the word dandelion, Harvey told us, comes from the French dent de lion, lion’s tooth, in deference to the jagged edges of dandelion leaves. In modern French it’s pissenlit (lit means bed)!

I just googled dandelion recipes and got 123,000 results in 0.11 seconds! I knew there are websites full of recipes, but didn’t realize they were quite so popular, given the passionate hatred (of dandelions) I’ve occasionally run into in Shorewood. The greens are particularly healthful and versatile, and expensive if you buy them in the grocery store. Children instinctively pick bouquets of the flowers. Even today.

Here’s Harvey’s outline for the discussion:
‘Full-Spectrum Nutrition,’ for Peggy’s Salon, June 14, ‘09
Susie & Harvey, facilitators…happy to share our ongoing adventures

Gardening background, 35 yrs…….gradual shift from ‘weeding’ to ‘eating’ to:
Foraging….common ’weeds’ have been imported (non-native); dandelions as prime example: nutritional potency, hardiness; other common foragables include lamb’s quarters, violets, plantain, purslane, comfrey (the variety with purple flowers), Virginia waterleaf, hostas; ‘weeds’ jump out of the ground in Spring long before much can be harvested from the garden, & they can be preserved in a dehydrator for winter use
•    Uses: omelets (frittata), salads, soups, infusions (‘elixir’), green smoothies
*   Elixir: put plant materials in gallon-size glass jar, fill with boiling water, add stevia if desired,
for sweetening, infuse all day, strain, drink, excess can be frozen; recycle plant mass in compost
*    Green Smoothies: put plant materials (foraged/garden cultivars/sprouts etc, plus some fruit for flavor)
into blender, add water; see ‘Green For Life’ (book/youtube, below)
*    Camping trips: you’d be surprised what can be added to the oatmeal or soup, after being gathered
on a hike                
•    Sprouting: ‘kitchen gardening’, makes 4-season home food-production a natural; super-nutritious;
doesn’t require fancy equipment; wide-mouth glass jars (or plastic) & any fine mesh (old stockings etc);
wheatgrass can be grown on window-shelves, and added to smoothies
•    Health concerns etc as motivator: Susie’s osteopenia, Harvey’s ‘pre-diabetic’ concerns; self-reliance in economic hard times…resistance to corporate domination…and a very poetic activity (contemplation,
garden- yoga, garden-tai chi)
•    Indispensable Websites: Susun Weed’s Wise Women’s Herbal Ezine:
•    Books: Green For Life, Victoria Boutenko (also demos on youtube); Forager’s Harvest, Samuel
Thayer; Common Herbs for Natural Health, Juliette Levy; Sprouts, The Miracle Food, Steve
Meyerowitz; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver, My Weeds, A Gardener’s Botany,   
Sara Stein; Edible Wild Plants, A Field Guide, Elias & Dykeman; all of Michael Pollan, etc, etc, etc

Harvey's poem, below, sums up his full-spectrum experience:
Full-Spectrum Nutrition
By Harvey Taylor
Pole beans are sprouting,
pea vines climb a wire trellis,
we’re picking young kale leaves,
spinach, and mustard greens,
foraging dandelions, violets,
plantain, hostas, and Virginia waterleaf,
cilantro is coming along,
tomato plants are in the ground,
with yellow flowers here and there…

but it’s not only the body
that gets hungry:

the soul has an appetite, too, and
loves to dine on children’s laughter
floating over the fence,
a flurry of apple blossoms
scattering on the breeze, and
a robin suddenly lighting
on the bird-bath rim,
then splashing, and splashing,
and splashing again,
in the afternoon warmth,
after gentle rain


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