Friday, August 31, 2012

Identifying Edible 'Elephant Ears'

A nice discussion on FaceBook reminded me of my initial confusion about them when I moved back from Denver in 2002. The "wild" ones seen on Florida riverbanks can contain VERY high levels of EXTREMELY stinging calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves and tubers that sets one's entire throat and windpipe on fire for half an hour or more, with the emergency room a possibility.  But even  though  the types cultivated for centuries as a staple have enough in them to require boiling or frying to make them edible. The taste and texture is much like an excellent potato, often simmered or fried with butter or olive oil and garlic.  The entire topic can be confusing to gardeners seriously considering growing them as a staple in their subtropical garden. Here are conclusions I reached 8-9 years ago after very consciously obsessing for several months on the topic that seem valid and that work for me as a gardener and urban farmer.

1. "Taro" can be one of MANY cultivars of Colocasia esculenta that generally need QUITE wet soils. The
    leaves can be boiled twice and used as
    as a green. Look up recipes for Thai Taro Leaf/Coconut milk soups! Varieties include "eddo" and "lila".

2."Malanga" can one of many cultivars of Xanthosoma

A way of differentiating the two genus that I was taught back then seems valid and verifiable:

Taro leaves present a continuous curving edge at the back of  each leaf where it joins the stalk.

Malanga leaves have a cleft at the back of the leaf where it joins the stalk. I gather that malanga leaves are not usually eaten. Malanga seems to prefer damp but well-drained soil vs. the swampy soils most taros want.

Malanga leaf and tuber

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I was lucky enough to be given a rooted cutting of the medicinal relative of Okinawa Spinach Saturday by the host of Saturday's seed/plants/book swap.....thanks Tanja!

Edible Mallows

 Malva sylvestris
 Hibiscus radiata
Hibiscus shrub

This new pursuit of them reminds of how useful they are.....Okra, Abelmoschus esculenta, is very closely related to Manihot, Abelmoschus manihot. Add to them the various kenafs plus the tangy hibiscus like H. radiata, H. acetosella,  and H. sabdariffa plus Malva sylvestris and Malva neglectis and Hollyhocks, the edible raw petals and cooked young leaves of the tropical shrub hibiscus and one can see their role in the human diet in many differing climates.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mary just called from St. Pete, she called the duck raising woman with that mystery leafy crop...turns out this woman and her hubby have taken two of my classes (I can see them in my mind's eye)...both are SUPER into self sufficiency in Pinellas Park, including meat, drying and so much more. Turns out it IS my second guess if NOT kenaf....a perennial form of Abelmoshus manihot, a VERY close relative of okra so the leaves are slimy when cooked. She got her original plant from ECHO and says to come over and help myself to cuttings! I love it when I don't have to obsess a long time to solve a plant mystery.......Mary set the stage for this by telling me over the phone, AS SHE ATE A LEAF, that it was in no way tangy, which ruled out kenaf and other edible mallows like Hibiscus radiata, H. acetosella, H. sabdariffa, etc. There are many forms of A. manihot bred for huge beautiful flowers that also have edible leaves, but I think those tend to be annuals. My student says this is truly perennial and has not flowered once in 1.5 years. I will make it a priority to go over and get cuttings, give her more cool plants (in the past we traded plants for two roosters she could not keep and that I ate as they were MEAN) and get this gem propagated for me and friends and the RFC, sell some too. My kenaf 'Everglades 41' seeds came yesterday...I paid for 150 but looks to be easily 200. Edible leaves also, summer crop like okra, will share seeds for us to sow late next spring.


Odd but cool to see a new crop forming on my 'Triumph' muscadine grape, even as blooms and fruits re-appear on my Surinam Cherry and 'Gray Street Grape" plants!

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'll be there!

Being debt free long term, growing much of my own food, knowing what brings me joy reliably and habitually, coupled with daily gratitude and awe...I am one lucky man.

No More Wars of Choice for Profit!

Some very interesting Moringa recipes

Moringa in a changing world

In the past, when I was both vegan and vegetarian I was decidedly unhealthy, even though I balanced my amino acids, and took zinc and B12 supplements. A few small portions of meat weekly keeps me vibrantly healthy. I now have 4 Moringa trees here....I wonder if eating some daily would allow me to cut my meat intake further?  Once I FINALLY do my first Muscovy duck slaughter, and freeze many small portions of the meat, one duck might easily meet my body's meat needs for one month, especially if moringa's protein profile satisfies my body's requirements. Moringa could end up playing a major role in feeding a ludicrously expanding human population.

Excellent Moringa Video

Less than 11 minutes along yet it offers an excellent overview of The Miracle Tree.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tropical "Apricot"

I got about 2 dozen seeds of this at the last Tampa Rare Fruit Council meeting. I'll be starting them in 4 inch pots, will keep a few, share with friends and sell the rest. I hope this turns out to be a sweet strain!   John

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Testing Multiplying/ possibly Perennial Onions

By drilling the drainage holes on the sides about three inches from the bottom of this scavenged plastic tray I turned it into a Water Wise Container Garden. I put about three inches of rich soil from the chicken scratch path on the bottom, covered that with a few inches of sugar sand dug from a deep pit I buried a 55 gallon Water Wise Container Garden in to suppress weed seeds in that soil, planted both types of onions, used a strip of mini-blind to divide the garden into two halves, labelled each, then covered it all with a couple inches of well aged wood mulch.

In the front half are one dozen individual bulbs I got by breaking up two clusters of the white Potato Onions I bought from a Texas grower, and in back I planted twelve of those odd little white onions I scavenged a couple of weeks ago from the trash of an open air produce market on east Hillsborough Avenue. I have two goals: see if the Potato Onion mini bulbs make whole new clumps from each, and to see what the scavenged onions turn out to be.....I suspect either a Potato Onion type or maybe a perennial (here in Tampa) onion. The reason for the crate? To keep my cat Angel from NAPPING on it...she LOVES to sleep on newly planted container gardens!!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

This papaya made it through last winter's one really cold night due to my burning charcoal briquettes in a concrete block at its base. It has provided me and friends and a neighbor with MANY wonderful large fruits. It is a seedling of 'Caribbean Red'. Here are three photos I took moments ago, with my hand against the trunk in two to provide a sense of scale. The color and flavor is excellent, pretty much that of 'Caribbean Red'.

The growth rate and huge trunk girth of my monster papaya out front DWARFS all others in my gardens.....that its roots co-mingle with those of a nearby nitrogen-fixing Cassia alata suggests to me to try this combo elsewhere on my urban farm to see if it is a coincidence.

Pics of this later today.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Duck News

Momma and her three ducklings are getting MUCH more active in that large center area, so today I set in a low water dish after realizing that NO WAY can the babies reach the "pond" made from a scavenged dinghy boat. Then I made an assemblage of logs, plant trays and two stepping stone chunks to fashion an angled inclined ladder for them to go up. I SO look forward to seeing them all happily paddling in there!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Down on the farm

I love a rainy day....1.75 inches of rain so far....excellent germination already of a sowing of a Mystery Brassica three days ago in a back porch Baby Pool Water Wise Container Garden. The experimental mid-July sowing of arugula seeds in a large Restricted Drainage Container Garden made from a tree pot will love this soaking, so tomorrow I will treat them to a drench of fish emulsion in rainwater with a light touch of feed grade urea dissolved in as cooler temps are behind this first "cold" front of autumn. Three ducklings are cozy beneath their Momma beneath the rain shelter, she cheeping away when  I walk past.

Replacing the two strips of shiny mylar emergency blankets has put a complete stop to birds stealing all my Jamaican Cherries, and a similar effort is letting me enjoy fresh raw "Gray Street Grapes" daily.

How odd....I've never seen this before...both my 'Triumph' muscadine grape, and my Surinam Cherry, are RE-blooming and setting a second crop of fruits!!

The rain forecast for the next few days looks promisingly soggy!

Muscovy Ducklings

It looks like it will be just three, with the other eggs possible duds....perhaps I will know by the end of the weekend?

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Awoke To Two Muscovy Ducklings Today

I think the color differences are sexual markers......all yellow one sex, with markings the other, I need to look up which is which.

Monday, August 13, 2012

When hot pepper god Allen Boatman and I became friends several years ago he by default influenced me into preferring hot pepper sauces that aren't vinegary. A couple of weeks ago I made maybe 1/2 gallon of a new sauce from approx. 1 lb. habanero peppers, a LOT of garlic, 1 whole fresh pineapple, some frozen strawberries, sea salt, kombucha tea, cider vinegar and some grape seed oil. This was all pureed, simmered, allowed to sit overnight, simmered again, cooled then bottled. The relatively high pH means it must be refrigerated. I gave a bottle Saturday to my neighborhood friend Joe at the grouper fry potluck as he too grows hot peppers, makes non-vinegary hot sauces, and can enjoy those with a sweet base. Yesterday I gave a jar to Ryan Iacovacci as he and his room mates also like hot food. I double-wrapped it with a frozen gel pack inside two used grocery bags to insure it stay cool until he got home. Joe tasted it at the potluck and loved it.....I look forward to hearing from Ryan and crew their verdict. Joe gave me seeds of Ghost and other hot peppers I look forward to growing, and gave him a potted plant of the perennial "Filipino Mexican Tree Pepper" I got seeds of in 2002 from my Filipino neighbor Joe. Allen's first visit here he went mental when he saw it when he INSTANTLY identified it as a form of Capsicum frutescens. It makes a woody trunk, gets about 6' X 6' , loves a hard spring cut back and feeding to regrow. Mine thrived for eight years until it succumbed to a hard freeze. Back then south Tampa was much better and it grew in the two new ones thrive in above ground 18 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens.

"Red Jaboticaba"

I bought one yesterday from Adam who gave a great talk on the Jaboticabas at the Tampa Rare Fruit Council meeting. I also learned why my eight year old one has always struggled.....pH way too high and soil too dry all this time!

Cuban Mangosteen

Yesterday at the Tampa Rare Fruit Council meeting I was lucky enough to get 10 fat seeds of this, some already sprouting. Today I will plant them in 1 gallon pots.

Whippoorwill Cow Pea

My new gardening friend Michael Spinelli tried this this summer and is getting rampant growth and production. His MAY have crossed with a long podded Vigna so I may splurge on fresh seeds. John

Friday, August 3, 2012

Potato Onions

If any of my blog readers order these, I'd love it if you could keep me posted as to how they perform for you long term, regardless of the climate you garden in. Thanks!

I am SO PLEASED to see that female duck who'd live her whole life that pen now in that lush shady east bed with THREE ponds and ample vegetation to enjoy. Sheer luck I was able to grab her tail then wings yesterday....I must think of a way to safely (for me AND them) catch the rest and get them into that east bed to enhance their quality of life BIG time. The soil in that pen must be HYPER fertile.....I'd love to grow arugula and brassicas in there this winter once "Gray Street Grape" defoliates and it gets sunny in there.

What a simple yet effective innovation!

My Talk At Sunken Gardens Tomorrow

I'm enjoying planning an effective presentation on frugal backyard chicken raising, and today am gathering up the various props. After my talk I'll have fresh eggs and framed artwork of mine for sale. I hope to see lots of folks attend!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I stumbled on this site while re-obsessing on what kind of odd looking onion that Mary Jo and I scavenged from the trash at the Hillsborough Avenue open air market that immediately struck me that day as not a normal onion. I planted quite a few in a baby pool garden a few days later. But this morning, for the first time, I cut one open to add to an omelet and was VERY surprised that inside of what on the outside looks to be an oval white onion about the size of an ovoid walnut were 4-5 separate onions deep inside! The flavor was mild and sweet vs. in-your-face onion. $13 for 7 ounces of starter bulbs is a lot, but it could POSSIBLY give us a new perennial onion for central Florida while supporting a small scale grower. I'm thinking this is likely a "potato onion" variant....all potato onions are forms of the shallot, although I've yet to come even close to remembering the botanical name. I just can't get my mind around it. I shared this link on Facebook in hopes that other gardeners in central Florida, especially colder inland areas, will try it even though it is perennial in Texas. The fact that he emphasizes that it does not make seeds and is NOT an Egyptian Multiplier is what piqued my interest. John

Shades of 'Avatar'!