Saturday, November 29, 2014

In Denver I grew several kinds of chenopods effortlessly for 15 years, and they reseeded twelve years back in Tampa all my efforts with several kinds, both winter and summer have utterly failed. Thankfully I tried Magenta Spreen once again with seeds I got at ROOTS in St. seedling emerged in that back porch Water Wise Container Garden. It sulked and barely grew, even after I gave it fish fertilizer. But once I started peeing on the soil it took off! Today it is approx. 8 feet tall and making vast numbers of buds and blooms on the terminal tips of branches, so today I snipped off a few to dry indoors in a tub to see if there are viable seeds yet (I suspect that they are too green). Two gardeners near Gainesville tell me that up there Magenta Spreen self sows wildly, almost a weed but they love the taste and texture (it is related to spinach so the taste and texture are very similar raw or cooked)...their's froze to death some time ago. A woman I know in Missouri says the same thing, that hers too reach 8-10 each summer....she no longer even bothers to grow spinach. The leaves are biggest and most tender and most magenta when the plants are 3-4 feet tall...later on the new leaves are quite small and green as the plant (an annual) prepares to set seeds. The two guys pulls up surplus seedlings to feed the chickens...she immerses hers in water for several days to make a potent liquid fertilizer. Here in Florida it definitely prefers summer. All three folks tell me to expect about 750 million seedlings to emerge in my kitchen garden next summer, but that they pull up easily. I added some leaves to salads, other times I cooked them in water with salt and coconut oil 10-15 minutes to serve as a side dish...just about identical to fresh spinach. I expect to harvest a LOT of seeds and would love to share some. I plan on doing a bulk sowing in the back yard center food forest plus maybe the big southeast bed. So funny that just when I'd given up growing chenopods in Tampa I'd get raging success! I never grew it in Denver. John

Monday, November 10, 2014

That rhizome of Maranta (Arrow Root) that Josh Jamison gave me at Andy Firk's I think two autumns ago has become two robust colonies. I've given some away and have tons left. I've mentioned before not liking how eating boiled ones leaves many tough fibers stuck badly in my teeth. So today I browned three, covered, in olive oil, with sea salt. I let it cool, peeled off the scales then ate it like corn on the cob, with most of the fibers left in the middle. But my teeth are still jammed with fibers! Next time I'll slice them into 1/2 inch sections and boil those to see if those much shorter fibers are simply swallowed along with the pleasant tasting starch. I will also try again running some raw in water in my blender, strain out the fibers, then add the starchy water to a soup, smoothie or stir fry. Craig Hepworth also does not like the fibers in Maranta rhizomes and has already tried what I was going to try next.....cut the raw rhizomes into thin "coins" as he puts it, boil then serve. This cuts the long fibers into very short ones he calls "tolerable". The plant grows very easily in shade, but websites and videos make clear that extracting the starch is a lot of work for a small amount after drying. Arrow root starch has been my favorite food thickener for years, especially in my home made Asian dipping sauces, but I can get a 1 pound bag for 99 cents at The Oceanic Market downtown. If the sliced "coins" technique doesn't result in pleasant eating (the fibers wedge deeply into my teeth for a whole day!) I may well give up on this crop. In the pic, Josh Jamison is on the left, Craig is on the right. Both are brilliant, truly decent men and excellent botanists/horticulturists/gardeners....Craig's effort to breed a PERENNIAL corn for Florida using one of our tall native grasses intrigues me because that is full blown inter-genus breeding, which has VERY few success stories (Fatshedera and that Potentilla/Strawberry cross and the Rosa/Hulthemia crosses are the only three that I can think of). He knows the odds are remote, but persists....last year he got hybrid seeds! He is using corn as the seed parent. I am continually amazed by the awesome people I meet in the Florida gardening and permaculture communities. John