Rain. It's been about four weeks since we had rain. We had April Showers and May Showers, but since the end of June when the temperature rose to 90°, we have been missing the rain. I don't recall such a prolonged time of heat without rain. Promises of rain and overcast days and then nothing. Finally, a 95° weekend followed by a half a day of rain from midday on on a Monday. The sky rumbled all morning and I went out and watered at noon in case it didn't rain. The surest way to get it to rain is to water one's garden. The deluge brought us cooler temperatures even 60° nights, so welcome and the temperature starts to climb here at the weekend again. Europe had record breaking temperatures, but low humidity, so Arizona heat which is quite bearable. Apparently France does not have air conditioning so their citizens took to the fountains.
I after many years of watering the bare minimum now spend time drenching the plants. I am a brat and in the pursuit of harmony with Earth have given up hit or miss crops like Radish, Lettuce and Spinach in favor of hardy crops like Kale, Cabbage and Parsley. So many crops to choose from, so much nutritional value to be found. Variety is the spice of life, but give me simple meals of Pasta Salad and Beans and Rice or Quinoa and I am a happy camper. For me the Simple Life strips down even crops and meals to the bare minimum. I am indeed a simpleton.
It's time to make pots of greens for Winter. We usually have Kale for Christmas. Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) contains calcium, iron, beta carotene, vitamins E and C. Amaranth has always been wild at Sargent-Downing and this season came right up with Kale so I'm harvesting them together for pots of greens. Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexis, Amaranthaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) grows wild and like many wild native plants is denigrated so has no value in America. The wild species actually has more nutritional value than the cultivated species. Does not hold its shape as well as Kale when cooked, which is why I blend it with Kale, but Caribbeans use Amaranth to make Callaloo adding onion, peppers, salt, scallion and tomato and serve it with codfish. I was raised on Goat meat (Caribbean) so once we had a successful crop of Tomatoes, I made sauce and froze it, so our tradition is Goat Lasagna for Christmas with Kale on the side. Scrumptious! Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum, Solanaceae, Perennial, Annual, Andes) contains beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin B. The fearful European originally thought Tomato was poisonous because of their bright colors and strong scent. Also considered Tomato an aphrodisiac.
Bunches of Garlic adorn my doors. I only had half a bed this season because much of the crop rot lat season with all the rain and Garlic suppliers were sold out by the time I checked in. Hopefully, I'm not too late if I check in in August. Last season I made pickled Garlic for the first time and I ran out of Garlic before Winter was over. I usually have Garlic until harvest in July. Garlic (Allium sativum, Alliaceae, Perennial grown as an Annual) is good for the heart, infections and contains small quantities of vitamins and minerals. I use Bay Leaves and Garlic when I make my Sauerkraut.
Still opportunities for firsts, I harvested Wild Bergamot flowers for tea. I didn't get a lot, but they will be a joyful addition to my tea leaves this Winter. I harvested leaves earlier this season. They get powdery mildew by the time the flowers arrive. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Shrub, Turtle Island) is sister to Red Bergamot or Bee Balm (M. didyma), the leaves have been infused in oil and used on hair, they contain thymol which is an antiseptic that can be used for pimples, steam inhaled for colds and brewed for nausea, flatulence and insomnia. Along with Peppermint, Wild Mint and Chocolate Mint, not to mention Anise Hyssop, my go to tea for heartburn during the holidays.
St. Johnswort doubled in size, but I let the flowers go for oil and tincture, until next season. Once one has success in the garden it can be challenging to keep up with the harvest stage. I would have gotten a small amount of oil which is what I use the most, but not tincture. I'll wait until next season when the plants double again. St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum, Gutteriferae, Perennial, Turtle Island) oil is good topically for muscle ache. The tincture, a well known over the counter anti-depressant, used with the oil, is in my opinion ecstasy. The tincture can cause sensitivity to the sun. I found another species in a Florida native plant book, St. Andrew's Cross, Hypericum fasciculatum.
Borage has been wild at Sargent-Downing as well, though I haven't seen her for many years. I propagated some from seed this season and low and behold, wild plants came up in the Kale and Beet beds. I have been using my compost for the beds this season so maybe there were seeds in it. Exciting to see them wild again. Borage (Borago officinalis, Boraginaceae, Annual, Europe) has the sweetest periwinkle colored flower which I pick and eat for a mild high. The flowers have been used for Wild Salad, cakes and frozen in ice cubes. The leaves are rich in minerals, are cooling and have been used to flavor drinks, dips and salt free diets. Leaf and flower infusion as an adrenalin tonic for stress, depression or cortisone and steroid treatment. Many other uses as well.
I've also gotten huge stands of Lamb's Quarter this season. Always welcome in my gardens. SDG and Flora Jones have Lamb's Quarter this season. She's like an old friend returning for a visit. I let a few grow to my height (5'5") and have harvested the leaves for Pesto for Winter. I freeze seven quarts of Lamb's Quarter, Basil and Parsley Pesto. Lamb's Quarter (Chenopodium album, Chenopodiaceae, Annual Europe) contains the highest level of iron of any green. Forbidden to grow by the church in Europe. The best way to break a people is to deny them their resources. Lamb's Quarter has a nutty flavor and can be eaten this time of year in Wild Salad. Cooking enhances the flavor.
Purslane has also made a comeback. A tangy delicious succulent for our Wild Salad. (Portulaca oleracea, Portulacaceae, Annual, India, Eurasia) Again in SDG and Flora Jones, Purslane contains iron and vitamin C, can be pickled and cooked and used in soup. Dried seed can be ground into flour. Used in China for diarrhea and urinary infections, also to reduce fevers.
Flora Jones Garden draws to a close sadly. Happily, I can use more time to develop my Herbal business, but the wildness of the garden has provoked the ire of not only the neighbors, but her family and friends as well. I guess I am a big land girl now and my gardening style does not sit well with urban dwellers. Nine years and I have cultivated a wild edible garden. Flora Jones is my Wild Salad harvest site. She will be missed, but I'm excited for what new adventures I will discover.
Mid-summer and all is well. The gardens are flourishing. I haven't had this much time to spend in the gardens for awhile. I love my gardens. They are life's work. It was our way up until 1950 when everyone had a kitchen garden. Beef entered our diet, then. Our meals were primarily vegetables. Then industry entered the scene and within the rat race convenience became the order of the day. There will always be the opportunity to engage in a simpler time. When I approach my gardens, the love in my heart is enough. Enough for me to take a deep breath and slow down and remember my connection to Earth, our Mother, our Sustainer.