Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seminar Schedule and June Report

It’s been a busy and exciting foraging season for me thus far. I’ve visited many different parts of Maine and have met many interesting and friendly people. As of now, my only remaining previously-planned seminars are a plant walk for Islesboro Land Trust at Islesboro on July 11, a medicinal plant weekend course at Eagle Hill Institute in Stuben from September 11 through 13 and finally, a DVD presentation followed by a plant walk at Waldoboro School for SAD 40 from 10 – 2:30 on September 25.

Persons wishing to participate in any of these may contact me and I can forward sign-up info.

Also, I am open to events and private sessions at any time. Just call me at (207) 338-9746 or email me at tomgseymour@gmail.com.

Participants in my seminars have shared some fun, new thoughts regarding wild plants. First, I learned that the inner pith from the base of new growth (twigs) of staghorn sumac makes a tasty trail nibble. To use, just break off the end of the twig from the larger branch and peel the bark from the end nearest the break. This exposes a white core which, when removed, can be eaten raw. These have a somewhat unique flavor which is difficult to describe. All I can say is that it is a pleasant taste. This product is best in spring and very early summer.

Next, while discussing bunchberries, a lady asked why flowering plants exhibited 6 leaves, while non-flowering plants had only 4 leaves. I’d never noticed this distinction before, which goes to show how any of us can be in near-constant contact with a plant (it grows profusely close to my house) and not notice small, distinguishing features.

As per my own personal foraging, one of my all-time favorite wild greens, lamb’s quarters, is ready for the picking on a pile of “composted” cow manure I got from a nearby dairy. The stuff looked so good when first delivered, and the farmer told me that he had taken pains to make sure it was fully composted. Well it wasn’t and now it is thick with lamb’s quarters. This couldn't have pleased me more. 

I planted my winter squash on this pile and the lamb’s quarters are at the stage now where they need harvesting because they are crowding out and overshadowing the young squash plants. As soon as it stops raining and things dry out, I plan to tackle this job. There is sufficient lamb’s quarters to allow for lots of fresh eating as well as freezing a quantity for winter.

Next, regarding the perennial wild spinach, Good King Henry that I used in a trial last season, it didn’t produce enough to justify it taking up garden space. So last fall I transplanted the plants to a bed inside my small greenhouse. This was usually reserved for lettuce, but lettuce never did well there.

Anyway, this spring it appeared that the Good King Henry plants had perished over the winter. Somehow, though, I thought it prudent to forbear to pull them out right away, so they remained in place until sometime in mid-April. And then I was surprised to see that the crowns had survived and were sending up new growth. I’ve had numerous meals of this delightful wild green and by the looks, there is more to come.

Now a question. Is this abundant and quick growth because the plants were transplanted and like their new home, or might it simply be because the plants are now a year older and thus stronger and more productive? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter much. Good King Henry has earned a permanent home at my place.

Because of the lingering cold, wet spring, many plants are far behind where they should be for this time of year. Cattails ought to be putting out those sausage-shaped seedheads (the actual “cattail” part), but in my part of Midcoast Maine, that has yet to happen. Whenever the seed heads do develop and ripen, I'm ready to go out and harvest a bunch. When trimmed of stems and boiled, they can be eaten like corn-on-the-cob. While they don't taste like corn, they do have a pleasant, nutty flavor. 

Many other plants are late. Even cultivated plants in my garden are far smaller than they ought to be for late June. The predicted extra-hot summer has not yet become reality and the long-term Accu Weather forecast indicates only moderate heat for July.

This next topic aggravates me. I’m really tired of hearing people say we need more rain. Maine was not and is not in a drought. In early spring, the ground dried to a point that forest fire danger was high, but that didn’t mean that the water table was low, because it wasn’t. Springs, natural ponds, the kind not regulated by dams and streams are all up to very reasonable levels. Wetlands and swamps are full and in fact, some places that ought to have dried out by now are still very wet.

Sure, certain areas of the country are experiencing drought conditions, but Maine isn’t one of them. We have more water than we know what to do with. And that's a good thing.