Saturday, July 4, 2015

Okay - no weekends for me!

I had enough people in fear for my sanity step in and dissuade me from my idea of 7-day-a-week posting.






See you all Monday.



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Friday, July 3, 2015

A Crazy Tropical Vegetable Cookbook: Share Your Ideas!



Happy Independence Day Weekend!

My wife has started a cool project: she is writing a cookbook for Florida gardeners growing the crazy crops I recommend on this blog and in my books.

One of the downsides of growing and selling relatively unknown edible plants (at least unknown inside this country) is that people often will grow the plants and then at some point realize they have no idea what to do with them... and they go shopping at the grocery for something familiar to eat instead.

How do you use malanga? Cassava? Chaya? Katuk? We're going to give folks a nice place to start. It's no use growing these incredible tropical crops if one don't know how to use them!

We're gathering and sharing our own homestead recipes right now.

If you have a plant or recipe you think should be included, send it our way. Let's get this project rolling!


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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Okay - who sent me seeds - and what are they?

Somebody in Sarasota just sent me three packages of seeds:


They look like some sort of big lentil or legume... but there are no labels and no notes in the package. Thank you... I think!

Anyone care to enlighten me? ;)

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Today at the 326 Community Market: Watermelon Festival and $16 Fruit Trees!!!

Hey folks - it's WATERMELON FESTIVAL time!

That's right... this week at the 326 Market there will be sack races, seed-spitting contests and all kinds of watermelon-related craziness. Bring the whole family and prepare to have fun!

At my booth I have peaches, pears and Japanese persimmons for just $16 a pot right now. These are young trees but are plenty big for planting - and at a price you'll find hard to beat.

I also have - wait for it! - ONE, nice, big improved loquat tree for $30.00. First come, first serve. The cultivar is "Wolfe."

There's a little write-up on this cultivar here that states "'Wolfe', (S.E.S. #4) (a seedling of 'Advance' selected and named at the Agricultural Research and Education Center of the University of Florida in Homestead, and released in 1966)–obovoid to slightly pear-shaped; 1 3/4 to 2 in (4.5-5 cm) long and 1 to 1 1/4 in (2.5-3.2 cm) wide; yellow with fairly thick skin and pale-yellow, thick, firm, juicy flesh of excellent flavor, acid but also sweet when tree-ripe; has 1 to 5 seeds (usually 1 to 3). Tree reaches 25 ft (7.5 in) and bears well nearly every year."

I also have large-fruited prickly pears, some bananas, chaya, goji berries, soap-nut trees and more.

And - in related news - my friend Donna will be setting up her booth for the first time this week and selling some of her amazing homemade soap. Be sure to say hi to her as well.

The 326 Community Market runs every Thursday from 3 - 7PM and is really easy to find.

Google map is here. Their Facebook page is here (with lots more photos and info):

My prices are good and my gardening advice is free.

Beyond what I carry, there are also folks selling melt-in-your-mouth Florida peaches, goat milk cheese and soap, delicious ice cream (from actual hand-milked cows), crafts, vegetables, baked goods, homemade jams and jellies, ornamental plants, homemade birdhouses and more.

It's a great group of people and very friendly... the way a local market should be.

Come on down!


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

More Victims of the Satanic Grazon Herbicide


That is a very sick sunflower.

It's sick because of "Grazon" or possibly "GrazonNext," a popular herbicide glowingly recommended by the University of Florida for broadleaf weed control in pastures.

Here's the deal: Grazon or other Aminopyralid-containing herbicides are sprayed on pastures because they don't kill grasses, only plants such as horse nettle, pigweed and blackberries. Then after application, the cows, horses and other animals graze on the grass, ingesting the herbicide which passes undigested through their systems and into their manure.

The manure can be composted for a year or more and it will STILL kill your garden.

The picture above came from my friend Luzette, owner of Buffalo Girl Soaps. She came over to my booth at the Union Street Farmer's Market in Gainesville last week and told me that she had no idea what was happening to her garden this year.

"Everything is all messed up for some reason. I added a lot of horse manure - we can get tons of it - and I planted like usual..."

"Grazon," I replied. "Your garden has been poisoned."

I hate this stuff. I utterly hate it. I lost a thousand dollars of plants a few years back and poisoned a decent amount of my young food forest, setting it back for years and whacking some of my trees. There's an olive tree in my front yard that is shorter now than when I planted it.

It was poisoned by Grazon in a load of cow manure.


Grasses also take up the toxin, meaning that adding straw or hay to your compost is now no longer a good idea. Many, many fields are being sprayed.

AVOID ALL MANURE on your garden unless it's produced by your own animals and they are not fed with hay from outside your property. All manure should now be considered potentially deadly to your garden (with the possible exception of Black Kow - I have yet to hear a bad report about them so I'm assuming they're screening for Aminopyralids).

Here are some more pictures from Luzette's ruined garden:


The cantaloupe plants, she reports, looked okay but the fruit were small and hard. 

The peppers show the tell-tale leaf curling caused by Grazon damage:


And these beans are goners:


Even blackberry brambles are showing serious signs of damage:


In my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, I dedicate quite a few words to this evil stuff. I don't hesitate to call it Satanic, since it utterly perverts God's design in nature.

I have no idea how to fight the poisoning of manure, which has traditionally been the mainstay fertilizer of organic gardeners, but I do want you to know that I won't stop writing about it and trying to save as many of your gardens as I can.


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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

No-work malanga roots



Malanga is a tasty little root from the tropics. The plants are a close relative of the ornamental elephant ears grown in landscaping and they look much the same, though a little smaller.

The central roots and the side roots are edible - just toss a good bulb back in the ground when you harvest and you'll have more the next year.

Malanga is a bunching perennial that is easy to grow and divide. They enjoy a lot of water and can even grow right in a ponds without rotting. My best-looking malanga plants are growing in The Greywater Oasis by my back patio. That's where the roots above came from.

A couple of days later I boiled these, then stir-fried them with rice, eggs, fresh greens, kidney beans and some curry.

Excellent!

To grow your own malanga, go hit your local ethnic market and buy some good-looking roots, then plant them. That's how I did mine and I've now had them growing for years.

The ones above were simply stuck in the ground beneath the banana trees as seen here:


Anyone else growing malanga?


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Monday, June 29, 2015

The Paper Mulberries are Fruiting



Those strange orange pom-poms are the fruit of a paper mulberry tree, also known as Broussonetia papyrifera or "HOLY MOLY!!! HOW DO I GET RID OF THIS THING IT'S EVERYWHERE!!!???"

Yes, the paper mulberry is an invasive species which tends to form large colonies of trees due to its tendency to sucker everywhere.

It's a useful tree in some ways. My friend Michael Adler, formerly of The Edible Plant Project, once taught a class on making rope from paper mulberry bark. The fibers are quite tenacious and make great cordage. I also like this tree for the sheer amount of rapid biomass it creates, though using it as a "chop-n-drop" tree for mulch isn't all that easy since the fibers in the wood dull cutting tools and chainsaws.

Fortunately, despite its drawbacks, you can eat the fruit. Some taste better than others. I've had watery ones in the shade and quite delicious ones in the sun. Good ones are really good, with a sweet, almost mild honey-like flavor. The center of the fruit contains a pithy core and they're almost impossible to store for any period of time. Picking them right off the tree is the best.



The photo above is just one tree out of a big stretch of paper mulberry trees I spotted beside the highway on Friday and photographed just for you, dear reader.

Go try some fruit - they're tasty but they won't last long.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Sunday Scripture



Isaiah 59:

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.

No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

They hatch adders' eggs; they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.

Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.

Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways.

The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.


Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.

We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.

For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:
transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. 


Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.

Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.

According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment.

So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives.


And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.


“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday and Sunday Posts? Let Me Know! Plus, Seminole Pumpkins Celebrated!

I've had a few people tell me they go through withdrawal on the weekends when I don't post anything.

Would you like posts on Saturday and Sunday?

I've posted on every weekday for almost three years... it wouldn't be a big deal to throw in two more posts a week. I love what I do and I love working on this blog... if you all want more, I can give you more.

Lynn Dufour's Seminole pumpkins
ALSO: If you're growing Seminole Pumpkins or have grown them and have photos, I've started a page showing the wide range of genetic variation of this classic Florida squash:

http://www.floridasurvivalgardening.com/p/the-seminole-pumpkin-project.html

Please send me your photos and any notes you have on where you got your seeds, how large they are and anything dealing with their vigor, etc.

I am creating the only online photo gallery of Seminole Pumpkin varieties for the sake of researchers and gardeners interested in growing this uniquely Floridian breed.

My e-mail address: davi d ( a t) florida food forest s .com

Take out the spaces, add an "@" and send me some pics!

And... don't forget... let me know if you want me to expand this blog to 7 days a week.


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Friday, June 26, 2015

A beautiful pond apple


When I was a kid growing up in South Florida I had no idea how blessed I was to be in the tropics.

I knew a few edible plants (I started gardening when I was six) but they were generally common things like coconuts, apples, spinach, radishes, beans, etc. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized there were a lot of delicious (and sometimes less delicious) wild edibles... and by that time I had moved out of the tropical paradise that birthed my gardening career.

The fruit above is a pond apple. Now that I'm much more sophisticated in my plant-spotting skills, I regularly see edible plants in the woods and on the roadsides that once would have passed me by unnoticed.

I admit: I haven't eaten a pond apple yet since the ones I spotted along a canal (and picked the fruit above from) were not quite ready. Some reports say they're good; others say they're not.

They can't grow up here in North/Central Florida, unfortunately, so I'm going to have to try and catch the season right with my next trip so I can try some. They are ALL OVER the place down south in wet places.

Pond apples are a cousin of the very tasty soursop fruit, among other edible relatives. The trees are short and attractive but will not grow in dry areas. If your backyard is a tropical swamp, this plant is for you.

One of these days I'll get to eat one. One of these goldurn pond-appley Florida days.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: June 2015 Video Update!

I was just down in Ft. Lauderdale and filmed another update on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project:




It's coming along, though the dry weather has given some of the plants a beating. Later this year after the rains kick in things are going to look a lot better.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Germinating peach pits - again!

Remember my cartoon on germinating peach pits?

I just finished sprouting another round. This time I stuffed about 60 pits into a bag without shelling any but a few.

Only about 8 germinated, as opposed to the 75%+ germination rate I got when they were shelled. It definitely makes a difference in success if you remove the kernels.

Here are some of the sprouts:


They grew like that in the fridge! Amazing, isn't it?

These were planted directly into the food forest after this photo. I should be getting peaches off the trees within 2-3 years.

Germinating peach pits is EASY! Give it a try - you'll be amazed.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tropical Almond Fruits (Nuts?)

Mom sent me this photo last week from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project:


That tropical almond tree isn't all that old! I grew it from a drift seed I found on John U. Lloyd beach down in Hollywood, Florida.

When we planted this tree it only had two true leaves:


The fruit of tropical almond is marginally edible but the kernels inside the corky husk are delicious.

Tropical almond trees are also quite attractive with an interesting pagoda-shaped growth pattern. Here's a picture from earlier this year before the tree fruited:


Interestingly, I planted a couple of fistfuls of seeds and this one was the only tree that germinated.

I'm very glad it did - it's truly a lovely tree... and soon we'll be eating from it.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Big sweet cultivated plums harvested off a Chickasaw plum graft

I have been remiss in my garden reporting duties.

A couple of weeks ago I took a picture and it's only just now that I'm posting it.

Check out these plums:


Those were harvested off the improved plum branch I grafted onto my wild Chickasaw plum tree last February.

We got about a dozen fruits off that branch and they were delicious. Chickasaw plum is a really scrappy tree that can handle nematodes, drought, poor soil and lots of abuse... unlike most cultivated fruit trees. Taking advantage of its excellent root system by tacking on better fruit makes a lot of sense. You just need to support the resulting branches or else they'll outgrow the rootstock and pull the tree down to the ground.

In case you missed it, here's a video I recorded recently on this Chickasaw grafting project. You can also see the nectarine and peach scions I grafted onto the wild plum this year:


Success!!!

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Friday, June 19, 2015

A backyard transformation

Hey... I seem to have inspired another madman.

Check this e-mail out:

"Ok, you (and a few others), inspired me. So I've spent the last few months working on this. I took one end of my backyard and transformed it. 

I started by cutting the grass as low as possible. Then added a layer of cardboard topped with free mulch from the county hard water collection. Then free logs to create several beds surrounded by free stepping stones. 

Beds are filled with mushroom compost, peat moss, and some other various compost/manures. 

I have less than $100 invested in this so far. 

I've already stuck in seeds for Buttercup Squash, peppers, and Mexican Sunflowers. Have to cut a few more stones but it's pretty much set. 

Still more to come. Attached a few before and after pictures for your viewing pleasure. -S"

Here's his "before" picture:


And here's the "after" picture:


This is going to be an absolutely lovely garden. I can't think of a better use for the end of backyard.

If you're clever, it really takes very little work to transform a backyard lawn into a backyard garden.

If you've not had gardening success before, I recommend starting with a few dead-simple crops: mulberries, yard-long beans, chaya, loquats, sweet potatoes, Seminole pumpkin (make sure you have LOTS of space), bush beans, kale and mustard. Throw in a few hot peppers for variety and maybe a Japanese persimmon and you're going to have success. Most of those will do well even if you're a total amateur.

Just be sure to feed the soil first... and then the soil will feed you.

Good work, fellow gardener. I love it.

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