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  • The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats By Daniel Stone | DCMGV

    < Back The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats By Daniel Stone Who knew that the life of an “agricultural explorer” could be both fascinating and suspenseful. Read this review of book, “The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats” to learn why food exploration can be exciting! Reviewed By Valerie Rogotzke, Master Gardener A century ago, the American table was a simpler place. Vegetables and fruit were limited to what could be grown in the home garden or found in a grocery store. Some of the items missing from that world? Kale, mangoes, avocados, seedless grapes, zucchini, soybeans, pistachios, Meyer lemons, and more. Then along came botanist David Fairchild (1869-1954), the Indiana Jones of the plant world. In his book The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats (2018), author David Stone uses Fairchild’s journals, letters, and photographs to document the extraordinary journeys of the man who changed American culinary life forever. This is a riveting tale of exploration and horticulture, of espionage and diplomacy, of the finest German hops and the famed cherry blossom trees of Washington, D.C. Fairchild’s story takes him from Kansas to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he works with a meager budget assisting the American farmer fighting crop fungus. Then a chance meeting with a wealthy benefactor named Barbour Lathrop allows the young man to leave his post and travel as a private citizen, circling the globe on a mission to ship back samples of exotic plants and seeds as an “agricultural explorer,” as he refers to himself. Fairfield’s team transports both plants completely new and foreign varieties of species already known in the United States. Along the way, Fairchild and his team escape dangerous situations, face political resistance from multiple governments, and cross paths with famous figures like the Wright Brothers and Alexander Graham Bell. When Fairchild settles down at the age of 34, he founds the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which introduces over 200,000 new plant species and varieties to the country. This book is highly recommended to foodies, gardeners, and history buffs alike. It can be found in the Dakota County Library system.

  • You Know It Is Summer When You Have Strawberry Pie | DCMGV

    < Back You Know It Is Summer When You Have Strawberry Pie Mary Holec, Dakota County Master Gardener Those of you who have established strawberry plants may be harvesting them in June. And, those of you who do not have strawberry plants may be looking forward to enjoying the harvested strawberries beginning in June. And, to carry it one step further, those of you who want to have your own strawberries to harvest next June, should plant young plants in early June. Here is one recipe that makes it all worthwhile. Those of you who have established strawberry plants may be harvesting them in June. And, those of you who do not have strawberry plants may be looking forward to enjoying the harvested strawberries beginning in June. And, to carry it one step further, those of you who want to have your own strawberries to harvest next June, should plant young plants in early June. Strawberries can be a low-calorie snack and they contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We cannot claim that this recipe can be counted as low-calorie. But we can claim that it is delicious! This is a family favorite during strawberry season! Fresh Strawberry Pie Ingredients: ½ cup butter 1 cup flour 2 tablespoons sugar 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup water, divided 3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (powder) 1-quart fresh strawberries Directions: Crust : combine butter, flour and 2 tablespoons sugar until crumbly. Press into pie plate and bake at 400 degrees F about 8 – 10 minutes. Cool. Filling : In saucepan, combine remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt with 1/3 cup cold water. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and cook until clear. Add gelatin. Mix well. Pour over 1-quart fresh strawberries. Cool slightly. Add to cooled crust and top with whipped cream. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Eat and enjoy! Photo Credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net , (All Creative Commons) (1), CookingwithRuthie.com , (All Creative Commons) (2)

  • Snow Mold! It’s Not About Putting Snow in a Mold | DCMGV

    < Back Snow Mold! It’s Not About Putting Snow in a Mold As the snow begins to melt, you may start to see a grayish, and sometimes pinkish, circular straw-like, matted patch in your yard, especially near the street where snow was piled up for what may have seemed like decades to some but was only a few months. The spot can also have a “webby” fungus appearance. If you have this phenomenon in your yard, then click on this link to learn about snow mold and what you can do to prevent it from happening again next Spring. Janelle Rietz-Kamenar, Master Gardener Snow Mold is a fungus that develops and thrives when early, deep snow covers the ground prior to the ground being frozen. Snow mold can continue to grow once the snow has melted in the Spring as long as the conditions remain wet and cold. There are 2 types of snow mold found in Minnesota: Gray snow mold produces sclerotia which look like dark, hard round bodies on the grass blade. Pink snow mold produces pink-colored spores and fuzzy mycelium. Areas of your lawn that are affected with snow mold will generally take longer to green up in the Spring but usually come back to normal and therefore, is not usually too serious. In a bad weather year, it can, however, kill the grass. If you want to “spring” into Action this Spring: You can choose to break up and spread the larger snow piles around in the affected areas. This will help the snow melt faster and dry out quicker. You can gently rake the area to create a faster drying process and prevent further mold growth. Preparation to avoid snow mold altogether must be done in the Fall with these easy steps: If your yard is prone to snow mold, skip a Fall nitrogen fertilizer which the fungus thrives on. Continue to mow your lawn until the grass stops growing. Cut grass to 2 inches (but not shorter) to prevent the grass from matting and allowing mold to grow. Rake up leaves If you have certain areas in your yard where snow mold is a problem, consider a snow fence to reduce large piles of snow. While snow mold can be a little unsightly in the Spring, a few actions can help alleviate the problem quickly! Source: University of Minnesota Extension: “Snow Mold Prevention Begins in Autumn”, October 20, 2023 Photo Credit: University of MN Extension (1,2)

  • Resources | DCMGV

    Gardening Resources Check out all the resource available for your learn more about gardening and get your questions answered. Annuals & Bulbs Books & Other Resources Diseases, Pests & Wildlife Edible Plants Garden Prep & Care Gardening by the Month Gardening with Kids Indoor Plants Lawn Care Perennials Pollinators Recipes & Cookbook Trees & Shrubs Ask a Master Gardener

  • Using the Last Frozen Vegetables to make Tasty Tacos and Springtime Cake | DCMGV

    < Back Using the Last Frozen Vegetables to make Tasty Tacos and Springtime Cake Joy Johnson, Master Gardener It’s May, you may have a few things peeking up in your garden, or maybe you’re like me and nothing is up yet, and nothing is ready for picking. I’m still living off of veggies that I canned, froze or dried last fall. Here is a crowd-pleasing recipe that makes use of my canned tomatoes, frozen corn and ground venison. You can use ground beef or ground turkey too. It also has corn chips on it, and those are a favorite! It’s very easy to freeze fresh tomatoes. Just pull off any stem, wash and put into freezer baggies and put in the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, take them out of the bag and run them under hot water, the skins will peel right off by rubbing them with your thumbs. Cut out the stem spot and chop for your recipe. You’ll have that wonderful garden fresh tomato taste. Corn Bread Taco Casserole Ingredients 2 pounds ground venison, beef or turkey 2 envelopes taco seasoning 2 cups diced canned tomatoes, drained 1 cup water 1 cup cooked rice 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles 2 packages (8-1/2 ounces each) cornbread/muffin mix 1 cup whole kernel corn 1 cup sour cream 2 cups corn chips 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend or cheddar cheese, divided 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained Topping: Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and chopped red onion Directions Preheat oven to 400°. In a frying pan oven, cook venison over medium heat until no longer pink, 8-10 minutes, breaking it into crumbles; drain. Stir in taco seasoning. Add tomatoes, water, rice and green chiles; heat through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare cornbread mix according to package directions; stir in corn. Pour half the batter into a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Layer with half the meat mixture, all the sour cream, half the corn chips and 1 cup cheese. Top with remaining batter, remaining meat mixture and olives. Bake, uncovered, until cornbread is cooked through, 55-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup corn chips and 1 cup cheese; bake until cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes longer. If desired, serve with lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. Char’s Springtime Cake Some of you may have rhubarb peeking up, but due to our very cold early spring, I doubt it’s ready to pick. I had one package of rhubarb left from last fall in my freezer. I pick the last of my rhubarb in the fall just before it frosts and I wash, cut it into small pieces, put it in a freezer container and freeze it until early spring, like now, when I’m dying for a fresh spring taste of something from the garden. This recipe was adapted from one handed down to me from my wonderful step-mom who passed away last August, from COVID. Hers calls for all rhubarb, but since I didn’t have that much in the freezer, I substituted frozen strawberries and blueberries for part of the rhubarb. This was taste tested by family and friends and determined to be a wonderful taste of spring and summer! Directions Blend: 1 c. flour ½ c. butter 5T. powdered sugar Mix and press into a 13x9 pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden at 350 degrees. Mix: 3 eggs 2 ½ c. flour ¼ tsp salt ¾ tsp baking powder Add: 1 ½ cups rhubarb cut into small chunks 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries 1 ½ cups blueberries Pour over crust and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • Rain Gardens | DCMGV

    < Back Rain Gardens Whether you live in a city or along a lake or river, managing storm water run-off is something to consider in your landscape. Read this article to finds ways to do it. ​ Whether you live in a city or along a lake or river, managing storm water run-off is something to consider in your landscape. Roof tops, roads, driveways and sidewalks create impervious surfaces. These surfaces cannot absorb water. If rainwater and snow melt is not able to be absorbed into the soil, run-off occurs. Run-off can carry sediments and pollutants such as oil, pet waste, debris and nutrients from lawn clippings and fertilizers. These pollutants can then end up in our rivers and lakes. Even municipal storm sewers may lead directly to rivers and lakes. Simply put, a rain garden is a shallow depression filled with selected trees, shrubs, flowering plants and grasses designed to allow rainwater run-off to absorb into the soil. Rain gardens help to filter pollutants, absorb nutrients and allow sediments to settle before entering the ground water. Rain gardens are also useful in controlling erosion by trapping and allowing the water to infiltrate rather than run down a slope. Also, rain gardens may add interest and beauty to a landscape, or add elements to attract butterflies and birds. While rain gardens are a popular trend right now, not all landscapes offer suitable sites. There needs to be enough room to allow water to be absorbed into the soil and not seep into a nearby building or basement. Also, if the soil is heavy clay or already saturated ponding may occur; and ponds have a different purpose in the landscape. Some situations can be amended to allow for proper infiltration. In these cases it is best to consult a specifically trained professional. Dakota Soil Water & Conservation District offers Landscaping for Clean Water workshops in rain garden design and implementation. Site selection, size, shape, choosing proper plants and other materials, and maintenance are all topics covered in the workshops. Demonstration sites have been planted as part of previous workshops to show how attractive and beneficial rain gardens may be.

  • Greek Artichoke Salad | DCMGV

    < Back Greek Artichoke Salad Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Get your early lettuce on the table with other yummy vegetables in this recipe for Greek artichoke salad. Add some baking powder biscuits and you have dinner. Lettuce is easy to grow and so fun to pick fresh right before mealtime. Cucumbers might not be quite ready yet, that depends on how early you got them in the ground. If you have early tomatoes and possibly a young pepper, try this fresh take on a Greek inspired salad. Greek Artichoke Salad Ingredients: 1 (14.75-ounce) jar artichoke hearts, drained and quartered 1 large cucumber, halved and sliced 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cubed 1 small red onion, halved and sliced 1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained ½ cup olive oil ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 2 Teaspoons Italian seasoning Lettuce – use a variety of whatever is growing in my garden. Romaine is good along with lighter textured lettuces 1 (4-ounce) container crumbled feta cheese Preparation: In large bowl, combine artichoke hearts, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and Italian seasoning. Drizzle dressing evenly over vegetables in the larger bowl. Cover and gently toss. Allow the veggies to marinate in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Wash the lettuce, pat, or spin dry. On each plate, top a heap of lettuce with lots of the marinated veggies, use some of the marinade as dressing if you’d like more. Top with crumbled feta. If you’re eating light these days, the salad may be enough, but if it’s cool and rainy or you just need a little something more with your salad, here is a basic biscuit that I’ve been making for many years. They always turn out light and flaky due to three tricks: 1) make sure you cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until it’s a really fine texture; 2) make sure to knead the dough gently 10 times and; 3) roll the dough out until it’s ¼ inch thick and then fold it in half. Lightly roll it 2-3 passes before cutting out your biscuits. Baking Powder Biscuits Ingredients: 1/3 cup shortening 1 ¾ cups all -purpose flour (you can substitute up to ½ of the total quantity of flour with whole wheat flour) ¾ teaspoon salt Process: Heat oven to 450. Cut shortening into flour, baking powder and salt with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in just enough milk so dough leaves side of bowl and rounds up into a ball. (Too much milk makes dough sticky, not enough makes biscuits dry.) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll ¼ inch thick, fold in half and gently roll again. Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart for crusty sides, touching for soft sides. Bake until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to a cooling rack. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • Winter Chicken Stew (And a Special Valentine Treat) | DCMGV

    < Back Winter Chicken Stew (And a Special Valentine Treat) Joy Johnson, Master Gardener The ice and snow have buried your garden under a cold blanket. Picking fresh veggies and herbs from your own plot is a distant memory and a future hope! You can still make tasty nutritious meals for your family using your garden produce, just open your freezer. Here is a recipe for a delicious chicken stew that will make great use of your frozen vegetables and herbs. Follow that up with this special sweet Valentine’s treat. Last October I dug up all the carrots and parsnips before the first hard frost. I washed, peeled, sliced, blanched, and froze containers of them. They’ve been sleeping in my freezer and now it’s time to wake them up with herbs, (also frozen or dried from my garden) in this flavorful, healthy chicken stew. I love using a crock pot for this recipe. It must be set on the low setting for the chicken to absorb the flavors and not taste dry. Country Style Chicken Stew Medium Crock Pot 2 tsp olive oil 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces 4 oz. portobello mushrooms, cubed (or one small can of mushroom stems and pieces) 14 oz. fat-free chicken broth ¼ cup dry white wine 3 golden potatoes, cubed into bite size pieces 15 oz can great northern beans, rinsed and drained 2 cups frozen sliced carrots (or 4 fresh ones) 1 cup frozen sliced parsnips (or 2 fresh ones) 8 cloves garlic, minced ¼ tsp pepper ¼ tsp of each of these dried spices: thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, oregano (if using frozen, use about a pinch of each) 1 bay leaf ¼ cup dried parsley (you can also use frozen, just chop it finely) Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and mushrooms, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Combine the chicken mixture with everything else listed in a medium sized crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW until the chicken is cooked through, the potatoes are tender, and the flavors are blended, 6 to 8 hours. Serves 4. Serve the chicken stew with these colorful sweet scones Just for My Valentine Sweetheart Scones 2 ½ cups flour (can use ½ whole wheat) 1/3 cup sugar 1 Tbsp Baking Powder ¾ tsp salt 6 Tbsp butter 1 egg ½ cup milk ¾ cup dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries (a little grated orange rind is great with the cranberries) Top with 2 tsp milk and tsp sugar before baking. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl or food processor combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or food processor cut in butter until mixture represents coarse crumbs. Mix eggs with fork in a separate bowl and then add ½ cup of milk and blend into the flour mixture. Stir in cranberries or your choice of berries. Form dough into a ball and gently knead on a lightly floured board five times. Pack dough in to ¾ in thickness and use a butter knife or cookie cutter to cut 8-10 heart shapes. Brush each heart with milk and sprinkle with sugar Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Serve with Raspberry preserves. Photo credits: Joy Johnson (all)

  • Join Us | DCMGV

    Join Us - Become a Master Gardener Volunteer If you have a love of gardening, a desire for learning and are willing to share your knowledge with others, consider becoming a University of Minnesota Master Gardener in Dakota County. Apply Applications for new Master Gardeners are accepted annually August 1 to Oct 1. You can find the online application form on the Become a Master Gardener page. Selection You will be asked to participate in an interview with our selection team and complete a volunteer background check. We may not be able to select all applicants. Internship Those selected begin a year as a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Intern. Interns must complete the Extension Master Gardener Core Course. The course is self-paced including weekly webinars and section quizzes. Instructors are University of Minnesota Extension educators and faculty. Topics include soils, entomology, gardening resources, diagnostics, trees, herbaceous plants, lawn care, plant pathology, and more. The Extension Master Gardener calendar year is January 1 to December 31. During the first year, interns must complete 50 hours of approved volunteer work on educational projects, often with other active Master Gardeners. Through the year interns report their volunteer hours online in the Extension Master Gardener database. All hours must be reported by December 31. Upon successful completion of the internship year, the intern becomes a certified Dakota County Master Gardener Volunteer, receiving a certificate and official badge. For additional details and requirements review Steps to Becoming a Master Gardener . Remaining Certified Once certified, Dakota County Master Gardener Volunteers must volunteer a minimum of 25 hours and receive at least 5 hours of approved continuing education each year in order to maintain their certified, active Dakota County Master Gardener Volunteer status. If combining your passion for people and plants sounds appealing, come grow with us! Remember, a formal education in horticulture isn’t necessary. We provide the training and resources to help you teach others. Apply Today

  • May - Container Gardening | DCMGV

    < Back May - Container Gardening Linda Stein, Master Gardener Container gardening provides those with little or no yard an opportunity to grow vegetable, herbs or flowers inside your home or on your deck or patio. In addition, placing containers as part of your in-ground garden can add additional space and/or additional beauty to the garden. This article will help you plan your container garden. Container gardening provides those with little or no yard an opportunity to grow vegetable, herbs or flowers inside your home or on your deck or patio. In addition, placing containers as part of your in-ground garden can add additional space and/or additional beauty to the garden. So, what should you think about as you consider creating a container garden? Selecting a Container A container can be anything that can hold the soil and plants. However, it is preferable that the container have a drainage hole so the plants’ root systems aren’t sitting in water. If you are using a pot without drainage holes, consider shoreline plants since they like wet soil. In selecting your container consider eye appeal, convenient and cost. Eye Appeal: Appearance is, of course, important as you select containers for your plants. If you really like a decorative planter that doesn’t have a drainage hole, consider double potting - placing a pot with drainage hole and a saucer inside the decorative plant. Impact on plants: You do want to consider how the pot you are using will impact the plants you intend to place in those containers. When purchasing a pot or planter, take into consideration the type of plant you plan on placing in the pot and the impact on the care required. Consider what the pot is made of, the size of the pot and its color. Plastic pots are generally less costly. They are also lighter in weight. This can be of particular importance if you will be planting a larger plant. Also consider that plastic pots hold moisture and therefore the plants don’t need to be watered as frequently. You may prefer clay pots. Clay pots are usually more costly and are definitely heavier than plastic pots. Be aware that, because they are porous, the soil in clay pots dry out more quickly. The color of the pot also can have an impact on your plant. Darker planters absorb heat so, if the pot will be in direct sunlight the soil will dry out faster. Also think about the type of plant - is it one that likes heat or will wither due to the warmer environment in the dark pot? Selecting Soil All soil is not the same. Potting soil should be used in most container gardening. It includes ingredients such as plant food, peat moss, ground pine bark, and either perlite or vermiculite and a wetting agent added to keep the mix from drying out. Garden soil is predominantly soil, is denser and doesn’t drain as readily as potting soil. For plants such as cacti purchase soil specifically designed for those plants. Selecting Plants Consider the amount of sun when selecting the plants to insert in your container. If the plant is said to require full sun, that means it needs at least eight hours of sun. To allow your indoor plant to receive the most sunlight place near a south facing window. Plants that require shade, should be placed in a more protected location. Also consider the size of the container for a particular plant. Check to see if the plant prefers to have a lot of space for its root system or if it prefers a tighter space. Consider putting multiple plants in the same container. If you do choose to do this, make sure all the plants require the same type of growing environment including the same amount of sun and water. As for design - you may have heard the saying that containers should contain a “thriller, spiller and filler.” And that’s because it usually works. Include a tall, showy “thriller,” one or more plants that drape over the side of the pot (“spiller”), and one or more medium sized anchor plants in the middle (“filler”) when designing your container. Watering and Fertilizing Requirements Check on the requirements of the plant that you have selected. Then, water plants on their schedule, not yours. Overwatering is more frequently a problem than under watering. Signs of overwatering include: yellow or brown limp or droopy leaves and/or the overall plant looks wilted, limited new growth, algae or mold on the soil, rotted or stunted roots. If your soil is dried out, the plant looks wilted and/or the tips of the leaves appear dried out and brown it may indicate that your plant needs more water. Remember that one of the ingredients in potting soil is fertilizer. So don’t fertilize the plant immediately. When ready to fertilize follow the instructions for the fertilizer you purchase. Don’t over fertilize and note that plants don’t grow as rigorously during winter. So, plants require little or no fertilizer during winter months. Be Creative Have fun with your container gardening. It allows you to express your creativity and will bring you tremendous beauty whether inside your house, on your balcony or in your yard. Photo credits: Julie Harris (1, 4), Linda Stein (2, 3, 5)

  • Top 3 Flowering and Edible Weeds | DCMGV

    < Back Top 3 Flowering and Edible Weeds Most of us view weeds as mere pests in the garden to be eradicated from our gardens. But some weeds have the redeeming virtue of being edible. In this article, Master Gardener Kristina Valle describes how three common weeds can be consumed and appreciated. Kristina Valle, Master Gardener “A weed is but an unloved flower,” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox. This year we welcomed a spring full of heavy rains that lasted days and quickly melted our towering snow mounds. This rain also gave many perennials and bulbs a much needed jump start to produce new growth on stems that may have been on the rabbits’ menu for most of the winter. While I did lose a few plants this winter, there were many that benefitted from a severe haircut and the early, and extra rain aided in providing the plants with the necessary support to recover and grow back quickly. Unfortunately, rain will help anything that is able to grow, including weeds. While most weeds are unwelcomed and take away some of the gardener’s enjoyment, eradicating them from our yard and gardens is a necessary part of the job, as we all know. But did you know that there are many weeds that can have a positive place in your life or rather, on your plate? This article will discuss the top 3 flowering and edible weeds that may already exist in your garden and that may alter your perception of their presence in your landscape. #1 – The Dandelion It’s early spring and POP! Bright yellow flowers appear and carpet many open spaces along roads and are sprinkled throughout our yard and gardens. As Minnesotan’s we appreciate the first sign of color after a cold and dull winter, but these flowering weeds are met with disdain as we know that our summer work has just begun. Instead of looking at these weeds negatively, we should really be thinking of all of their uses instead. All three parts of a dandelion are edible. The Flower The flower head can be incorporated into cookies, quiche, muffins and many other baked goods, adding a honey like flavor to any recipe. Another alternative is frying the petals as a fritter like you would for squash blossoms. The Leaves The leaves are simply greens and are versatile enough to be used in a sauté with pasta or even eggs. The Roots Looking for a coffee or tea alternative? Consider dandelion roots! Dandelion Root Tea is commonly available in most grocery stores, but you’ll need to put in a little more effort if you want to make some Dandelion Root Coffee. First, you’ll need to dry the roots in a food dehydrator, and then roast them in the oven until they are thoroughly dry. Afterwards, place the roots in water and bring to a boil, strain it, drink and enjoy! #2 – The Common Blue Violet While the dandelion is often one of the easiest weeds to identify, greater care must be taken for other edible weeds. The violet has heart shaped leaves and 5 petals. Unlike the dandelion, only the petals and leaves of the violet are edible so it is important to be sure you have a violet before you harvest. If you’ve been to a restaurant that garnishes dishes, or even cocktails with flowers, you may have eaten a violet. The visual appeal livens up whatever you’re serving and invites a touch of the season into whatever occasion you’re celebrating. If you’re feeling a little extra, consider freezing the petals in individual ice cubes to add a surprise to any cold drink during your next get together. #3 – The Clover Whenever I think of clover, I’m reminded of a scene in the Disney Movie “Bambi” where Thumper is feasting on and stuffing his cheeks full of delicious clover. Sure, bunnies love it, but we can enjoy it too! Similar to a dandelion, you can prepare the flower head as a fritter. The clover can also be added to pasta, salads and teas and can be easily identified by its pink-purple flower. It is best to boil the plant before eating it, which can be accomplished when cooking a pasta or making a tea, as the plant (excluding the flower) can be a little hard on the digestive system. Finally, have you considered creating a Bee Lawn? Need a cover crop? Your clover will be a benefit not only to your pollinators but to you as well! It is my hope that this article has at a minimum, piqued your curiosity about the volunteers that grace our gardens each year. If you are interested in foraging outside of your garden space for these weeds, onto public lands, do not harvest unless you can be sure that no pesticides have been used on the weeds. Always exercise caution when foraging and remember to limit your haul to only 10% so that the local wildlife is not negatively impacted by the removal of some beneficial plants. Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (all)

  • A Tree for All Seasons: Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp) | DCMGV

    < Back A Tree for All Seasons: Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp) By Jim Lakin MD, Master Gardener For the smaller yard, a smaller tree can be just the right touch. A forty-foot oak might be a bit overpowering, but a so-called “understory tree” can be the perfect landscaping accent to make the house appear to be a welcoming homestead. One excellent candidate is the native Serviceberry. Over the next three months we’ll take a look at several native understory trees that could well fit the bill for that yard accent piece. One excellent candidate is the Serviceberry . It actually is a group of about twenty different species grouped under the genius Amelanchier . As you might expect such a heterogeneous group goes by several names in addition to serviceberry, including shadbush, shadwood or shadblow, sarvisberry (or just sarvis), juneberry, saskatoon, sugarplum, wild-plum or chuckley pear. They comprise a group of deciduous-leaved shrubs and small trees in the rose family. The complexity of genus and variety arise from Serviceberry’s propensity to hybridize. So, much variation in size and coloration exists within the genus. That’s why you should read the descriptive information carefully for whatever variety you select, to make sure its characteristics fit your needs. The origin of the name is up for grabs. One story has it that Serviceberry started blooming in early spring at the same time that the valleys in the Appalachian Mountains became passable and circuit-riding preachers could again hold church services. Another maintains that the blooming of Serviceberry announced the time that the thawing ground could again be broken so as to allow graves to be dug and those Dear Departed that had been in “cold storage” for the winter could be interred with proper services. A less colorful, and probably more reliable, proposition has it that the genus was named after the European Sorbus , a genus also of the rose family with a number of similarities. Serviceberry's outstanding fall color Amelanchier is native to most of North America, being more prolific in the Eastern states and provinces. They can grow as either a shrub or tree ranging in height from 6 to 25 feet with similar widths. Depending on the variety, they are hardy from Zones 2 through 9. Blooming in early spring, most produce beautiful five-petal blossoms ranging from pink to white to yellow. Although the blooms usually last no more than one to two weeks, the plant produces vibrant blue/green foliage which turns a brilliant bronze in the fall. After blooming, clusters of berries form on mature plants, ripening to a deep red, then purple, during the summer. The silvery bark provides a striking accent in winter. Like most native perennials, Amelanchier is a great favorite of pollinators. Serviceberry will form multiple stems However, such a desirable plant is not without its needs. Both deer and rabbits like to browse most varieties, so you should consider placing protective guards around the young trees for the first couple of years. Many insects and diseases that attack orchard trees also affect this genus, in particular trunk borers and rusts . In years when late flowers of Amelanchier overlap those of wild roses, pollinators may spread fire blight. Serviceberries do well in full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight) to part shade (2 to 6 hours). They do best in a moist, loamy, self drained soil that is a bit acidic. Some species do well in boggie areeas and can look great near ponds or streams. They look well in boarders to naturalized areas. Planting is done best in the fall or, preferably, in the spring. A thick mulch applied around the plant will help it establish itself. You’ll want to keep the mulch away from the bark itself, however. Water well and apply a bit of all –purpose fertilizer in the spring and you should be well on your way to having a dazzling year-round garden gem. Photo credits: Dan Mullen www.flickr.com (1), University of Minnesota Extension (2,3)

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