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Deceptive beauty

Last year my garden bed sprouted almost as many weeds as it did vegetables. I pulled all the easily identifiable ones and left the few that were interesting. Our upper yard is planted with vegetables and ornamentals, but we’re cultivating native plants in the lower sections, so I always let the random volunteers grow to see if they’re worth transplanting to that lower area. We ended up with a ton of dock, which puts off very pretty berries but tries to take over the universe, and one feathery weed that looked like a cross between a carrot and a native bleeding heart. The leaf was pretty and the plant was out of the way, so I let it stay.

This summer, that thing got huge. It started growing and turning shrub-like, not stopping until it was five feet tall. It started budding and bloomed with gorgeous white clumps of tiny flowers. It was such an interesting plant, we started searching online to see what it was. At first we hoped it was Queen Anne’s Lace. But we’re not in the right area for that plant, and the other option of wild carrot didn’t have quite the right foliage.

It turns out we’d been harboring Poison Hemlock.

So after it was done being pretty, and before it could start spitting seeds, we pulled it up. Of course that consisted of throwing a bag over it, wearing long sleeves, disposable gloves and heavy shoes and then depositing it straight in the trash. Fortunately, there weren’t any adverse reactions to its oils and the cats never were interested in chewing on it. Honestly, if it weren’t poisonous, I’d have left it in place.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

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Dock is used in several very proper British dishes. Check out Hugh Furnley Whitingston (or however you spell his name). I think it gets baked into a pie like spinach.

You're kidding! When the nettles come back next year, you'll have to help us harvest them.

Not kidding at all about docks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dock_pudding of course it turns out that their use like this is dependent on them not being 'real' docks. So you'll have to ID what you've got carefully before beginning to cook with it.

If you have nettles you can actually harvest them in the fall too when a small second crop is likely to appear. Of course waiting until spring works too. Nettles are awesome for lots of things, but if you are going to freeze them, I'd recommend parboiling first and then freezing in small batches to cream, use in soup or make into a winter pesto (where the green is already cooked when you blend it with all the garlic and such).

Also available during the spring is a sprout often called 'wild asparagus'. It's not asparagus, and it is white, but if you manage to go foraging the right one or two weeks of the year, you can find it easily, harvest it and cook it up. It arrives much before real asparagus shows up in the market and is a GREAT spring veggie that I'll have my eyes peeled for in February and/or March when we go on hikes.

But it's starting to be mushroom picking time, and we really need to study up on our mushrooms.


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