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Garden Talk

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"GardenTalk", a regular feature for The Gazette, brings to you the combined experience and expertise of Holly Lake's dedicated gardeners and others. A continuing focus will be subjects of interest to anyone who has ever bought a packet of seeds or dug a hole in the ground for a plant, as well as the dedicated and sharp-eyed observers of nature. "GardenTalk" will not only inform you each issue but solicits your ideas and personal gardening experiences which you may wish to pass on to others. The hope is that "GardenTalk" will enrich us all as well as help make Holly Lake even more beautiful.

By Lucy Germany, Wood County Master Gardener

What you see is what you eat...

"This is good. Where can you get these greens?" The answer to the question is:everywhere. Under your feet. In your garden. In your lawn. On the side of the road. And so forth.

The subject matter here is the salad offered to visitors at the recent opening session of the Winnsboro Farmers Market. The bowl of greens offered to visitors included chickweed, gallium, tradescantia, dandelion, pepper grass, wild garlic,oxalis and wild lettuce. Chopped up and tossed they look like a professionally concocted salad. And indeed it was professional, done by the well-known professional Mother Nature. These plants represented a small portion of nature's bounty, spread out all over East Texas, most prevalent and noticeable from the beginning of spring to middle or late summer (depending on the ambient temperature and amount of rainfall over a period of time).

Presented by the Wood County Master Gardeners as one of several informational programs, eating in the wild has just begun to attract natives(people) to natives(plants). Visitors to the booth were given a list of 27 wild (native) plants growing in this area which are edible in whole or in part. The list represented for the most part the humble ground cover plants which do not include fruit bearing trees and shrubs or other specialized natives of different stature or representing different seasons of growth. "These plants could actually keep you alive" said one astonished visitor. Others agreed that while not required for immediate life saving they are indeed edible and in fact delicious. Plus they save you money.

There are books galore that set out descriptions of edible plants. Here are a few: "Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest" by Delena Tull... "Edible Wild Plants" by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman... "Wild Edible Plants of the Western United States" by Donald Kirk... "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Euell Gibbons (remember him?—he used to be the leading native plant guru in the U.S.) and "Free for the Eating" by Bradford Angier. You can probably get one or more of these from a used bookstore or online from Amazon or Abe Books. They may also list other such references that would be helpful. There are probably also specialized cookbooks that focus on how to prepare delicious dishes using wild plants. If you are brave enough, you might even try offering a wild plant meal to some of your friends. As Julia Child probably would have said—"Bon Appetite!"