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An Unexpected Volunteer And A Wild Edible Discovery

If I really stayed on top of things, I could post something new about my garden every day! However, my focus is on making my garden as healthy and productive as possible. And since a person does not want to be outside much between ten a.m. and four p.m. in our climate in the summer, I have only the mornings and evenings to work. In between, the humidity saps my energy to the extent that I feel like doing very little of anything else, even inside.

Thankfully, right now J is between projects and has been able to help me some with weeding, watering and mulching.

Anyway, what follow are some of the things that have been going on around here the past few days.

First, I found a volunteer red malabar spinach in a very unexpected place. Understand, malabar spinach easily and freely reseeds in the late summer, and I have found that if you plant it once, you never have to plant it again – it will pop up the next late spring near the area where it grew the year before…in more numbers than you may want it!

A couple of days ago, I discovered that the wind will carry those seeds much farther if there is space and lack of barriers. I found three new red malabar spinach plants popping up in the unamended, stripped of topsoil area just about the excavated site for our earth-sheltered house (that hopefully will be built some time this decade). This area is at least sixty feet from where the plants are growing in the garden.

Here is a photo of the tallest one:



We have harvested and eaten our first cucumber!



And look – the first fig actually looks like a baby fig!



This is exciting, because last year the plants, having gone from pot to ground, took a while to start growing fruit. Because of that, we only harvested a handful of ripe figs; the rest froze while they were still green. So we’re looking forward to more figs this year. 🙂

I wrote in my last homestead update post about the volunteer ground cherry plants in my garden (and elsewhere). Recently, B and I discovered another kind of plant that looked very much like a nightshade (that group of crops including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potatoes). Actually, it looked like a ground cherry, but with darker leaves. And the fruit was growing right off the plant, like tomatoes, rather than in husks as ground cherries do.

The following photo illustrates what the flowers look like, as well as the unripe fruit:



I couldn’t figure it out. It was cross between a horse nettle (a thorny nightshade that also produces small berries) without the thorns and a ground…

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG POST FOR A WEATHER UPDATE. I looked up from my writing upon hearing what sounded like rain, then leaped up to try to save the laundry hanging outside to dry, and the dishes in the drainer on the picnic table. It had suddenly and without warning began to pour.

The back of my shirt took about thirty seconds to get soaking wet! And the dishes and laundry are none too dry. But I have saved them from a total soaking, so I’ll finish this post now.

…cherry. And get this; another plant we had found earlier was producing black berries. I assumed the dark color meant they were ripe, but BLACK? Even horse nettle berries have the decency to be an expected color (yellow). B asked the same question I was wondering: could they be edible? Because the horse nettle berries are definitely not!

As I was working outside and not wanting to go inside to research the answer, I grabbed a few of the green fruits on the vine and muscle-tested, asking the question, “Are these fit food for me?” I got a yes, then a little later found that indeed, the black berries have traditionally been used to make jam and pies. The green ones are supposed to be toxic, however.

Guess what the name of the plant is? Black nightshade. Sort of descriptive, and very much uncreative.

B and I each tasted one, and they are tasty. They are reminiscent of a tomato flavor, and very close to the flavor of a ground cherry. Here are a couple of ripe berries:


Finally, while I have mentioned our grapes in one of my garden update videos, I have not here. I was surprised a couple of months ago to find any growing, as I had heard that grapevines won’t produce until their third year. This vine decided to pop out three bunches; maybe because it is planted in compost and therefore getting a huge shot of nutrients?



They are a bit spotty, but look promising.

Remember to leave me a comment about your garden’s progress/garden dreams. 🙂

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