Insidious Invasives

Certain invasive plants and animals receive greater media and government attention (for good reason). In our part of Wisconsin, the Emerald Ash Borer has been one of these species.  Similarly, I recently came across a news clip about giant hogweed as an invasive plant in Michigan.  What I did not realize was the danger in even trying to get rid of it:

This plant is also on one of Wisconsin’s lists, which also include some aquatic and wetland plants.  Invasive species will vary by location, but the potential negative impacts are similar: native species can be affected.  Wisconsin has Administrative Code NR 40, (the invasive species rule) which “makes it illegal to possess, transport, transfer, or introduce certain invasive species in Wisconsin without a permit”.  The counterpoint to this is the benefit of researching, planting, and promoting native species.  As planting season has arrived/is arriving, take a few minutes and make yourself aware of your region’s invasive and native species.  Report any invasives you find.  It could save you and your neighbors some trouble.  And watch out for the giant hogweed!

Some additional national resources:



The Inevitable Post about Kale…

Kale (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

Kale       (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

It was only a matter of time until I had a detailed post about kale.  And at what better time than to ring in the spring (with an impending St. Patrick’s Day!)  Seems like mostly everyone is talking about the health benefits of kale.  The ubiquitous term ‘superfood’ is thrown around quite a bit, along with smoothie after smoothie after smoothie.  And why not?

I happen to enjoy the richness in the flavor of kale.  Kale is the star in an article in Chef Fabio’s magazine.  While my wife feels that kale should be relegated back to its historical place as buffet decoration, I can say there will be some in our garden this year (for some kale chips!)  Kale chips are really easy to make and can be embellished with any number of spices.  I also like that kale holds up well in soups, as other greens don’t, and is simple to use as a base for a salad.   And that’s not all…  If you haven’t tried this veggie yet, now’s the time; make some space in the garden!

Guerilla Gardening, or “Plant some sh!t”! -Ron Finley

I enjoy this video clip for a number of reasons- first, because I love gardening, of course…  Ron Finley makes some wonderful statistics-backed points about what can be done with vacant and underutilized land to help fight the food desert phenomenon.   I won’t spoil the video for you, but he speaks about the prevalence of vacant lots and even how yards can be utilized for greater benefit.  Ron, however, had a similar problem as others have had when attempting to garden outside of the (planter) box.  Now, I semi-understand why there is the push to keep grassy, standardized lawns so that properties look pleasant, but I find it much easier to sympathize with the gardeners when the clearly conspicuous gardens are 1) more useful for food purposes and 2) well-kept.  All of the examples I have ever seen in the news for similar reasons have been gardens that were well cared for.  Just imagine how much food we could produce if lawns in the cities were converted.  Regardless of climate, quite a bit more food could be locally (and cheaply!) produced via fruit trees and plants and other vegetable plants.  I try to garden with a little extra space and in a few extra pots, but ideally, I would like a larger garden.  This is not to say that urban gardening is not without a few concerns, such as the quality of the soil.  However, the larger point in this whole narrative is that if each of us was able to plant even a bit more food locally, it could have quite a few positive ripple effects.  “Plant some sh!t!”


Pop Deluxe Logo

Sadness.  It’s not an April fool- Pop Deluxe (a favorite store of mine on State Street in Madison, and in the links below at the right) is closing its retail location.  Pop Deluxe, if you haven’t heard of it, is a wonderfully quirky, unique, and whimsical store that had an ever-changing array of miscellany…  Now, the news isn’t all bad, since the website will still be up.  Whether it was snazzy kitchen gadgets or tastily diverse cookbooks or serene plant accessories, they always had something fun.  Future State Street trips won’t be the same…

Now, where else can I get my art-o-mat fix…?

The Maligned Dandelion


Maybe it’s odd that I’m not bothered by a few dandelions in my lawn.  Given the alternative of spraying my lawn with anti-organic compounds, a few flowers are a welcome alternative.  But gourmands as well as gardeners can take pride in this hardy, resilient plant that many call a weed.  Real Epicurean (where the photo’s from) has noted several culinary options.   Or make coffee.  If you’re still in doubt of what dandelion can do- check out a dandelion cooking contest!

“The Sistine Chapel… of Green Tomato”

Chow Ciao logo

Chef Fabio has a quick and tasty way to enjoy green tomatoes.  This may be the only way I’ll get to enjoy tomatoes from our garden, as just about the time they are ripe, they are gone! (e.g. my wife has eaten them right off the vine, or the vexing planting zone 5 phenomenon also known as the “tomato monster”)  We always plant quite a few plants in our limited space to maximize tomato production.

These stuffed green tomatoes were making me hungry!


Fungus Among Us


This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at // under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.

Springtime makes one think about- mushrooms?  Well, if you’d like to start a mushroom-growing kit, now might be the time!  If you’re near Wisconsin, you can find them at Patty’s Plants and River Valley Ranch.  If you’re not, some plant and seed companies carry them.

We’ve grown portabellas before, and have gone with them again this year.  Next year might be button mushrooms, to try something different.  The kits grow a lot of mushrooms over a few months’ span.  Be prepared to make a lot of tasty mushroom dishes!  (Marinating and grilling sounds like a delicious idea- see the Fireside meal review earlier in the blog…)  Portabellas and pasta was another tasty, frequent meal.  You can’t beat the freshest mushrooms you can get when you pick them yourself.  Our box even lasted longer than we expected- just make sure to water appropriately and not let it get too dry.

Growing mushrooms is not your thing?  No worries!  Learn more about mushrooms and check out a group dedicated to understanding a natural part of our habitat.

The mighty mushroom may even replace Styrofoam or break down plastic!

Powerful Popcorn

Unpopped popcorn

Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks.  And while I try to keep it healthy most of the time, every so often, there is a craving that can only be sated with buttery, salty popcorn!  A recent study confirms some of what has been found previously: that popcorn is good for you!  Dieters rejoice!  It is full of antioxidants and isn’t processed like some other snacks.  The article is quick to point out that popcorn, while beneficial, can’t replace fruits and veggies, and preparation unlike that of my craving-struck self is probably best.  Click below for video instructions on how to make popcorn in a wok, and review the post below via Foodimentary for more popcorn facts!  Want to grow your own in the garden this year?  It’s not difficult at all- just grow it, let it dry, and take it off the cob.  I grew some as a kid.  Watch out for squirrels!