Last summer I resolved to try and make further use of the plants that I grow by employing them as natural textile dyes. When their season was through, I did a few experiments, dying various fabric scraps with the burgundy leaves and immature blooms of the large false roselle plants I had grown that year. Unfortunately, time quickly slipped through my fingers and the other plans I had in mind did not come to fruition.
This winter I have made a dramatic shift back to embroidery and my brain is consumed with thread. Recently, in preparation for the growing season, I have returned to experimentation, but this time I am dyeing threads rather than fabric.
I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but my interest in oddities from the Euphorbiaceae family seems to be growing. To be fair, it is an attractive family of plants with incredible diversity. Euphorbias can be succulents, trees, bushes, or herbaceous plants. From your seasonal poinsettias to colourful and spiny crown of thorns, and a few thousand utterly wacked out, alien-like plants in between, it’s a family that constantly takes me by surprise.
[Giveaway details can be found at the end of this post.]
This week I was a guest on Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden.com‘s radio show. We spoke at length about growing tomatillos as well as other edible crops of the same genus (Physalis). You can listen to that episode over here.
Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) have only recently gained popularity as a backyard garden crop across North America and are definitely worth growing if you’re a Mexican food nut. I first learned of this tomato-like fruit on a trip to southern Mexico many years ago. At first I thought the tangy, green sauce we were served with quesadillas was made of green tomatoes, until I did some research and discovered it was a different fruit entirely. Back at home I started buying salsa verde in cans at a Latin American food store in Toronto’s Kensington Market. I honestly believed for a time that store-bought was good enough and couldn’t be improved until I grew my own and learned just how wrong I was. Like their botanical cousin the tomato (both plants are nightshade or Solanaceae family plants), tomatillos are infinitely better tasting when grown at home organically. They are sweeter, tarter, more flavourful, and complex. They are a surprise.
I don’t know about you, but I’m having a particularly hard time with winter this week. I go into winter kicking and screaming like a toddler having a temper tantrum, but its actually the last few weeks before spring that really get to me. With seed starting and other preparations underway, its springtime in my head and winter outside my window. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the two.
I thought I would post some early spring photos that I took in my friend Barry’s garden as a reminder that winter does end.
I’ve flirted with and tested out countless cheap and cheerful seed organization systems through the years. From plastic storage bins, to glass jars, wicker baskets, and vintage index card boxes — I’ve tried out every affordable option I could think of and then some. As my rag-tag seed bank has grown, I have had to conjure up new and smarter ways to keep on top of countless little packets.
A few weekends ago I realized that once again my seed collection was out of control and needed to be revamped. Years of experience has made it clear to me that I require three systems: One for the plants that are started indoors underneath lights, another for the seeds that are direct sown, and a third for tomatoes.