Over the last few years, gardening friends have been warning me about a garden scourge the seems to be new(ish) to my area. The lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) is a pretty red and black beetle that defoliates just about anything in the Lily family, but seems to focus on Asiatics, Fritillaria, Soloman’s Seal, as well as any Lilium.
While the adult is beautifully bright scarlet, also making it very easy to spot, its progeny is a thing of nightmares. It’s a horrible thick blob of a thing that covers itself in its own excrement as a defence against predators and proceeds to eat emerging lily foliage to the ground. Now, I’m not at all squeamish when it comes to creepy crawlies of all types and I have a genuine curiosity about any creature that lives in my garden. As an organic gardener I am definitely not above squishing unwanted pests with my bare hands — it may not be pleasant, but its the safest (and sometimes quickest) method of pest control. But there is just something about a creature that instinctually slathers itself in its own body waste that commands a slow clap and a bow. Well done, lily beetle. Well done. I’ll be coming for you with gloves on, thank-you-very-much.
This recipe came about on a weekend afternoon as I was puttering around in the garden weeding and thinning out crops that were too closely planted. Radishes were the main culprit. I don’t plant them in rows or in a dedicated space for that matter. Instead, I pop the seeds into gaps here, there, and everywhere. And then I forget where I planted them. Days later I plant some more. Or the squirrels dig them up and shift them too close to other plants. Or, like last year, I allow the crop to go rogue and now, in the spring, I find myself with loads of closely-packed plants.
But this is not a problem, because while the roots may be small, there are handfuls of lush greens that can be wilted, roasted, or fried. This is something I did not understand with my first unsuccessful attempts at growing radishes years ago. While the roots can be tricky if the soil is too dry or shallow, the prickly, hairy greens are very edible when cooked. In fact, they’re delicious!
I’m thinking about landscapes this week as I prepare to go on a roadtrip through two — possibly three (we’ll see how far we get) North American deserts. I’ve always been drawn to the desert. When I think of this landscape I think of big skies, stars that touch the ground, magic, and grit. Perhaps it has something to do with how vastly different it is from the landscape around my home. The grass is always greener, or errr… dryer. It’s so contrary to our wetlands and forests that I can’t help but approach it with a strong feeling of respect, awe, and intense curiosity.
Speaking of which… there is also something to be said about the landscapes of our memory. For example, I spent the bulk of my childhood living next to a fallow brownfield located behind a derelict suburban shopping plaza. As a result, I have an enduring soft spot for fallow fields and overgrown parking lots where nature is in a wild clash with human “progress.” Even now I can see where aspects of this wildness has crept into the way I approach my own gardens and the plants weeds) that volunteer themselves each year.
The following is part 2 in a series on a trip I took up north to Ontario, Canada’s Bruce Peninsula to see carnivorous plants growing in the wild.
We left the beach area, and doubled back to the Oliphant Fen, which we had passed on the way in (see map here). Note that there is no real parking area for the fen, just a little divot in the road alongside with space for 2 cars. If you’re looking for a public bathroom, there is a porta-potty at the beach. That’s about it for amenities so I suggest packing water and a picnic lunch and/or snacks.
Left to Right: Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album) and Garden Orach (Atriplex hortensis).
It was overcast and warm this morning, so I took advantage of the mild conditions to harvest and wash greens for salad. A combination of rain and warmth has the greens going gangbusters over the last few days and I am starting to really reap the benefits of several, generous sowings that I did early in the season.
In among the greens that I harvested were two nutritious greens that I did not need to sow. The first (shown on the left in the above photo), lamb’s quarter aka goosefoot (Chenopodium album) is a common North American and European “weed.” It comes up abundantly in my garden regardless of how diligently I weed. Chances are good that you’ve got it growing in your garden, too.