Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May, we continue

The buddha by our door, with sweet woodruff at his knees.
Yesterday turned out to be quite a lovely day, in spite of a (possible) frosty beginning.
The tomato plants are fine. The asparagus is fine and rising rapidly. I picked another half pound yesterday, even though I'd picked that amount on Sunday. Asparagus season is here.

Sweet woodruff.
 The sweet woodruff is in bloom, a true sign that May has begun. This lovely flowering ground cover prefers areas with shade. The small stand that I have gets late morning and afternoon shade, but is exposed to the full morning sun. Which causes it to faint a bit in the summer. Once we've got the root cellar built and the other development to the north of the house done, I can build a shade garden there, with woodruff and hostas. For now, however, I just take advantage of the little bits of shade I can find.

The perennial woodruff is related to cleavers, that grasping little annual weed that pops up in early spring. I use cleavers in tinctures to cleanse and support my lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. You can see the relation between the two plants in the way their leaves are situated in whorls around the stem.

Woodruff is used to flavor May wine, which is traditionally drunk on May Day, May 1. Cheap white wine is steeped with woodruff, lemon, strawberries, and whatever else happens to be in your particular recipe.

When dried, woodruff has a delightful vanilla-like scent. Although it prefers moist soil and looks delicate, it will survive some drought and other adverse conditions.

Mystery flowers in a tree.
A couple of weeks ago I was down by the sauna and, looking out into the naked woods, wondered what those dark blobs were along the branches of a small tree. Upon closer inspection, I discovered deep purple, bell-shaped blossoms.

This looked significant. With flowers of that size, it had to be a wild fruit of some kind. Most of the native wild fruits with which I am familiar bear white flowers in the spring -- such as the wild plum and service berry. I could think of only one other native wild fruit tree, one which had never been identified for me. So when I looked in my Kansas tree book I went straight to...

Paw paw flowers.
The paw paw.

Last fall, a friend had posted on a social Web site that he was searching for a place to go pick paw paws and put them in a basket. I was sure we had to have paw paws in our woods, but I didn't know what one looked like. After finding this one near the sauna, I noticed another one in the woods by the swing set. I had wondered for the past two summers what that small tree with the large leaves was. A paw paw.

I tied bright cloth to the small trees so I would know them later and could check them for fruit. I have never eaten paw paws, but apparently they are perfectly ripe for about five minutes, before which they are inedibly green and after which they are rotten.

However, feeding myself from the land means taking advantage of wild foods when you can, not just planting them. So I will invite my friend over to pick paw paws this fall -- if these bear fruit.

When the leaves started unfurling on the paw paws, I noticed a small one that hadn't bloomed, and of a size that could be fairly easily transplanted. Hmmmm.....

That thought lingering, I must leave you. It is just after 7 a.m. and the sun has popped up over the trees. Time to head outside. The world was filled with gray light already when we rose at 5:45 this morning. Another sign that May is here.

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