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June 2006

Wild Food:

Like many others, in spring my thoughts turn to the outdoors. But where others might be content with gardening, I'll admit to being intrigued by the idea of living well via foraging. That's probably what led me to Wildman Steve Brill's site; and the graphic of him in outdoors gear, with a thick spear of Japanese knotweed in his teeth, hooked me. Even though much of his site is geared toward New York, a lot is informative to those in freer states. Sections on foraging and cooking (and mushrooms!) entice me the most, but reading about the Brillophone, and his arrest for foraging in a New York park were interesting too. Great material in inspiring style!

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Pinetree Garden Seeds:

While foraging sounds both romantic and highly practical to me, there are certain things I really want that I'm just not going to find in the wilds around us. But that doesn't stop me; I enjoy gardening and generally am decent at it. I don't know who recommended Pinetree Garden Seeds to me, but I owe that individual a heap of thanks. A wealth of herbs, many with several varieties offered, and lots of information on characteristics of each make decision-making both easier and harder. But with most seed packets coming in under a dollar, if you've the room there's little incentive not to be experimental. And look—Pinetree sells stevia seeds! That natural sweetener costs a very pretty penny after processing. Vegetables, flowers, mushroom kits, and much more are also offered; many are optimized for container gardening, so you city folk have fewer excuses for not enjoying your own mini-garden.

I haven't ordered from the site yet, so I've no idea what their customer service might be like—but I hear it's good. The lack of a search utility, and longish pages that have an organization that defies my grokking are minor quibbles, because I enjoy leisurely reading through their offerings, imagining black radishes in salads, how many varieties of basil I can get away with, or the fun of growing some herbs to try my hand at dyeing things. But Pinetree came very highly recommended, so I'm sure I'll be giving it a try ... maybe this fall so I can have fresh herbs all winter (if buying grow lights hasn't been outlawed by then).

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Mark's Fruit Crops:

Can anyone think of growing food without longingly pondering fruit? I sure can't. From berries to cherries to citrus, fruits are succulent gems that inspire smiles with each juicy bite. For many, though, the thought of growing one's own seems more daunting than other gardening—maybe because of special techniques like grafting, or the time investment that can be required before getting a good return. Lack of information is no longer a good excuse, especially with a site like Mark's Fruit Crops at one's fingertips. It offers a detailed summary of all kinds of information on the world's major fruit crops. That includes nuts, chocolate (alas, not a completed entry at the time of this writing), and olives. Want to know the differences between blackberries and raspberries? Which fruit is most likely the golden apple important in Greek mythology? The myriad health benefits of coconut? You'll find answers to those and many more questions at this fascinating site. Relatedly, for good information on backyard fruit crops, check out Small fruit crops for the back yard—or if you know of a local oddity you want to grow, take some inspiration from pawpaw enthusiasts Jeannie and Berry. Good eating, and good information for helping cut the ties to supermarket food await your discovery!

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