This almost don't deserve mentioning - almost. After all the trauma and drama of last year's garden's plague of ground squirrels, I'd pretty much given up hope on the whole havin' a garden thing. But then Jason and Rachel gave us a couple zucchini plants and one thing led to another, and before I knoew it, I was planting again. This time around, just a couple squash and a small pumpkin patch. And we'll just have to see what comes up...
Alright, I've been hearing this persistant rumor that the seed pods of the Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, are edible. Not just in the sense of "it won't kill you," but like something you might actually want to eat. I'm talkin' about stuff like this:
The stems can be baked, and the blossoms, minus the bitter centers, can be cooked and eaten. The young flower stalks are edible. The flowers are edible raw or cooked as a potherb. Check them for insects before cooking or eating them. The seed pods and seeds are edible when they are young, raw or baked in ashes. They can be sliced, dried, and stored. They taste similar to banana.
Similar to the most bitter, alkaline bananas you can imagine, I guess...
Fruit of the Joshua Tree
The greenish-brown fruit of the Joshua Tree is oval and somewhat fleshy. The 2- to 4-inch-long fruit grows in clusters and is edible. According to "The Oxford Companion to Food," mature pods can be roasted and have a sweet, candy-like flavor. Each fruit contains many flat seeds, which are released on the ground when a fruit dries on the tree and falls to the ground in late spring.
Flowers and Pollination
The flowers of the Joshua tree are bell-shaped, slightly longer than an inch and have six creamy, yellowish-green sepals. The flowers are grouped into clusters, have an unpleasant odor and blossom mostly in the spring. The Joshua Tree, like most yuccas, relies on a single species, the female pronuba moth, for pollination. No other animal transfers the tree's pollen. The moth lays her eggs in the flowers and the hatched larvae feed on the seeds contained in the fruit.
Flowers - cooked. The flower buds, before opening, can be parboiled in salt water to remove the bitterness, drained and then cooked again and served like cauliflower. The opened flowers are rich in sugar and can be roasted and eaten as candy. Fruit - cooked. The fruits can be roasted then formed into cakes and dried for later use. Root - raw, boiled or roasted. Seed. Gathered and eaten by the local Indians. No further details are given, but it is probably ground into a powder and mixed with cornmeal or other flours and used for making bread, cakes etc. Immature seedpod. No more details given. [this is credited as Joshua Tree, but might actually be generic yucca]
If I were one of the locals; Cahuilla, Chemhuevi, Serrano et al, I'd tell the settlers to eat one just for a laugh.
Couple o' things: this has been one of the best years ever for Joshua Tree blooms, although now most of the bloomin' is over and they're poding up. Edibility? So far, so gross. So some kids have been hospitalized for eating a spoonful of cinnamon on a dare? So what? Doesn't even compare to the dreaded yucca pod. So if any of y'all actually have a recipe for Joshua Somethin'-or-Other I'd love to hear about it, 'cause it sure don't taste like banana!
Folks, the ground squirrels are truly the bane of my existence, well them and grasshoppers, and yet it isn't all bad news. Case in point: corn. We ate two of the tastiest little cobs ever last night and it almost made up for all the squash and cucumbers we aren't getting. So here's week 14 - it's all about the corn (plus the eggplant are finally starting to catch up!)
Folks, those of you who haven't experienced a full-blown ground squirrel infestation might think of them as being cute. There's nothing cute about what they're doing to my vegetables, and I have exhausted all diplomatic resources in negotiating a hostage exchange.
Case in point, that picture to the right is all that remains of the zucchini. Malicious damage inflicted by a plague-carrying delinquent.
Well, folks - Sunday is going to be week 13, so I've got some catching up to do. Over at the right is week 9. Corn's getting taller, squash bushier. Lookin' good.
Here, we've got week 10 happenin.' Starting to pick some delicious cucumbers and some reasonable peppers. Initial results from the War on Rodents were positive.
By week 11, the ground squirrels were out of control and I went for a containment strategy. Now the "green kids" have their own room. It helps, but it ain't perfect. Those furry rats fave tunneled underneath, and they ate the Brussels sprouts with impunity. My "peace, love, and understanding" approach doesn't extend to being a sous chef for a gopher. Next year: raised beds and this year: By Any Means Necessary.
Week 12 - Still getting nice cucumbers and peppers and the tomatoes are starting to form. The squash have been decimated.The corn are the stars of the show right now - they're all taller than me, have their tassels in full effect and ears are starting to form. Up in front, we've got a cucumber cage crawling with yummy Japanese cucumbers.
Shout out to Glendale Community College for having the forethought to start a community garden on campus! Some of the students and faculty, the Environmental Club in particular, have really put themselves into this project, and it's starting to show. The new raised beds are looking great.
Gettin' into week 8 now. Rodent predation is way down; still having some leaf-eating bug issues. They've been decimating the tomatillos pretty regularly, and the salsa verde forcast is looking grim. We ate two little teeny crookneck squash yesterday and a couple of green onions, so it ain't just the ground squirrels who are eating good. Actually, I think I may have ended their reign of terror permanently, but we'll see - in a garden things are changin' all the time. For example - the corn's starting to tassel and the cucumbers are really coming along. And using discarded carpet as a ground cover is the best idea ever, so big thanks to Mel Bartholomew and Square Foot Gardening for that one.
That's right, folks - due to recent terrorist activity, I've been forced to declare a holy war against yard rodents, specifically ground squirrels. Here we are at week six and three of the corn plants were sucked underground, some of the beans have been decimated and all of the young squash have been chewed right off the vine. The tomatilos are recovering from the grasshopper predation, the radishes are coming along nicely and there are lots of tomato blossoms, but no little tomatoesyet. In the meantime, ground squirrels have overrun the yard, setting up a base of operation under the woodpile. While we were sitting out by the garden the other afternoon, a rat ran out of the garage and along the fence.
Now I've got no great love of rats, but they freak Jane right out. She sees them as scuttling plague vectors, so it doesn't take much to get her goin'. Ironically, we were reading Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitantsby Robert Sullivan at the time. It's quite a page-turner. I thought Jane might be a little too fragile to handle a whole book about rats, but she seems to be coping nicely. On the other hand, those rats better watch out. Same with the gophers and the ground squirrels. Y'all mind your own business, and we'll get along fine. Mess with my garden, and suffer primate wrath.