Monday, March 22, 2010

Garden Volunteers

Weed or free plant, the difference really is all about your point of view. I'll admit that there are species almost universally regarded as weeds and unwelcome in the garden. Dandelions. Morning glory. Thistles. And I remember many from my childhood that I loved but my parents saw as weeds. My dad was particularly annoyed by the veronica that colonized the lawn, while I thought they were fairy flowers. Mum hated the freckles violet that I'd picked up at a potluck plant table. I loved them and their invasiveness.

In my new garden I'm eagerly watching all my little garden volunteers as they sprout. Some must have been planted years ago by previous owners. Some tumbled over or crept under the fence from next door. And some I'm sure just appeared, like the veronicas, because the garden needed them. All along the front foundation, and even tucked under the bay window, of the house we have a mass of grape hyacinths. They'll need to be moved later this spring to make way for some new shrubs, but they're so cheery they make me smile every time I see them.

Along one fence I've just noticed violets blooming amongst clumps of emerging bulbs... maybe crocus? I think I'll be moving these little fellows, too. Just a bit farther along so they are between the house and the fence where I'd love to mass violets, lily of the valley and sweet woodruff. Having some volunteers that can just be shifted down is perfect - and cheap! And violets spread so quickly and happily that if I nurture these little guys - a bit of water in our desert summers - they should form a fragrant carpet in no time.

So far I've also spotted iris, tulips (please, don't be yellow or red!), and what I think may be daylilies and a very scraggly, stunted peony. And if all this seems too plant and not enough weed, don't worry, I have those, too. Dandelions, couch grass, yarrow, and enough lilac suckers to prop up all the peas I could ever hope to grow. The crowded, stringy yucca are gone but there's still plenty of backbreaking work in my future! I can't wait to see what else volunteers in our garden and am so happy I'm not the most conscientious weeder. I'm not knowledgeable to identify plants as tiny sprouts and would hate to have lost my violets or peony to over ambitious weeding!

For anyone else inundated with dandelions, don't stress too much, they're quite tasty! Add the young leaves to salads, saute them with plenty of garlic, substitute them for basil in pesto. Or make this tasty twist on the Israeli hot sauce zhoug. Just make sure your dandelions haven't been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides or by neighbourhood dogs and cats!

1 cup young dandelion leaves, washed
1/2 cup cilantro
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, stemmed, seeds removed (or keep the seeds and membranes if you like it hot!) OR 1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed.

Zhoug is amazing drizzled over felafel, anything vegetables, or to perk up eggs. It's also great with tacos, which is how I'll be serving it tonight!

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A quilter from way back with a passion for all things fabric.