My hometown of Sherwood Park, Canada, is the birthplace of Booster Juice: Canada’s largest smoothie bar chain. I remember approaching the counter one day after soccer practice, and seeing a curious little flat of grassy sprouts, the contents of which were being freshly juiced into 30 milliliter shots. Feeling adventurous, I sprung for a dash of this mysterious grassy green elixir in my Mango Tango smoothie, but was disappointed to find that I paid extra to make my tropical fruit blend taste like a freshly-mowed lawn.
This was my first encounter with wheatgrass.
A couple of years passed before I figured out what, exactly, wheatgrass is. The answer somewhat banal: It’s wheat, or more specifically, the monocotydedon (or embryonic leaf) of Triticum aestivum, the common wheat plant.
Periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) are among those insects that arrive in plagues.
Related to smaller bugs like leafhoppers, they are often mistakenly called locusts. But the similarities between cicadas and Biblically-significant pests are limited to their tendency to congregate en masse. Unlike swarming locusts—which eat everything green in times of drought—periodical cicadas descend upon deciduous trees (their preferred food source) in the eastern United States for a period of about four or six weeks, on specific years.
Divided into regionally-distinct and synchronous “broods,” different species of Magicicada emerge on either 13- or 17-year cycles; the vast majority of their lives are spent in a larval stage under the soil, sucking nutrients from tree roots.
Right now, the so-called “Brood V” of 17-year periodical cicadas has emerged in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, right on schedule. This brood consists of three species: Magicicada cassinii, Magicicada septendecim, and Magicicada septendecula.
Grafting is a task most gardeners associate with trees, but there are numerous applications of this garden skill in working with herbaceous or annual plants. Chiefly, grafting is a viable way to gain more productivity with vegetables in the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and ground cherries.
New novelty grafted nightshades have made it to market in recent years, like the “Ketchup and Fries” or “Pomato” plant—a cherry tomato grafted onto a potato rootstock—and the “Egg and Chips” plant—an eggplant grafted to a potato rootstock.
One of my many forays into the wonderful world of retail was working at a garden centre, as a “trees and shrub sales associate.” It was a crash course in memorising pertinent information on plants, in order to best advise the customers.
For example, in selling plants in the genus Prunus (plums, cherries, almonds, peaches, nectarines, bird cherries, sloe, and others), this meant closing my eyes and picturing a chart on cross-pollination every time I informed a customer they couldn’t purchase a single tree, and still expect fruit.
Sola dosis facit venenum: The Dose Makes the Poison
In the springtime, a special delicacy to be had is the emerging, curled frond of the fern, called a fiddlehead because of it’s resemblance to the scroll of a fiddle.
Not all fiddleheads are classified as edible: among the most-consumed species are the Vegetable fern (Athyrium esculentum), Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Royal fern (Osmunda regalis), Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), Lady fern, (Athyrium filix-femina), and Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum).