Spring Forward 2016

Spring Forward 2016 is an event to celebrate the gardening community. We invite you to join us, Saturday, March 12, 2016 for an afternoon of fellowship, education and socializing. Guest speakers Joe Lamp’l Growing a Greener World and Roger Swain of PBS The Victory Garden, will offer an afternoon of unique views of our communities. Learn more about Spring Forward 2016 and purchased your tickets now. 

When eating today, think of the person who planted the seed. – M A Cramer

First Thanksgiving Menu – 1621

Seafood included: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster

Wild Fowl included: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles

Meat included: Venison, Seal

Grain available: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn

Vegetables included: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots

Fruit included: Plums, Grapes

Nuts included: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns

Herbs and Seasonings: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips

Euell Gibbons

Gibbons was born in Clarksville, Texas, on September 8, 1911, and spent much of his youth in the hilly terrain of New Mexico. According to a 1968 New Yorker magazine profile by John McPhee, his father drifted from job to job, usually taking his family (a wife and four children) with him. During one difficult interval of homesteading, young Euell began foraging for local plants and berries to supplement the family diet. After leaving home at 15, he himself drifted relentlessly through the Southwest, finding work as a dairyman, carpenter, trapper, gold panner, and cowboy. The early years of the Dust Bowl era found Gibbons in California, where he lived as a self-described “bindle stiff” (hobo) and, in sympathy with labor causes, began writing Communist Party leaflets. Later in the 1930s he settled in Seattle, served a stint in the Army, married, and worked as a carpenter, surveyor, and boat builder.

During the late 1930s, Gibbons was still giving more time to his political activity than to his work, and more time to wild food than to politics. After Russia invaded Poland in 1939, however, he renounced Communism and spent most of World War II in Hawaii, building and repairing boats for the Navy. His first marriage, Gibbons recalled, became a “casualty of the war, and in the postwar years he chose the life of a beachcomber on the Hawaiian Islands: living in a thatched-roof hut, ranging the islands for foodstuffs and other items, giving exotic luaus with the provisions he’d gathered.

After entering the University of Hawaii as a 36-year-old freshman, Gibbons majored in anthropology and won the university’s creative-writing prize. The couple relocated to the mainland in 1953, where (after a failed attempt to found a cooperative agricultural community in Indiana) Gibbons became a staff member at Pendle Hill Quaker Study Center near Philadelphia, cooking breakfast for everyone every day. Around 1960, through his wife’s urging and support, he was able to follow through on his earlier aspirations and turn to writing.

At the urging of a New York literary agent, Gibbons agreed to rework the draft of a novel (about a schoolteacher who wows café society with opulent meals of foraged foodstuffs) into a straightforward book on wild food. Capitalizing on the growing return-to-nature movement in 1962, the resulting work, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, became an instant success.

Gibbons then produced the cookbooks Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop in 1964 and Stalking the Healthful Herbs in 1966. He was widely published in various magazines, including two pieces which appeared in National Geographic Magazine. The first article, in the July 1972 issue, described a two-week stay on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine where Gibbons along with his wife Freda and a few family friends relied solely on the island’s resources for sustenance. The second article, which appeared in the August 1973 issue, features Gibbons, along with granddaughter Colleen, grandson Mike, and daughter-in-law Patricia, stalking wild foods in four western states.

A 1974 television commercial for Post Grape-Nuts cereal featured Gibbons asking viewers “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” While he recommended eating Grape Nuts over eating pine trees Gibbons was sometimes mocked in his later years as a sellout to corporate America for becoming a cereal pitchman, however many naturalists still held him in high esteem.

Often mistaken for a survivalist, Gibbons was simply an advocate of nutritious but neglected plants. He typically prepared these not in the wild, but in the kitchen with abundant use of spices, butter and garnishes. Several of his books discuss what he called “wild parties”: dinner parties where guests were served dishes prepared from plants gathered in the wild.

Gibbons died on December 29, 1975, at Sunbury Community Hospital in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. His death was the result of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a complication from Marfan syndrome.

Forgotten Season

Winter is the forgotten season in the garden. Perennials have turned brown and crispy, as have leaves that mere days ago launched their fall-foliage spectacular. The off-season landscape doesn’t have to be desolate and sleepy. “When I design a space I begin with winter,” said Lynden Miller, creator of public gardens in Manhattan, including Central Park’s Conservatory Garden. “Who wants to look at an empty brown ugly bed” in a part of the world “where winter can be five or six months a year?” she asked.

A strategic cold-weather garden offers brilliant red and orange berries of hollies and firethorns when you need them most: When skies are gray and the earth is barren or buried in snow. Bare branches have their own beauty. Viburnum trees stretch horizontally like giant bonsai while bright crimson twigs of a dogwood shrub gleam against white.

Berry-producing trees and bushes bring much-needed color as well as birds to the garden. The profuse yellow, orange or red fruits of firethorn shrubs (Pyracantha) pop against both bark and snow. Variegated hollies such as Ilex aquifolium ‘Argenteo Marginata,’ with green leaves edged in white, are handsome year-round. And Ken Druse, author of a dozen garden books, suggests snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), a bush whose clusters of plump white berries brighten bare branches. Juniper shrubs hold on to their silvery-blue needles all year and produce dusky blue berries (actually very fleshy seed cones) that emit an astringent scent (yes, they are used to flavor gin).Sometimes fauna win out over flora. Don’t get me wrong. I love birds. I keep a full feeder. But by Thanksgiving, the critters denude my winterberry shrubs of their brilliant scarlet berries. Peter Zale, of Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens, suggests ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Aurantiaca,’ whose large berries “birds may have trouble fitting in their mouths.”

Bright-colored or unusual branches save a garden after perennials have given up the ghost and trees and bushes are leafless. A twiggy dogwood called Ivory Halo (Cornus alba ‘Bailhalo’), a favorite of landscape designer Lynden Miller, produces showy, white-outlined leaves in summer and, in winter “has wonderful red stems” 5 to 6 feet tall that stand like sentinels in the snow. Said Mr. Zale, “There are lots of trees I prefer once the leaves fall off.” Stewartia, for instance, is better known for its white, camellia-like summer blooms, but winter reveals the mottled brown, beige and orange bark. Another recommendation: paperbark maple (Acer griseum), which, after a classic autumn flash of brilliant orange-red leaves, shows off cinnamon-colored bark that peels in long, curled strips.

Billowy, tawny grasses are a tonic to the eyes when set against a gray-and-white landscape. The best don’t flop over in cold, wet weather. A 5-foot-tall switchgrass called Dallas Blues (Panicum virgatum) stands up to winter, said Mr. Johnson. “It has a good strong texture, and I like the color in the summer,” when bluish blades contrast with rosy-purple seed heads. He also recommends prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), an 18-inch variety. “It’s easy to grow, is native [to the U.S.], and has fragrant flowers in summer and great texture,” he said. The ostrich-plume-like flowers of Pampas grass wave fetchingly 10 feet high, but this South American native can spread aggressively, so it is suggested you seek out a sterile variety.

Winter-blooming plants lure adventurous pollinators during a warm spell, said Kristin M. Schleiter, the New York Botanical Garden’s associate vice president for outdoor gardens. Her sites’ dozens of witch-hazels, or hamamelis, produce yellow, red or orange flowers as early as January. Spaced along bare limbs, crepe-y plumes release a spicy-sweet citrus scent. (I’ve planted them near my driveway.) As for bulbs: Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) sport dainty drooping white flower heads flecked with green. Leaves resembling medieval jesters’ collars encircle the bright yellow blooms of aconites. Both diminutive flowers show best planted en masse. The vast color range of the snow-shirking hellebore’s waxy, long-lasting, blooms—from inky purple to pale green—make it worth getting in the ground pronto.

Gardeners need to incorporate evergreen plants into their gardens so there are “winter bones,” said Tim Johnson, director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden. He favors boxwood, which, he points out, deer don’t eat, and which can be left to grow into a loose, natural shrub or pruned into formal hedges or topiary. Or opt for evergreens that aren’t green. Mr. Johnson recommends a Japanese false cypress called Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop.’ This ball-shaped shrub grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide, and its yellow needles stand out in winter’s gray. Garden author Mr. Druse suggests an unconventional fir tree called Horstmann’s Silberlocke (Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’). The needles twist as they grow to reveal silvery undersides, and it bears purple seed cones. “Plant the Abies where you can look down on it from a second-story bedroom,” he advised.

Illiana Hot Cocoa


  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup hot water
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 4 cups milk (Dairy or non-dairy) *
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine the cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan.

Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture boils. Stirring constantly for 1 minute after reaching boil..

Stir in the milk and heat, but do not boil.

Remove from the heat and add vanilla; stir well. Serve immediately.

Makes about five servings

* vanilla soymilk and almond milk make good substitutes


Some 10,000 years ago, our ancestors picked tiny berries, collected bitter plants and hunted sinewy game, because these are the foods that occurred naturally in the wild. Then came agriculture, and with it the eventual realization that farmers could selectively breed animals and plants to be bigger, hardier and easier to manage. Here are just a few of the modern supermarket offerings that we have been genetically modifying for centuries:

Plump white chickens belong to a domesticated subspecies of the red junglefowl of Southeast Asia. Supermarket birds are twice the size of their wild counterparts, and they lay eggs on a near-daily basis instead of a few clutches of eggs a year. Meanwhile, Holstein cows have been bred for hundreds of years to be milk-producing marvels, to the point where most milk in the U.S. comes from Holsteins. Some evidence suggests that a protein in their milk may be the cause of lactose intolerance in humans.

Kale has been grown in Greek and Roman gardens for at least 2000 years. So have its cousins broccoli and cauliflower, while the Johnny-come-lately Brussels sprouts appeared by the 1600s. All these veggies descend from Brassica oleracea, a wild cabbage. Some of these cabbages had a mutation for longer, curlier leaves, and plants with the desired genetic traits were bred together until they became a new subspecies, kale. Breeding cabbages with larger flower buds gave us broccoli and cauliflower. The genetic changes meant that cauliflower eventually became white, while broccoli developed a long stem.

Wild bitter almonds contain a handy self-defense mechanism to discourage pests from eating them: cyanide. A couple handfuls are enough to kill a human. Not to be outdone, the seeds of many other plants contain chemicals that break down into cyanide, including apples and apricots. At some point in history, some almond trees developed a mutation so that they lacked the cyanide-producing chemicals. Humans then collected and replanted those almonds, over time breeding a nut that is sweet and poison-free.

Compared to other foods, grapefruits are relatively new and somewhat bizarre. Created sometime in the 18th century, a grapefruit is a hybrid of an orange and a pummelo. The pink variety came from a color mutation discovered in the early 20th century. Around that time, technology also brought a new, faster way for mutations to occur: deliberate radiation exposure. By bombarding plants with x-rays, gamma rays and fast neutrons, scientists were able to create thousands of new plant varieties. Two of those are the Star Ruby and Rio Red grapefruit, with modified genes for enhanced color.

Corn’s wild ancestor doesn’t contain any poisons, but it isn’t very pleasant to eat. Teosinte is a small grassy plant native to Mexico, with small, hard seeds that easily disperse from a tiny cob. Over thousands of years, farmers in North America selectively bred teosinte to have a single tall stalk and large ears with soft kernels that stay on the cob, ready for us to eat. Unfortunately, this fixation on uniform corn has led to steep declines in the crop’s genetic diversity, which may spell trouble for farms facing challenges due to pests and climate shifts.

Some of the unintended consequences of long-term genetic modification mean we have sacrificed flavor for visual appeal. Tomatoes, whose wild ancestors were the size of berries, were bred to be big, red, round and beautiful. In the process, they also lost some of the genes that create sugars and antioxidants, leaving us with a tomato that’s lustrous on the outside, lackluster on the inside.

Snow – Soil Amendment

The University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Sciences says snow contains nutrients that penetrate into the soil and do some good for the plants that will grow later in that soil.

Nutrients include nitro­gen (most prevalent), along with some sulphur and other trace elements. Studies even claim there are more of these nutrients bound up in snow than in the corresponding amount of rain.

Snow is also a slow re­lease moisture source. Rain will soak in for a bit, but then runs off as the ground becomes saturated. Snow sits on the ground and melts slow enough that the moisture has time to soak more deeply and thor­oughly into the soil. Plus, snow acts as mulch over your garden, conserving moisture and providing some winter protection.

The University of Colorado in Boulder reported certain organisms get more active under snow and break down plant litter such as leaves and grass clippings, making more of the nutrients from that debris available for plant growth in the spring.

You can increase these various benefits by shoveling sidewalk and driveway snow to areas of the garden that will eventually benefit from the added moisture and nutrients.