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Gardening

You can eat the fruit and the flower

     My neighbors run away when they see me coming with armloads of zucchini. Yes, zucchini grows fast. But it is also a wonderful vegetable. Not only are the zucchini edible, so are the flowers.      In the Blue Zone of Ikaria, Greece, zucchini is used in a variety of ways. As much as I like to cook, in the summer I like to make easy uncomplicated dishes. I believe the hot weather in Ikaria also encourages people to do the same. 
Plants bring you shade, color, fragrance, flowers and fruit
     This summer has brought some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded. Having a pool or some body of water, even a kiddie pool, can help you get through the summer and not melt when you come outside. Getting wet enables you to tolerate the excessive temperatures our summers are bringing.      The plants you place around your pool area can make it look like a tropical getaway.
There are many good bugs ready to help you and your garden thrive
     Before you spray your garden for those pests that seem to sample everything you like to grow, learn who the good guys are, as they will be your allies in the long run. The less insecticides you use, the more a natural balance of predators will occur. There are many good bugs out there ready to help. It may take some time, as they need to be encouraged. 

Abundant vegetables approve of our gardening strategy

 

    In starting this column last January, I challenged you to grow a garden and to eat a primarily plant-based diet. The goal was to make our beautiful Bay area a Blue Zone of long-lived happy people.  To start my own home vegetable garden, roughly one-seventh of an acre, I had trees brought down and stumps dug out. We tilled the ground and raked out thousands of roots. I had a soil test done and corrected the pH to about 6.5.

The many buckeye trees are ­pleasing to the eye, too

The most magnificent horse chestnut is Aesculus parviflora: the bottlebrush buckeye. This native shrub attracts pollinators extraordinarily. I planted it several years ago along a sunny fence; it now takes up an area about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide.     It blooms June to July with beautiful candelabra-like white flower spikes that are abuzz with all kinds of native bees and beneficial flies. The peachy-pink pollen exudes a delicate fragrance into the air.

Choose organic, as many flowers are sprayed with toxins

 

      Flowers have been used in cooking since antiquity. The flower is simply another edible part of a plant. They have been enjoyed not only by the royal and the wealthy but also by our frugal agricultural ancestors. Before the 16th century, most parts of a plant — shoots, leaves, roots and bark as well as flowers — had uses. They were used to make food, drink, medicine, fragrant concoctions and flavored vinegars.

These red, white and blue flowers love growing together

 

     Your garden can give you red, white and blue flowers to celebrate our nation’s independence. Plan and plant this year for flowers that bloom near the end of June and early July. Then fashion your homegrown arrangement for a Fourth of July picnic. 

They’re tasty and good for you 

 

      Our native berry has minimal disease problems. It doesn’t take up a lot of room. It’s good for you and tastes great. Eating them puts you in harmony with native Americans, who foraged them for centuries.

This gift of nature is yours for the taking right now

 

     Driving along the highways during most of June, you may see the most delightful flowering native shrub or small tree. The flowers of native elderflower, Sambucus canadensis, have especially stood out this year, like antique edging on highways, where there are wet areas on the margins of woods. The extra heavy blossoming is likely due to the heavy rains last year and a good amount of moist weather this year. 

The herb is a balm for many senses

 

      Once you learn how to grow lavender (covered in last week’s column) you’ll want to use it. The French put lavender in everything. They use it decoratively, for fragrance, in medicine, in cooking, in making liquers, in landscaping and for repelling moths. When you purchase a woolen product in France, it usually comes with a small bag of lavender to keep moths out. Lavender can keep its fragrance for many years.