Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chestnut Blight

Chestnut trees were wiped out by a fungus many decades ago, but the same amazingly persistent roots keep resprouting, only to be attacked once again by the fungus as soon as they get an inch or two in diameter. They die back and resprout over and over. Here is a Chestnut sapling located on Dominick Trail, just north of Nells Rock Trail, that recently succumbed another round of the blight. There were still some brown leaves attached to the otherwise bare sapling, and the fungus had a fresh orange color.

Only a few inches away a much smaller Chestnut sapling, probably from the same root system, was untouched by the fungus. For now, anyway.
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"Til We Meet Again"

Here's a mystery engraving along the Far Mill River off of Mill Street at the old dam near the sign kiosk and bench. XXX may stand for kisses, and "Til We Meet Again" was a very popular song in 1918. No idea what "RE IV" is, perhaps someone's initials.

Update 6/9/2009: A reader reports that a 20-yr-old committed suicide at that spot in 2004 and his friends commissioned the engraving. How sad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic Mustard is an herb that was planted in America by Europeans for use in foods, but the plant has become highly invasive. The stuff grows everywhere, like dandelions. It especially likes roadways, but also grows in both wooded and open areas. The herb has a strong smell of garlic with a touch of onion, and there are plenty of recipes you can find online, but the most commonly recommended food is Garlic Mustard Pesto.

I decided to give it a whirl, fully expecting it to taste like crap, because stuff they say you can eat from the wild usually does. Dandelion greens, for example, I find simply revolting, but people have been eating them for ages.

This time around, however, I was amazed. The pesto was delicious, assuming you like garlic, especially spread over Triscuits, but like any pesto you can also put it on pasta or whatever. My teenage son and husband liked it. I took it to work and people loved it and wanted to know all about Garlic Mustard and where it can be picked.

I used almost the entire bag of Garlic Mustard in the above photo to make one batch of the recipe, which requires 3 packed cups of Garlic Mustard (it's more than you think) along with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan Cheese and Romano Cheese, chopped up in the food processor. There are many Garlic Mustard Pesto recipes on the internet, but here is the one I used. Important tip: The pesto is better after sitting in the frig for a day.

Here's where I got my Garlic Mustard: Birchbank Trail, just in from the parking area on Birchbank Road. In the photo above, all the plants growing right along the trail are Garlic Mustard. Yes, there is an ordinance against picking plants in the open space but trust me, it's more than OK. You will be doing us all a favor by removing this invasive plant and you could be pulling it up for hours at Birchbank and there would still be lots more. In places it is smothering out Dutchman Breeches and Trillium, and that's just not right. And please, bare root the plant, but don't throw the remains on your mulch pile, or it'll take root. There are an infinitive number of other places Garlic Mustard grows (quite possibly in your backyard, for starters), but I don't recommend eating anything right along the roadway due to possible contamination of the soils with heavy metals.