I have a very nice garden. The plants grow in sections as tidy as a nine-patch quilt. We are diligent about weed control and proper feeding with organic compost. I grow the usual stuff, green beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, turnips, you know, the regular vegetables that will grace my table throughout the year. But I have a socond non-garden. This is the one I don’t mulch or weed. It doesn’t grow in neat, raised beds or get fertilized. Still it is my favorite garden, secret and special. This is my wild garden, consisting mostly of stuff I found growing wild or transplanted from a wild place. A few of the plants are herbs I planted and let go and some are mushrooms I started from spawn.

Last evening, I had several friends drop by. Some of these are woman with actuals degrees in botany and years of experience identifying plants. My usual method is to wander around a bit aimlessly with a couple of identification books and a puzzled look on my face. This was a very different experience. These ladies knew what they were doing. Our plan is to visit each other’s homes and try to identify what is growing and determine how it can be used.

It is remarkable to look at the diversity in my backyard. The shades of color, the shapes of foliage and flower, the texture, the fragrance , combine to make  magic in what I used to see as a sea of green.

We found mullein, coltsfoot, amaranth and Jerusalem artichoke. I have jewel weed, honeysuckle, honey berries and poke weed. Some of the plants are edible, some medicinal, some dangerous and and some just beautiful to look at. I believe in evolution rather than divine design but after last night I am thinking that evolution is Divine design.

Yesterday I had a chicken of the woods mushroom for lunch. There are few mushroom specimens as lovely to look at. The top is a fluorescent orange and the under part a soft yellow. Unfortunately, the flavor did not live up to the beauty of the package. I sauteed the shroom with leeks and garlic in some olive oil and bacon and served it over Asian noodles. I found it bland, somewhat like firm tofu, taking on the flavors of the other foods but having no real identity on its own. The texture was terrific, firm yet tender and  quite meatlike. I would eat it again for that reason alone.

Today is another rainy day. In spite of the soggy weather, I plan to slip into my high rubber boots and raincoat and wander again today. One of the things I have learned is that I will not always be comfortable. Sometimes I will be wet and cold or hot and sticky and that is no bad thing when what I get in return is an opportunity to be “in the world” . I actually like to be cold when I know I shall soon be warm. Hungry is a good feeling when one can anticipate eating soon.

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