Botany

I’ll Have My Aronia Cocktail Now, Please

Posted on May 28, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 3 comments

I’ll Have My Aronia Cocktail Now, Please

Earlier this year at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show,  I was hanging out with Jessi Bloom of NW Bloom (and author of Free-Range Chicken Gardens) in her exhibit booth. She had brought a selection of edible landscaping plants — reliable, hardworking shrubs, vines, trees and the like that would behave in the landscape and provide some food. The star of the show was Aronia melanocarpa, sometimes known as black chokeberry. It’s a medium-sized shrub that puts out white blooms in spring and small dark fruit in fall. Nice enough plant, I thought. Then she brought me over to the...

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The Drunken Botanist on NPR’s Morning Edition

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 in Botany, Media | 0 comments

The Drunken Botanist on NPR’s Morning Edition

Listen to the NPR Morning Edition interview here. The next time you’re sipping on a glass of something boozy, consider the plants behind your beverage. Some of them might spring immediately to mind: grapes in your wineglass, rye in your whiskey bottle, juniper in your gin and tonic. But what about sorghum and coriander? Cinchona and bitter orange? An incredible diversity of grains, herbs and fruits goes into the world’s alcoholic drinks, which means that for the botanically minded, a trip to the liquor store is a little different than it is for the rest of us. Amy Stewart explains...

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The Cocktail Garden!

Posted on Jan 23, 2013 in Botany, Make This | 1 comment

The Cocktail Garden!

So!  Sunset magazine stopped by a few months ago. It was great fun hanging out with a couple of pros all day and watching them work.  (Oh, and there was some mixing of cocktails, too.)  Anyway, you can see the results in the February issue of Sunset, which is just hitting the stands now. And now–I’m delighted to share these charming hand-drawn illustrative plans of the cocktail garden that Susan Morrison of Creative Exteriors Landscape Design designed for me.  Susan is a cocktail aficionado and an expert in small-space gardening:  her book Garden Up! , co-authored with...

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Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 0 comments

Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber

This is not actually a cucumber. It’s a close relative, Melothria scabra, native to Central America and Mexico, with a bright, tart flavor a bit bolder than a cucumber—but the flavor isn’t the only reason to grow this one. The fruits themselves are only the size of a grape, but they resemble miniature watermelons, with a mottled green and white skin. They’re the perfect size for a drink garnish. (get them here) Look for them in garden centers, but if you can’t find them, grow them from seed. They’ll get up and running quickly, they’ll tolerate cold better...

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Celery

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 1 comment

Celery

If you’ve never grown celery, this is the year you’re going to start. It would never have occurred to me to plant celery in my garden, but someone gave me a few starts, so what choice did I have? I happened to have a good spot for them: I put them near the kitchen door, where they get rich, moist soil and about a half day of shade. The celery thrived, and I found out that I’d been crazy not grow it before. I used it in everything: soups, salads, all kinds of dishes that could be improved by celery if only I had some on hand. And of course, I used it in drinks. The celery to...

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Strawberries

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 1 comment

Strawberries

The trick with strawberries is to plant them in a vertical planter or hanging basket so the berries are more or less suspended in the air, not turning to mush on the ground. I turned an old wooden medicine cabinet into a vertical planter last year by knocking out the mirror and replacing it with chicken wire, then drilling holes in the top, bottom, and back for drainage and air circulation. I placed it on its back and filled it with potting soil enriched with coco fiber. (Ask at the garden center for a potting soil with coco fiber designed for hanging baskets—it holds much more water, which...

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Rhubarb

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 0 comments

Rhubarb

There is no special trick to planting rhubarb. Just give it some sunlight, plenty of compost, and choose a permanent spot, because rhubarb doesn’t like to get moved around. Space the crowns about 3 feet apart, and bury them just deep enough to cover the top of the crown with a couple inches of soil. Pile a little more aged manure around the plants every spring, give it regular water, and that’s all the care it needs. Go easy the first year or two, harvesting only a few stalks. By the third year you’ll get a better harvest, but don’t ever pick more than half the stalks from a single...

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Sloe

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 0 comments

Sloe

Also known as the blackthorn bush or by its Latin name, Prunus spinosa, this large European hedgerow plant produces the small, tart fruit used to make sloe gin. It’s hard to find in these parts, but try Forest Farm nursery in Oregon or Lincoln Oakes nursery in North Dakota.  Sloes can take a little light shade, but they do get over 12 feet tall, so give them plenty of room and don’t expect fruit for a few years—sloes are, well, slow. The instructions for making sloe gin are pretty similar to those of cassis, except you’ll use gin. Or you can just go buy a bottle of sloe gin. Plymouth...

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Black Currant

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 0 comments

Black Currant

We Americans don’t drink much cassis, and that’s a shame. This thick, rich, French liqueur, made from the fruit of the black currant bush, turns an ordinary glass of dry white wine, sparkling wine, or hard cider into something wonderful.  I’ve even heard tell of it being mixed with red wine, or with beer. A little dollop of it in sparkling water is not such a bad thing, either. (The fine people at Clear Creek Distillery make an excellent American version if you don’t want to bother growing your own.) So why don’t we Americans grow black currants?  It was banned in the 1920s for...

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Blackberries

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Botany, Plant This | 1 comment

Blackberries

What’s that you say? You want me to actually buy blackberries?  What’s wrong with all the blackberries taking over my back yard? Well, those are Himalayan blackberries, an aggressive Asian invader, and in addition to those incredibly painful thorns, the fruit is full of unpleasant seeds and not particularly tasty. You can do much better.  Follow the same general instructions as raspberries, but make life easy on yourself and choose a thornless variety that will be easy to tell apart from any Himalayan blackberries that try to sneak in. You might also try loganberries, which are a cross...

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