Monthly Archives: May 2014

We’re Moving… Be Back in a Bit!

We are transitioning back to the United States after 4 years of living abroad. It is quite the undertaking to move a dog and a family of 8 (wife, 4 kids, 2 grandparents, and me) in general, let alone across continents! Because of this, I will be not be posting for a week or so. I’ll be back soon!

Saying Goodbye to the Azores

My family and I have spent the last 2 years living in the Azores, an oceanic (maritime) temperate climate. The Azores are a group of 9 Portuguese, volcanic islands about 850 miles (1925 km) off the coast of Portugal. That puts it pretty much 2/3 of the distance from New York to Lisbon… rather isolated in the North Atlantic Ocean. We lived on Terceira Island, the third largest island of the archipelago.
Population: Dairy cattle = 100,000… Humans = 50,000… seriously!

Azores

A view of Terceira Island, Azores.
Our home for 2 years.

Azores

My photo from the plane.

I love this photo for a few reasons. First it shows Porto Martins, the village where we live. Second, it shows Mount Pico on Pico Island in the way back behind the clouds. Third, it shows a couple prominent landmarks, Mount Brazil and Split Rock. Fourth, it shows the amazing cloud cover of the island. These islands are very remote in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The islands are covered in green – pastures and forests. This greenery, along with the mountains popping up in the middle of the flat ocean, creates the perfect conditions for this island cloud formation. On other islands in the world, where people have cleared most of the trees from the island, this cloud cover stops forming and the island slowly becomes a desert. This shows that the Azores are still managing their natural resources pretty well.

Azores

A closer view of Porto Martins, Terceira Island, Azores

Split Rock, Terceira Island, Azores

A closer view of Split Rock, Terceira Island, Azores.
I can’t find the exact date of the split, but it was in fairly recent history.

Patchwork Fields, Terceira Island, Azores

Patchwork Fields, Terceira Island, Azores

I have previously written about the Azorean style of rotational grazing. While not as prominent on some of the other islands, our island of Terceira is covered in permanent pastures divided by mostly dry-stacked volcanic rock walls.

Cow Jam, Terceira Island, Azores

Cow Jam, Terceira Island, Azores

The dairy cattle are rotated through the pastures every day or every few days. Many farmers own or rent fields that are not next to each other, so the cattle have to walk the roads from one pasture to the next. It is fairly common for me to get stuck in a cow jam (never a traffic jam!) on the way to work.

A walk through the pastures

My wife, kids, and father taking a walk through the pastures… beautiful!
Terceira Island, Azores

Me at the botanic gardens.

Me at the botanic gardens. Old Gingko biloba trees.
São Miguel Island, Azores 

One overlook on São Miguel Island, Azores.

One overlook on São Miguel Island, Azores.
The green pastures are used in rotational grazing of cattle.

My boys taking photos of a waterfall. Me at the botanic gardens. Terceira Island, Azores

My boys taking photos of a waterfall.
Terceira Island, Azores

The hilly pastures of the Azores. São Miguel Island, Azores

The hilly pastures of the Azores.
São Miguel Island, Azores

Lagoa das Sete Cidades São Miguel Island, Azores

Lagoa das Sete Cidades
São Miguel Island, Azores

The twin lakes and small village of Sete Cidades are located in the crater left from the volcanic eruption. Wikipedia recounts the legend of how these lakes were formed. I think it is amazing that a village is located inside a volcanic caldera!

Tea Plantation São Miguel Island, Azores

Tea Plantation
São Miguel Island, Azores

The Azores are the only location in Europe where tea is commercially grown. I was driving on São Miguel Island and saw this unique landscape. I almost passed it by until I realized what it was. My wife would say I screeched to a halt in the middle of the road… what can I say? I was excited. This is the only tea plantation I have ever seen. Due to its remote location in the Atlantic Ocean, there are no pests or diseases that bother the tea plants (Camellia sinensis). The Gorreana Estate has been in continuous tea production since 1883, and it still uses much of its original equipment… all run by hydro power generated from natural springs.

My wife at  São Miguel Island, Azores

My beautiful wife at Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire)
São Miguel Island, Azores

Yet another breathtaking pasture/overlook. São Miguel Island, Azores

Yet another breathtaking pasture/overlook.
São Miguel Island, Azores 

My oldest daughter bringing milk to a calf. Terceira Island, Azores

My oldest daughter bringing milk to a calf.
Terceira Island, Azores

My second son milking a traditional Azorean dual purpose dairy and beef breed of cattle. Terceira Island, Azores

My second son milking a traditional Azorean dual purpose dairy and beef breed of cattle.
Read more about it by clicking on the photo.
Terceira Island, Azores

My kids and me with some baby mice I found in the garden. Terceira Island, Azores

My kids and me with some baby mice I found in the garden.
Read more about it by clicking on the photo.
Terceira Island, Azores

My family says goodbye to the Azores... this is one block from our home. Terceira Island, Azores

My family says goodbye to the Azores… this is one block from our home!
Porto Martins, Terceira Island, Azores

So thankful to be able to provide these memories to my children. Terceira Island, Azores

So thankful to be able to provide these memories to my children.
Terceira Island, Azores

 

 

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Photo References: All photos are mine (except the very first island photo and the photo of Split Rock). If you would like to use them, please let me know!

 

Domestic Beef Cattle: Breeds (Part 5)

This is a continuation of a previous article on domestic beef cattle breeds.

See the other articles:
Domestic Beef Cattle: Terminology and Breeds (Part 1)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 2)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 3)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 4)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 5)
Domestic Beef Cattle Breeds (Part 6)

 

Red Poll Cattle

Red Poll Cattle

Red Poll Cow

Red Poll

41. Red Poll

  • Origin: England, in Norfolk and Suffolk counties (shires).
  • Type: Meat, although it was a traditional dual-purpose meat and dairy breed.
  • Flavor: Considered “excellent”, tender with fine grain, good marbling, and “full flavor”.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Dark/Deep Red.
  • Horns: Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Produces well on pasture and low quality forage. Hardy. Still has good milk production. Good fertility. Good calving. Good mothers. Long-lived. Popular for homesteaders who want a successful dual-purpose animal.

 

Romagnola Bull

Romagnola Bull

Romagnola Cow

Romagnola Cow

42. Romagnola

  • Origin: Italy, from the Romagna region in the north. An old breed from both ancient Aurochs subspecies, but formally developed for beef in the mid 1800’s.
  • Type: Meat, although it was a traditional a primary draft breed.
  • Flavor: Flavorful and tender, but lean.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Silver Gray to White with black horns, eyes, nose, and tail. All have black skin.
  • Horns: Medium.
  • Temperament: “Docile, but alert, making it an easy breed to handle”, and this makes sense considering its draft origins.
  • Notes: Tolerant of hot and cold climates. Tolerate rugged terrain. Good mothers.

 

Salers Cow and Bull

Salers Cow and Bull

Salers Cattle

Salers Cattle

43. Salers

  • Origin: France, near the south-central town of Salers in the Auvergne region.
  • Type: Meat, although it was a traditional triple-purpose meat, dairy, and draft breed.
  • Flavor: Good marbling with “full beef flavor”
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: All deep Red or Black.
  • Horns: Horned, but some are Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Some may be nervous, but most are “docile”, “calm”, and “very intelligent”.
  • Notes: Pronounced “say-LAIR”. Still used as a dual-purpose meat and dairy animal in some locations. Good calving. Good mothers. Performs well on forage and pasture. Tolerates temperature extremes. A very old breed with pure genetics.

 

Santa Gertrudis Bull

Santa Gertrudis Bull

Santa Gertrudis Cattle

Santa Gertrudis Cattle

44. Santa Gertrudis

  • Origin: Texas, USA. Developed in the early 1900’s on the King Ranch from Shorthorn, Shorthorn-cross, Brahman, and Brahman-cross cattle.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: “Nice flavor”.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Variety of colors and patterns.
  • Horns: Small.
  • Temperament: “Noted for their even temperament”.  “Protective mothers”.
  • Notes: Hardy. Tolerant of harsh hot or cold climates. Tick-resistant. Good forager. Good fertility. Good mothers. Long-lived.

 

Senepol Bull

Senepol Bull

Senepol Cattle

Senepol Cattle

45. Senepol

  • Origin: Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Developed in 1785 from N’Dama (an African breed) and Red Poll cattle.
  • Type: Meat, although the goal of this breed was for a dual-purpose meat and dairy breed.
  • Flavor: Tender and lean, flavorful
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Light to dark Red or Reddish-Brown.
  • Horns: Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Tolerant of hot and humid climates. Performs well on poor forage and pasture. Pest and disease resistant. Good milk production for a non-dairy breed.

 

Shorthorn Bull

Shorthorn Bull

Shorthorn Cow

Shorthorn Cow

46. Shorthorn

  • Origin: Britain, Tess River Valley in northeast England. Developed in 1783 from native British, German, and Dutch short-horned cattle from the local area.
  • Type: Meat, although it was a traditional dual-purpose beef and dairy breed.
  • Flavor: Tender, “Succulent”
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Solid Red to White with Red spots, Red Brindled, or Roan.
  • Horns: Small… or you could say, “short!”.
  • Temperament: Excellent”, “Docile”, “Easy to manage”.
  • Notes: Performs well on pasture. Good calving. Good mothers. Good milk production.

 

Simmental Bull

Simmental Bull

Simmental Cow and Cattle

Simmental Cow and Cattle

47. Simmental

  • Origin: Switzerland, in the Simme Valley.
  • Type: Meat, although it was a traditional triple purpose beef, dairy, and draft breed.
  • Flavor: Lean, good beef flavor
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: Solid or White-Spotted on Yellow or Red or Black.
  • Horns: Horned or Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Quiet, gentle, extremely docile
  • Notes: Very good milk production for a non-dairy breed. Rugged. Good mothers. Tolerant of various climates.

 

South Devon Cattle

South Devon Cattle

South Devon Cow

South Devon Cow

48. South Devon

  • Origin: Devonshire (i.e. Devon County) ( …the South Side), England.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean, but still marbled and juicy.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: Reddish Orange.
  • Horns: Horned or Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Gentle. “Exceptionally docile”.
  • Notes: Performs well on forage and pasture. Good mothers.

 

Tarentaise Cattle

Tarentaise Cattle

Tarentaise Cattle

Tarentaise Cattle

49. Tarentaise

  • Origin: France, Tarentaise Valley in the French Alps.
  • Type: Meat, although it is still used traditionally as a dairy breed in France.
  • Flavor: Good beef flavor.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Reddish to Dark Brown with Black eyes, nose, and tails.
  • Horns: Horned or Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Good milk production. Good production on pasture. Good fertility. Good mothers. Long-lived. Adaptable to various climates.

 

Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn

50. Texas Longhorn

  • Origin: Texas, USA. Developed in the 1820’s from Spanish cattle brough to the Americas in the late 1400’s that had gone wild and northern European cattle breeds.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Good beef flavor, good marbling, but still lean, “great taste”
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Variety of colors and patterns, but most common Black and White or Red and White.
  • Horns: Large.
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Tolerant to hot and dry climates, but also adaptable to many other climates. Pest and disease resistant. Good mothers. Long-lived.

 

Tuli Cattle

Tuli Cattle

Tuli Cattle

Tuli Cattle

51. Tuli

  • Origin: Zimbabwe. Developed in the 1940-50’s from local cattle.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: “Receives consistent excellent ratings for its flavor, tenderness, and marbling”.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Red to Reddish Brown to Golden Brown to Silver Gray.
  • Horns: Horned or Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: “Docile nature”.
  • Notes: Performs well on poor forage. Good fertility. Adaptable to a wide variety of climates, but does very well in the heat. Handles drought well.

 

Welsh Black Bull

Welsh Black Bull

Welsh Black Cattle

Welsh Black Cattle

52. Welsh Black

  • Origin: Wales.
  • Type: Meat, althought it was traditionally a dual-purpose meat and dairy breed.
  • Flavor: Tender, “Superb eating quality”, “Uncommonly tasty”.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Black, but sometimes Red. Shaggy coat.
  • Horns: Horned or Polled (naturally hornless).
  • Temperament: “Noted for its docility”.
  • Notes: Hardy. Performs well on poor forage and pasture. Good fertility. Good milk production. Good calving. Good mothers. Long-lived.

 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-E60_CmVYH5g/Tbhvo9xgbrI/AAAAAAAAAIc/ohkhm_xZQgs/s1600/cattle+group.JPG
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Red_Poll_Cambridge.jpg
  • http://www.wyomingromagnolas.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Flynn-EKKA-20121.jpg
  • http://www.wyomingromagnolas.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Fern-EKKA-2012.jpg
  • http://www.elevage-salers.fr/Taureau_salers.jpg
  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-wLftFCudr_I/UelKp-XMH2I/AAAAAAAABvE/wKedLfprUj4/s1600/1307_untitled_080.jpg
  • http://c.cld.pw/178/cms/custom/09calendar.jpg
  • http://www.santagertrudis.co.za/img/2011/09/KVS-08-2621.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/Toro_25M.jpg
  • http://senepolcattleqld.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Ians-2161.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Beef_Shorthorn_Bull.jpg
  • http://www.slaussies.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/millie.jpg
  • http://www.kilbridefarm.co.uk/Cairnview_Snazzy.jpg
  • http://www.focusgenetics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/SimmCowCalf1.1.jpg
  • http://www.lickhillherd.co.uk/images/primrose%2009%20JNL%20AD.jpeg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/South_Devon_cattle.JPG
  • http://ankenmanranch.com/images/bulls/p124h_8.jpg
  • http://www.dnarancher.com/images/Tarentaise001%20crop.jpg
  • http://www.texaslonghorn.com/pr/photos/S_5345.jpg
  • http://www.lunsfordridgefarm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Longhorn-51.jpg
  • http://agtr.ilri.cgiar.org/agtrweb/images/CattleImage/Tuli7.jpg
  • http://www.raueasy.com/img/tuli-home-img1.jpg
  • https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3249/5743988017_2a5fe445f1_z.jpg
  • http://farmersguardian.smugmug.com/Livestocksales/Dolgellau-Market-Jan-7-2014/i-wzrXKgS/0/L/FG%20Welsh%20Black%20Show%20%26%20Sale%203-L.jpg

You Never Arrive, But You Can Always Leave

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
– C. S. Lewis

I am on the brink of a major change in my life. I am separating from the Air Force after seven years of service. My family and I are returning to the United States after living overseas for four years. While I will still be working as a physician, over the next 12-24 months I will be building the foundation for transition to a more agrarian life. Truth be told, I have been designing this transition for many years, but the time has finally come to start putting it into action, and I am really excited about it!

Over the last year, as more and more friends and colleagues learn about what I am doing and realize that I actually plan to do it, I have witnessed a variety of responses. Quite a few people just don’t understand. They look at me as a parent would look at a painting their young child created. They are trying to be polite, but they have no idea what they are looking at. Some people cannot comprehend why I would not just continue working solely as a physician. They don’t understand why I don’t care about amassing a large bank account and retirement plan. They don’t understand that I can’t stay on this hamster wheel any longer and that I would prefer to spend time with my family than build a professional reputation. I know that I will never give a good enough explanation to justify my actions in their mind and with their worldview, so I have stopped trying.

But most people seem to be a bit envious. Even if they have no desire to “be a farmer”, as they say, they desire to disconnect from the system. They wish they could not always feel so exhausted. They wish they could live a simpler life. They shake their head and say something like, “I wish I could…” or “If only…” or “In another life…” Part of me wants to slap them and say, “Why not you? Why not now?”

The reality is that we all have the ability to walk away. Every single one of us. We all have the ability to unplug. We all have the ability to disconnect from the system. I am doing it now. You can do it, too.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
– J. R. R. Tolkien

_______

Unhappiness is something we are never taught about; we are taught to expect happiness, but never a Plan B to use to use when the happiness doesn’t arrive.
– Douglas Coupland

The problem is that too many people do not realize they have a choice. They are shackled with fear and debt and over commitment. They feel they must keep playing the game. They feel that they are too far gone. They are in too deep. They have no way out. And while this is entirely false, perception is reality.

But that perception can change, and then so does your reality.

We are what we believe we are.
– C. S. Lewis

The decision to transition into a new phase of life can be sudden. In fact, it often is. There is a classic lightbulb moment for many people, and this moment is usually instigated. Maybe it is a photograph. Maybe it is a book. Maybe it will be this article. But there is a little tickle of a thought, kind of like an itch in the back of your mind. You absently try to scratch it, but it just won’t go away. Then, once you put your focus on it… bam! Your eyes are opened. You suddenly see the possibilities. You can do what you want. You can just walk away. You have power. You have control. It is scary, but it is so liberating. A burden is suddenly dropped from your shoulders. You feel free.

For others, the decision to transition is more gradual. It wears at them over time. The burdens keep piling up and up and getting heavier and heavier. Then finally, just as a straw can break a camel’s back, that one last thing occurs. The person finally says enough is enough. The decision has been made.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
– C. S. Lewis

While the decision to transition to do something new with your life can be sudden or gradual, the transition itself must be planned. This is not an overnight process. Granted, for some it can be an overnight event, but for most of us there has to be a fair amount of planning for this transition to happen and for it to be successful. There are too many stories of people hating their jobs and their lives but feeling stuck, so they do nothing. But there are also too many stories of people making a sudden, impulsive decision, acting on it too soon, and then failing miserably. They fail because they jumped in without testing the water’s depth, and they find themselves injured. Then they limp back to their previous life, wounded and scarred for the rest of their days. These people are dangerous. They are a cancer to anyone who wants to step out of the system. They will constantly eat at you, reminding you over and over again why your plan to escape will not work. They are proof, after all, that escaping from the system is just a dream. If it didn’t work for them, it certainly won’t work for you.

My advice is to steer clear of these people. If you can’t avoid them (e.g. because they are your family or close friends), then please don’t let their words gain traction in your heart.

_______

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.
– Maurice Chevalier

The question that always arises is, “When do I actually leave?” I wish there was a formula for this, but there is not. It will be different for every single person. I would caution against two things. First, do not jump ship too soon. There is a right timing for many things, and this is one of them. Start making plans. Get out of debt. Make sure your immediate family is all on board. If the family is not, then this is where negotiations and compromises will take place. For me personally, I would be very happy in an extremely rural environment. But I know my wife and kids would prefer to have some of the amenities that a larger town will offer. Start saving money. Educate yourself about what you want to do. Consider workshops or even another degree. This will all depend on what are trying to transition into.

Second, do not get stuck in analysis paralysis. This is where you say, “Ready, set, set, set…” There needs to be a point where you finally yell, “Go!” Some times are going to be better than others, but there is rarely a best time. I often repeat the words of one of my mentors, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Sometimes all you can do is the best you can do, and then it is time to move forward.

Another thing to consider is that the transition doesn’t have to occur all at once. It can be gradual. In my situation, partly out of desire to keep working as a physician because I enjoy it and partly because it will provide some financial stability for my large family, I plan to slowly cut back my physician hours over the next 12-24 months as our new life begins to emerge and take more time. At some point, instead of being a full-time physician and a part-time Permaculturist-Consultant-Teacher-Homesteader-etc., I will be a part-time physician and a full-time Permaculturist-Consultant-Teacher-Homesteader-etc. I entirely understand that this option is not available to everyone. I do think that if a person is willing to take whatever job they can, just for a season, then it will open more possibilities for transition, but again, every person’s story and path is unique.

_______

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
– Matsuo Basho

Finally, and this is vitally important, so please don’t miss this… we will never arrive. We should never get to a point where we say, “I am done. I have accomplished everything I have set out to do, and there is no more.” That is the day we start to wither and die. I have had a number of patients who have spent their lives working for one company or another. They put in their time while raising a family. They reach their 20 or 30 year mark, sometimes a second time with another company, and then they decide it is time to retire. Their entire life was consumed with their job, and when they retire, they have no idea what do to anymore. Their goal was to “make it to retirement”, and so they have nothing left. They have no direction. They have no goals. These patients of mine bring me such sadness. Some of them have lost marriages and relationships with their children, because they were so driven to excel in their career that they are alone at the finish line. And they realize that the finish line was just an arbitrary line marked on an even longer road. But now they have no map. They don’t know what to do. Some, fortunately, find a new path. Others, unfortunately, start to fade away. I believe many people die on the day of their retirement, only it takes a few years for their bodies to realize it.

No, what we need to do is realize that we can enjoy our accomplishments. We can take time to slow down and rest. We can sit back and smile as we see what we have created. This is good. Over time, our goals will change for sure, but we should never stop striving. We must continue to learn and to create and to grow.

I love to travel, but hate to arrive.
– Hernando Cortez

We cannot view the end of our transition as the goal, whether that transition is starting a business, becoming a doctor, starting a farm, etc. – we cannot see that as the goal. The movies always portray a person accomplishing a task, and sometimes another character even leans over and whispers, “You have finally arrived!”, and then the movie ends. But what happens after the credits role? That is not the end! Our story doesn’t stop with accomplishing a single task. We cannot get stuck in the trap that says the task, or the destination, is what life is about. It is not. It is about the journey.

I believe that if we want to have a fulfilled life, we need to walk away from the status quo. We need to leave mediocrity behind. We need to say goodbye to the lies and empty promises of what the world sells as success, and we need to pursue our passions. We need to be intentional about this. We need to be methodical and wise. We need to set goals, but never final destinations. And finally, we just need to get started.

You never arrive, but you can always leave.
– John Kitsteiner

 

If you enjoyed this article, you may want to read The Myth of the Perfect Job.

 

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Photo References:

  • Painting at the top of the article is: Metamorphosis by Vladimir Kush.
    http://vladimirkush.com/metamorphosis

 

Permaculture Plants: Sage

Common Name: Sage, Common Sage, Garden Sage, Broadleaf Sage, True Sage, Cullinary Sage, Kitchen Sage, Dalmation Sage, and many more…
Scientific Name: Salvia officinalis
Family: Lamiaceae (the Mint family)

Sage

Sage is a small plant with big contributions to the garden.

Description:
Almost every herb garden has its obligatory Sage plant off in the corner, but few people know how to use Sage in the kitchen, and even less as an herbal medicine. While it is one of my favorite cullinary herbs, Sage has numerous other attributes. Sage attracts beneficial insects and confuses problematic insects. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, is drought tolerant, and can be used as a groundcover. it is just a beautiful plant, and is being planted more and more just for its ornamental value.

Sage

Garden Sage
Salvia officinalis

History:
Native to the Mediterranean area, Sage has been transported and transplanted all over the world. It was a very common medicinal and cullinary herb, and it had a reputation for healing and extending life. It remains one of the more popular cullinary herbs, although I think fewer people know how to use it nowadays. It has also become a rather popular ornamental plant, which is well deserved.

Trivia:

  • The scientific name, Salvia officinalis, comes from the Latin salvere (to feel well and healthy, to save) and officina (traditional storeroom in a monestary where herbs and medicines were stored).
  • “Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto” is Latin for “Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?”
  • Sage has a reputation for aiding in the digestion of fats and oils. Not surprisingly, these are the foods that pair best with this herb.
  • Sage leaves are covered in trichomes. These trichomes come in two types. One type is like a fine hair, and these are used to protect the leaves a bit. The other type is a spherical, glandular structure that secretes oils.
  • Sage, along with a variety of other herbs and spices, was always a component of the Four Thieves Vinegar. This concoction was used to ward off the Black Death in the Middle Ages. 
Sage

Sage is a popular cullinary herb and can be used fresh or dried.

Sage

Sage pairs perfectly with fatty or oily dishes and sauces.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Leaves – world-famous cullinary herb, and one of my favorites. Used fresh or dried. Typically cooked, but very young leaves can be eaten raw. It is great with fatty meats and savory dishes. Purple and Varigated varieties are typically more mild. Fresh Sage is more mild than dried; the drying process concentrates the flavor. A little Sage can go a long way, so start with a little and add to taste.
  • Edible Flowers – can be used raw as a salad garnish.
  • Tea Plant – made from the leaves, fresh or dried.
Sage Groundcover

Sage Groundcover

Secondary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant – this has been one of its primary uses around the world due to its fragrant, attractive leaves and small, beautiful flowers.
  • Medicinal Plant – see below
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant
  • Butterfly nectar plant.
  • Hummingbird Plant – this plant has nectar that strongly attracts Hummingbirds
  • Aromatic Pest Confuser – potentially inhibits or repels garden pests. Sage is a common companion plant for cabbage and carrots.
  • Groundcover Plant – Sage is not a fast growing plant, and it may take a few years to get well established. This means you can either weed the patch for a few years or plant a mixed groundcover. Martin Crawford recommends planting with French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) as a good partner. Place Sage plants 24 inches (60 cm) apart.
  • Drought Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established

Medicinal Uses:

  • Sage has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and a cullinary herb.
  • Sage has traditionally been used to treat indigestion, oral infections (mouth and throat), hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), feeling down/depression, and a number of memory or attention/concentration issues.
  • There has not been a lot of good modern scientific studies with Sage. As I always say, that doesn’t mean this herbal medicine does not work, it just means we have no modern scientific evidence that it does.
  • There have been some interesting research that seems to support using Sage to improve memory and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
  • There have also been some pretty good research that supports using Sage to improve mood.
  • Preliminary studies show some evidence that Sage may help in the treatment of herpes lesions and menopause symptoms.
  • There is some pretty good evidence that Sage has antimicrobial properties (i.e. it doesn’t allow microscopic things like bacteria, viruses, or fungus to grow or live) and anti-inflammatory properties (i.e. reduces swelling), but exactly how this occurs and how to use Sage for these problems is not well defined.
  • There is little scientific proof that Sage works on sore throats, but it remains a very popular treatment. Hard to say where the truth lies. If it works for you, great!
  • There has been almost no research on using Sage for diarrhea or excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), but Sage is still a traditional treatment.
  • Problems with using Sage (this list is not meant to discourage the use of Sage, but to make sure you are aware):
    • Using Sage in the amounts normally found in food and tea should not be a problem.
    • Using Sage topically (it is often in creams and ointments) should be safe, although some people may develop a rash.
    • Traditionally, Sage was used as both a fertility drug and a birth control. It was also used to help slow down breast milk production (lactation) and to help with menopausal symptoms (mainly hot flashes). While there is not a lot of modern studies investigating this, most sources recommend avoiding medicinal levels of Sage during pregnancy and lactation.
    • Using Sage for more than a few weeks, at a high dose (and I can find little information that defines a “high” dose), has been shown to cause many medical problems including seizures, restlessness, tremors, dizziness, vomiting, abnormal heart rates or rhythyms, elevated blood pressure, and damage to the kidneys. Remember, if you are using a plant as a medicine, there are potential consequences…
    • My advice is to be very cautious with using Sage essential oil as concentrations/dosing can be much higher.

Yield: Variable.
Harvesting: Leaves can be harvest year round (remember, it’s an evergreen!), but the flowers can only be harvested when blooming (duh!). Flowering occurs in mid-late Summer.
Storage: Use within a few days fresh. Can be stored for many months if dried.

Sage

One variety of Varigated Sage

Sage

Purple Sage
Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 5-8 (some sources say Zone 4)
AHS Heat Zone: 8-5
Chill Requirement: Likely not very relevant for most uses, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Small Shrub (sometimes considered a “subshrub”, because it is so small, but still woody)
Leaf Type: Evergreen
Forest Garden Use: Shrub Layer, Groundcover Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available.

Pollination: Self-fertile
Flowering: Mid-late Summer to early Autumn, but this is extrememly variable depending on your local climate and conditions. I’ve had Sage bloom in April and May when living in the Azores.

Life Span: Sage will last about 3-4 years before it starts to fail. It may still be alive, but it will not thrive. Purposely sowing seeds in place may propagate the stand.

Sage

The wonderfully fragrant Sage leaves…

Sage

…covered with tiny “hairs” and “spheres” called trichomes.

Sage

Sage leaf micrograph (i.e. photo from a scanning electron microscope) showing the two types of trichomes, thin hairs and glandular hairs (which excrete oils). The stomata (mouth-like openings) are also shown which allow for gas exchange.
(click on the photo for a link!)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 18-30 inches (45-76 cm) tall and 30-36 inches (76-91 cm) wide
Roots: Heart-shaped and rather fibrous
Growth Rate: Medium

Sage

Sage patch in flower.

Sage

Sage flowers.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Dry to moist soils. Can tolerate pretty dry conditions once established. Does not like wet soils.
pH: 5.5-7.5

Special Considerations for Growing:
Sage can be slow to start. Planting in Spring or Summer, in a sunny spot, will give the best chance for a good established patch.

Propagation:
Can be propagated from seed. No stratification is required. Sage can sometimes have low germination rates, but I always just plant more seed to make up for this. Can be propagated via cuttings or layering pretty easily as well.

Maintenance: 
Minimal. Sage can get a bit leggy or bare/sparse as they age. Pruning them back will keep the plants compact and more lush.

Concerns:
None. 

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.psmicrographs.co.uk/sage-leaf-oil-glands–salvia-officinalis-/science-image/80015446b
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Salvia_officinalis.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Starr_070906-8850_Salvia_officinalis.jpg
  • http://37.media.tumblr.com/a09bf8a7553c9e43765cb69e920b6cec/tumblr_moz37aRpFg1r68th6o1_1280.jpg
  • https://sammisherbs.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/sage-04.jpg
  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-v4FP9vqQcnE/T8iu3jjwf1I/AAAAAAAAAVs/LBLLoLtGoBU/s1600/Salvia+officinalis.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Salvia_officinalis_close_up_bottom.jpg
  • http://www.thienemans.com/photos/var/albums/Herbs/IMG_0389.jpg?m=1316135804
  • http://tended.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/dsc01466.jpg
  • http://onevanillabean.com/2011/06/15/charcutepalooza-june-challenge-cheddar-sage-sherry-sausages/

 

  • Permalink A new article at AgriTrueGallery

    What are Food Miles, and Should We Care? (a new article I wrote for AgriTrue)

What are Food Miles, and Should We Care? (a new article I wrote for AgriTrue)

The following is an excerpt from my new article at AgriTrue.com

Think of a little raspberry. It is growing on a healthy plant in Chile, enjoying the heat and bright Summer sun in South America. It grows and grows, and while it is still orange and hard and unripe, it is picked and packed and sent on a trip. First, that little raspberry is trucked to the airport, likely in Santiago, Chile. Then it is loaded onto a climate controlled airplane and flown to New York (or Miami or Los Angeles or Dallas). The raspberry is then put back into another refrigerated truck and driven to your local grocery store, and somewhere along the way, this raspberry will change from orange to deep red and from firm to soft. It will be placed on the shelf in the produce department, ready for you to eat a red raspberry in the dead of Winter…. remember, summertime in South America is wintertime in North America. This little adventure took only 3-4 days, but that little raspberry travelled well over 5,000 miles!

Those 5,000+ miles are considered Food Miles. This is a term used to describe how far food travels in its life, from where it was produced to where it is sold to the consumer. Food Miles have been used to assess the environmental impact of modern agriculture and the globalization of our food.

We are mostly told about Food Miles to make us feel guilty. And that guilt (some will call it education) is used to inspire change. After all, everyone knows that intercontinental travel of food causes tons and tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and so everyone who eats raspberries in the Winter is directly responsible for everything that is wrong with the planet. Right?spesifikasi android

(click here to read more…)

 

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  • Permalink Gallery

    Permaculture Documentary… Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective

Permaculture Documentary… Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective

This is a really interesting project and a great introductory video. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the people highlighted in this trailer, and I am really excited to see the finished project, but they could use some extra funding.

Please visit Costa and Emmet’s Kickstarter page if you are interested in supporting their project.

 

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New Permaculture Design Project!

I have just added another Permaculture Design to my page: Permaculture Design Projects

I want to remind all of my readers, both old and new, that I am always looking for more Permaculture designs.

I invite you to share your designs with me, and I will in turn post them on this page. I will remove any personal information if you would like. Some people will have amazing designs and fantastic illustrations or drawings. Others will have very basic pen and ink sketches. It doesn’t matter. Permaculture is not about presentation. It is about design! If you have photos of your design put into reality, I would love those as well. Please share your designs with the world. You may be the inspiration for another Bill Mollison or Geoff Lawton. You may have the design element someone was looking for. Please contribute to the Permaculture community!

If you are interested in contributing, please contact me!

 

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Permaculture Plants: Licorice (Liquorice)

Common Name: Licorice (American spelling), Liquorice (British spelling), 甘草 (gāncǎo)
Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza species
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume, Pea, or Bean family)
Common Species:

  • Russian/Roman/Eastern European/Hungarian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata)
  • Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)
  • Chinese Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)
Licorice

Licorice is a medium-sized herbaceous perennial.

Description:
Licorice is found on all continents but Antarctica, and has been used by humans for thousands of years as a medicine and flavoring. For Permaculturists, Licorice has many other benefits: it is a nitrogen fixer, it is a dynamic accumulator, it provides food and shelter for beneficial insects and wildlife, helps control erosion, and more. It is a multi-use plant and perfect for Forest Gardens and Permaculture projects.

Licorice

Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

History/Trivia:

  • Licorice has a long history with humans. There was even some dried licorice roots found in King Tut’s tomb dating 3,000 years ago!
  • The genus name, Glycyrrhiza, comes from the Greek glykys (“sweet”) and rhiza (“root”).
  • Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin (aka glycyrrhizic acid), a chemical which is 30-50 times the sweetness of plain white table sugar (sucrose).
  • Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is the species commercially grown today, and it is mostly grown in Greece, Turkey, other parts of the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Over 60% of licorice produced in the world goes into tobacco products. Licorice provides sweetness and mellows the other harsh flavors, but does not give a licorice flavor.
  • Many “licorice” candies and sweets contain very little real licorice, but are flavored with anise oil instead.
  • The first licorice candy was probably made in the town of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England in 1750 by George Dunhill, in a local apothecary. Sugar was mixed with licorice to make Pontefract Cakes over 400 years ago! Licorice was originally brought to the area by returning Crusaders in 1090 and was eventually grown by Spanish monks at the Pontefract Priory. The root was nicknamed “Spanish” because of this.
  • Red Licorice does not come from the Licorice plant at all and do not have anything like a true licorice flavor. They are usually cherry, strawberry, or other fruit flavors.

 

Licorice

Licorice in its most recognizable form… a sweet candy!

Licorice root can be used fresh, but it is usually dried.

Licorice root can be used fresh, but it is usually dried.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Roots – Can be used raw, but is typically dried. Licorice root is used for flavoring of candies, sweets, and even savory meat dishes, sausages, and alcoholic beverages (most notably beer). The dried roots can also be ground and the powder used. The dried roots can be chewed on, and used to be popular as a tooth cleaner/brush.
  • Edible Shoots – Native American tribes would eat the tender Spring shoots raw.
  • Tea Plant – The dried roots are a common tea ingredient. It is said to be thirst quenching. The leaves have also been used for tea, mainly for medicine. Typically, only a very small amount is used in an herbal tea, but up to 5 grams are used in one cup of medicinal tea.
  • Medicinal Plant – Licorice has been used for centuries as a medicinal (see below).
Licorice growing at Pontefract.

Licorice growing at Pontefract in the UK

Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Secondary Uses:

  • Nitrogen Fixing Plant – this plant creates its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms (bacteria) in its roots. It typically produces an excess of nitrogen that can be used by neighboring plants. This is a leguminous plant and has several types of inoculants that partner with it.
  • Dynamic Accumulator – Phosphorus, Nitrogen. When the herbaceous above-ground portion of this plant dies back each year, it is bound to release the nutrients it has mined with its roots.
  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Shelter plant for beneficial insects
    • Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant
    • Parasitic Wasps prefer to rest and hide on this plant
  • Wildlife Food – foliage (large mammals) and seeds (small mammals and birds)
  • There are a number of reports that Licorice can be eaten by livestock. A 1981 study determined that American Licorice is comparable to alfalfa in nutrition.
  • Erosion Control Plant – the extensive root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion
  • Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land
Licorice Root is a common ingredient in herbal teas.

Licorice Root is a common ingredient in herbal teas.

Medicinal Uses:

  • Licorice has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been used in both Eastern and Western traditional medicine.
  • Traditionally, it has been used for stomach ulcers, bronchitis, cough, sore throats, and viral or bacterial infections, inflammatory conditions, as well as many, many other ailments and conditions. Herbal medicines are often used for a wide variety of conditions. To me this means that the herbal medicine works for at least some of these problems, or why would it have been used to treat these conditions in the first place? Of course, this is not always true, but it is one of my general rules.
  • Licorice root is avaible fresh (if you grow it or harvest it yourself), although most medicinal applications use the dried root.
  • Licorice root products, with the glycyrrhizin (aka glycyrrhizic acid) removed is common in modern herbal medicine. These products are called Deglycyrrhizinated Licorce (DGL).
  • There have been a number of modern medical studies performed on Licorice, and very little of the traditional medicinal uses for Licorice have been validated. This does not mean Licorice does not work. It means that in these studies they did not work any better than whatever it was they were compared to. What does this mean for us? It means that as long as we are mindful of the potential risks (side effects, medication interactions, and overdoses), Licorice may help with some of our medical problems.
  • Heartburn: Medical research shows that Iberogast (aka STW5) can significantly reduce heartburn (aka dyspepsia). Iberogast is a commercial herbal product developed in Germany containing Licorice, peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, lemon balm, clown’s mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle. (three times a day for 4 weeks)
  • Ulcers: There is some fairly good evidence to show that Licorice may be helpful in treating stomach ulcers.
  • Constipation: There is some fairly good evidence to show that Licorice can be used as a laxative. It is considered a stimulant laxative, and it works. Because stimulant laxatives can lower potassium levels, they should not be used for long term or by people with potassium issues or on potassium-altering medications.
  • Hepatitis: There is some evidence to show that Licorice may be useful in treating Hepatitis B and C when used intravenously (IV), but these were small studies and most people are not going to self-treat with IV Licorice!
  • Other Conditions: There is not enough modern medical research to support other uses, but research has been done on Licorice used to treat eczema (atopic dermatitis), osteoarthritis, cough, viral infections (like the common cold), infertility (specifially polycystic ovary syndrome), lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and prostate cancer, as well as to treat the side effects of taking long-term oral steroids. There are a lot of other conditions where traditional medicine practitioners use or prescribe Licorice, and there is a lot of anectdotal evidence to support these uses, so it is hard to verify what really works and what does not. For instance, the tobacco industry uses licorice, in part, because it acts as a bronchodilator which opens the airways making it easier to inhale the smoke (it causes a smoother, easier inhalation… great for smokers, right?!). So, it  makes sense that Licorice is used to treat bronchitis, cough, and asthma, but there are no modern studies that “prove” this.
  • Problems with using Licorice (this list is not meant to discourage the use of Licorice, but to make sure you are aware):
    • Using Licorice in the amounts normally found in food and tea should not be a problem.
    • Using Licorice as a medicinal should also not be a problem if not used for more than a few weeks.
    • Using Licorice for more than a few weeks, at greater than 30 grams per day, has been shown to cause many medical problems. Remember, if you are using a plant as a medicine, there are potential consequences… both good and bad.
    • 5 grams per day may be too much for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease.
    • Licorice can raise blood pressure… bad for people with high blood pressure and kidney disease.
    • Licorice can cause water retention… bad for people with heart disease or heart failure.
    • Licorice can decrease the levels of potassium in the blood. This may cause abnormal/irregular heart rhythms.
    • Licorice contains phytoestrogens. These are not the same as hormonal estrogen, but there is some concern that the body may treat them the same. I don’t know if there is great evidence to support this, but there are recommendations to avoid any thing with phytoestrogens in the case of male sexual dysfunction/disinterest, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or hormone-sensitive cancers (breast, uterine, ovarian).
    • For all the reasons listed above, Licorice should be avoided in pregnancy.
    • Licorice may interact with some medications, including Warfarin (Coumadin), Digoxin, Furosemide (Lasix), Estrogen supplements (e.g. Premarin), steroids, and many more. If you have a chronic medical condition, especially if you are taking regular medications, then talk to your health care professional first.
    • The majority of these problems and interactions resolve themselves after stopping the Licorice.

 

Yield: Variable. I can only find yield data for large, multi-hectare, monoculture plantings… not that applicable to the vast majority of people.
Harvesting: Roots can be dug from 3-4 year old plants in Autumn or Winter after the leaves have died back. This is a rather labor intensive project. If only the top roots and top parts of the roots are harvested, many of the the deeper roots and root fragments will regrow.
Storage: Licorice can be used fresh or they can be dried. Dried roots will store for well over a year.

Chinese Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)

Chinese Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata): Zone 6-10 (some reports say Zone 5)
  • Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Zone 8-9 (some reports say Zone 6)
  • American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota): Zone 3-8
  • Chinese Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis): Zone 5-9

AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information can be found.
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available. As the plant propagates so well via rhizomes, the potential benefit of a chill to increase see production is really not that important.

Plant Type: Medium Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer, Underground Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of species available, and there are varieties available. It is interesting to note that there are differences in the “wild” Licorice root flavors between different plants. Make sure you have a good-tasting root before you do much propagation with it.

Pollination: Not self-fertile. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Summer (June-July)

Life Span: No good information available as we typically harvest the roots, and new plants grow from the remnants or from the rhizomes left over, so an individual’s life span is likely irrelevant.

Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata)

Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata)

Seed pods of Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata)

Seed pods of Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size:

  • Russian Licorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata): 2-3.3 feet (60-100 cm) tall and indefinitely wide
  • Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): 2-6 feet (60-180 cm) tall and indefinitely wide
  • American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota): 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) tall and indefinitely wide
  • Chinese Licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis): 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall and indefinitely wide

Roots: One or a few deep taproots with rhizomes (horizontal stolons) – these are underground stems that put out new roots and shoots to develop new plants. One report states that Licorice roots can grow to 4 feet (120 cm) in length.
Growth Rate: Fast

Licorice08

American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

Seed pods of American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

Seed pods of American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

Seeds of Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Seeds of Common Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates partial shade. Russian Licorice tolerates more shade.
Moisture: Perfers moist soils. American Licorice can tolerate more dry conditions once established.
pH: 6.1-7.8 (prefers fairly neutral to slightly alkaline soils)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • I have found many sources that state Licorice does not like clay and prefers sandy soils. This makes sense considering its origins. Take this into consideration when choosing a location.
  • If the location is too cold, the plant may not flower. It can still grow well without flowering.
  • The roots do not grow much for their first 2 years. It is really in the 3rd year that the roots get thick enough to harvest. After the 4th year, the roots get tough and fibrous.

Propagation:
Can be propagated by seed. Scarification is recommended, and this is commonly accomplished by soaking in warm water for 24 hours, but can also be nicked with a file. Can also be propagated via Spring or Autumn division. Licorice will propagate well from root fragments as long as there is at least one bud.

Maintenance:
Minimal. May need to cut it back if it is growing in an undesired direction… but this should be considered before planting.

Concerns:
Considering that Licorice can grow back from root fragments, has deep roots, and has rhizomes, it can be considered difficult to control and difficult to eradicate once established. This is why thoughtful design is needed before implementation. Personally, I like nitrogen-fixing plants that have many uses and are hard to kill… especially ones that don’t have thorns!

 

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Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Illustration_Glycyrrhiza_glabra0.jpg
  • http://explorepharma.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/glycyrrhizaglabra1.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/01732_-_Glycyrrhiza_glabra_(Deutsches_Süßholz).JPG
  • http://phytoimages.siu.edu/users/paraman1/10_2_07_7/OctSlideScans5/14_10.jpg
  • https://static.squarespace.com/static/5006630dc4aa3dba7737ef40/500f2696e4b08b809edd36fc/500f269ee4b08b809edd38fa/?format=original
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/8/819/150819_c299ef5e.jpg
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/1/184/124184_9f4da811.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Glycyrrhiza_lepidota_(4007533989).jpg
  • http://www.malag.aes.oregonstate.edu/wildflowers/images/05_WildLicoriceCarltonCanyon23August_06.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Liquorice_wheels.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Glycyrrhiza_glabra_MHNT.BOT.2011.3.43.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Gardenology.org-IMG_2804_rbgs11jan.jpg
  • http://cdn.supadupa.me/shop/984/images/758194/Licorice_Spice_Herbal_tea_wide_shot_large.jpg?1359147476
  • http://www.pontefractheritagegroup.org.uk/wpimages/wpb9a16e9d_0f.jpg

 

Shaggy Mane Mushrooms: Wild Harvesting in the Azores!

Yesterday, I was driving in a vehicle and I spotted what I thought were some shelf mushrooms on a tree. I was not driving, so I could not slam on the brakes and screetch to a halt, as I normally would have done, to go investigate. I did note the location. So later that day, I had a chance to take a second look. The first problem was that now I was making a specific trip to go find mushrooms based entirely on a fraction of a second, drive-by spotting. The second problem was that once I decided to make a specific trip, I now had the interest and expectations of my wife and parents (who are currently on the island with us). There was no real pressure in being wrong, that is, other than self-induced pride. After strapping my two youngest children into their carseats, my parents climbed in the van, and the five of us went on a mushroom hunt. Twenty minutes later, I was standing in a small stand of trees looking at a pile of bright orange roof tiles stacked up against the base of a tree. To be honest, they really did resemble Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus) mushrooms, but I had been defeated by a case of mistaken identity and wishful thinking. This is a common ailment in mushroomers.

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How quickly can you spot the mushroom?

We decided to turn around at the local golf course. As we were driving out, since I was driving, I slammed on the brakes and (almost) screetched to a halt. I had spotted another mushroom. This time I was certain. There was one group of golfers who seemed a bit curious about the bald, six-foot-three (190 cm) man, jogging across the green with a camera, but they just kept on playing; it seems like golfers are golfers no matter the country! I approached my target, and I dropped to a knee and smiled. It was a Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)!

On a side note: I actually think all mushroomers experience uncontrollable smiling when they find a prized mushroom. But I also do the same thing when I identify a bird I have never seen in person before or when I see a plant I have only read about… the smile truly erupts from inside. It is a combination of happiness and adventure and wonder and contentment. I see it in children a lot. Sadly, I don’t see it in adults nearly as much.

My mother seemed a bit bewildered that I could spot a single, tiny mushroom in a wide open field. My wife says the same thing when I spot a bird or a lizard or a seedling. Part of me is proud of this skill, but I also know that it is a learned skill. I really think anyone can learn to do it if they have a desire. Talk to any experienced mushroomer or birder, and they will probably agree. It is just a matter of learning how to look. I will try to expand on this a bit more in another article soon, but rest assured, if you want to develop a “good eye”, you can.

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It’s really easy to see when you know what to look for.

I have recently mentioned in a previous article how the locals have told me there are no edible mushrooms in the Azores. But I had proven them wrong with finding a Puffball. However, I had yet to collect any mushroom and actually eat it. But that was about the change!

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Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus), a prime specimen… perfect for eating!

I was a little disappointed that there was only a single Shaggy Mane. Yes, there are a lot of highs and lows in mushrooming! But I now knew two things: First, I had found another edible mushroom on this island! Second, if there was one Shaggy Mane, there had to be more. I stood up and scanned the surrounding area… nothing. I slowly walked back to the van, scanning everywhere… still nothing. I started to drive away, straining to see any glimpse of white or ink black in the bright green grass. I was about to give up when in a small area near the entrance to the golf course I saw about a dozen more white cones protruding above the grass! I had found a Shaggy Mane patch!

Many of them were too mature to be edible still, but I did find five in good condition. I snapped a few more photos, carefully harvested my prize, and drove back home feeling rather satisfied with myself. Of course, I know most people think it is rather odd or entirely suicidal to collect wild mushrooms (see my article on Fighting Fungiphobia). I know others think it is a waste of time when one can so easily go to the grocery store. But there is an amazing diversity of flavors that await those who only eat what is on the shelves. And there is a joy in collecting wild food. It is something you need to experience to appreciate, and I hope to encourage you to give it a try.

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This one is just starting to “ink”. There is some edible parts remaining in the top of the cap, but the shelf-life is really a matter of hours now. The ink is not poisonous, but it does not have a good flavor.

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No longer edible, this Shaggy Mane cap has almost entirely deliquesced (liquified), dropping its spores in an inky mess… the origin of its other common name, the Shaggy Ink Cap.

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Here is my small harvest of Azorean Shaggy Mane mushrooms!

I brought back the mushrooms. I brushed off most of the dirt and grass then wiped them clean with a damp cloth. Shaggy Mane mushrooms do not have a long shelf life. This is why they will never be sold in a grocery store. Every once in a while, you may fine some at a Farmers Market, but they would have been collected within the previous 24 hours, probably less. In general, these mushrooms need to be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting. This means on the same day or the next day at most. But you risk them going bad. I have read one mycologist who stated that, “the butter should be melted in the pan before you pick them!” Now, they are not that sensitive, but Shaggy Manes are extremely hygroscopic… this means they love water… a lot! The caps pull water from the atmosphere and slowly dissolve into an inky mess. This will happen to all Shaggy Manes when stored for too long, so the fresher they are, the better they will be for eating.

I then split the mushrooms lengthwise and melted some butter with a splash of olive oil in a frying pan. The mushroom halves were cooked at a medium-high heat… enough to brown the mushrooms, but not enough to burn the butter. Shaggy Manes can give off a lot of water when they are cooked. This means they will shrink quite a bit when sauteed or fried. They can also be added to soups and other “wet” dishes, so that their water content fits with the meal. When I have a small batch of mushrooms, especially wild ones that are not common, I prefer to prepare them in a way that highlights their flavor, on their own.

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These are very good Shaggy Mane mushrooms. Note that they are all white with no gray or black on them… perfect for eating.

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Shaggy Manes are added to a pan of hot butter and olive oil.

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They are seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and sauted until lightly browned.

The Shaggy Mane has a very good, delicate, “mushroomy” flavor. One writer states the mushroom reminds them of almonds… I don’t really agree, but there is a bit of a meaty, nutty flavor, but it is mild. If they are sauteed too long, I think the flavor starts to fade into the browned butter too much. The goal is for a light browing on the surface and too cook it long enough for the water to evaporate. Some people recommend pouring the water off, but I think you loose some of the flavor that way. The non-water components of the liquid will get pulled back into the mushrooms. Alternatively, you could pour off the water and use that in a stock for soup or a risotto.

There are a number of recipes available for Shaggy Mane mushrooms. I honestly want to try them all. My method is a simple, easy way that allows the mushrooms’ flavor to be highlighted. But if you have a bumper harvest, then experiment. Please let me know what works well for you!

For more information on Shaggy Mane mushrooms, see my other articles:

 

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Photo References: All photos in this article are mine. If you would like to use any of my photos, please let me know!