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A Delicious Start to Summer

Mimosa flowers in various stages of bloom on a branch
Mimosa tree flowers in bloom Kate Prunkl

Happy June!  It's time for green beans by the handful, pulling up carrots and early potatoes, garlic braiding, and berry picking. 


Fortunately for us in eastern North America, aggregate berries (the ones with many little bubble shaped fruits fused together to form what we call one berry) are nearly all edible in our region. From the wild Rubus berries like blackberries and black raspberries, to the introduced Asian red wineberry, there will be aggregates aplenty for snacking, jamming, and pie baking. 


As berries tend to hit their peak for a few weeks and then wane, one way to extend the season is to spend a few hours on the weekend plucking a good haul and then freezing them. This way you can set yourself up for fresh-frozen berries all winter. Berries always taste better when picked at their peak, so if you are someone who makes smoothies, now is the time to start squirreling away berries in the freezer to keep for winter. The extra zing of vitamin C naturally occurring in berries can be a helpful boost to the immune system and palate during a less lively time of year. So start picking! 


Coming into bloom this month is the lovely mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin. It is an introduced Asian species which is considered invasive our area, yet what better way to deal with it than to harvest it and use it! Albizia has been called “Tree of Happiness” in eastern medicine, as a tincture from the flowers and bark has been traditionally used to treat depression, anxiety, and emotional trauma. Mimosa medicine is a mild sedative, and has been used to help with sleeplessness, panic attacks, and grief from loss (As always, check with your medical provider before introducing any new herbal supplement). 


The pink pom pom flowers of mimosa are truly whimsical, with an intoxicating floral scent. One of my singular favorite sensory-experiences is to stick my nose in the soft ticklish filaments of an Albizia flower and take a slow whiff. The hummingbirds flock to them as well. Invasives require management in many areas, can be very frustrating to control and disruptive of traditional ecosystems, yet I hope we can appreciate the plants for their value and beauty if and whilst they’re here. 



All Virginia residents are used to seeing thickets of Hemerocallis fulva, the orange day lily, come into their glory this time of year, naturalized along roadsides and in gardens. But did you know the petals of these Asian flowers are edible and delicious in salads or in stir-fry?


Note: these are NOT to be confused with the Easter lily, Liliam longiflorum, a completely different plant which is toxic. 



Also finding homes along roadsides, as well as meadow edges and disturbed areas, are blue chicory flowers. These periwinkle petals make a pretty, edible sprinkle atop salads and drinks. Make sure you only harvest from areas that you know are clean, both in regards to soil and pesticides. So, along the roadside would be a place to observe and appreciate but not eat. 


In your veggie garden, you can keep planting successions of green beans, potatoes, and corn. Be sure to fill in any unplanted areas with mulch and a cover crop (vetch, crimson clover, buckwheat, oats, etc) to ensure your soil stays rich, moist, and weed-free. And while you’re at it, keep cool with some iced herbal tea—the cooling mints, sweet anise hyssop, and relaxing lemon balm are tasting great right now! 


Wishing everyone a wonderful kickoff to summer!


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