Dirty Hands Diaries – June 14, 2023

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Dirty Hands Diaries | 0 comments

Foraging in the G&G Garden

I’m a new volunteer. I find the heat and sun nearly overwhelming, but I value time spent here. Today I joined a group removing weeds from around the gently raised beds that will contain squash. Weeding here is different than my experience. In the beds, no turning of the soil. Weeds are only pulled out. This minimizes disturbance of all the layers of microorganisms in the soil. A landscape tarp is placed down, and squash plants are nestled in alternate holes. The tarp will smother the weeds over the summer.

Between the rows, though, before a layer of dried leaves is added, to walk upon we dig up quack grass and other weeds. As the first long white roots are pulled from the soil, I claim my interest. Louise, the volunteer I’m working beside, instantly joins me in harvesting the roots as we weed. Harvesting is more fun than weeding.

Louise, “What do you use them for?”
“These roots are great for the kidneys. Dissolve stones, help with infections. The tips taste like dried watermelon. These were used as a survival food by pioneers.”
“Really? How do you use them?”
I silently gloat over a long and healthy bundle of white roots. “You can dry them, or you can roast them to a golden colour. When roasted, you can make something that tastes like a Japanese tea – a beautifully delicate flavour. That Japanese tea is made with toasted brown rice.”

We pull more and separate the stalks and the roots. After a few minutes, she straightens up.
“I’m going to get a bucket to put these in.”
Moments later, she returns with a green bucket. Kind soul.
“This is one of our harvesting buckets. With the roots in here, everyone will know that these aren’t meant to be thrown out.” Weeds are tossed into five gallon pails, and then, piled for the dairy barn to pick up and use. Garden compost, however, is managed on site.

Louise tells me about her Monday night choral group, A Joyful Noise. It’s for those who either haven’t sung in a while, or don’t think that they can sing. Sounds like fun – with less focus on performing, and more on participating. Kind of like the volunteers at G&G. No pressure; just participate and enjoy yourself while creating something lovely.

Then, “How much do you use of the root?”
Me, “One teaspoon of dried root per cup of boiled water is a therapeutic dose.”

The sun and light have strengthened during my time here. I help with a few squash transplants, then say my goodbyes. The bucket of quack grass roots is emptied into one of my bags. In another bag, I tuck some bright green spinach, and cross the dusty gravel road to my hot car.

Ruth Yanor
Green & Gold Community Garden Volunteer

To all our devoted volunteers and customers. We have started a blog called the Dirty Hands Diaries for your reading pleasure. The purpose of the blog is to share your reflections of the garden throughout the growing season. Anyone can submit an entry by sending it to us at: gggarden@ualberta.ca.