Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Berried" Treasure

 Searching for strawberries in the spring is a garden adventure I love to share with my daughter Kyra.  From her wheelchair seat high above the ground, she examines the berry patch, kicking her feet at every bright spot she sees.  Sometimes it’s a ripe strawberry.  Sometimes a bug.  Sometimes a dead leaf.  It’s a new adventure every day.  Kyra’s job during berry-hunting is holding the produce bowl while I pick.  Now, this is no small feat, with her arms in constant motion, her fingers reaching for the warm, bright berries I toss into the bowl, and a cat constantly repositioning himself on her lap.

It’s great fun to hunt for these tasty treasures.  But, after discovering the nutritional benefits of the strawberry, you might enjoy your hunt even more.  According to, strawberries are “… among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving -- about eight strawberries -- provides more vitamin C than an orange.”

That tiny berry packs a punch!  You might find that strawberries grown at home, or those you find at your local farmers’ market, aren’t as large and perfectly-formed as those you find in a Styrofoam box covered in cellophane in your grocer’s produce aisle.  Even though the home-grown variety may be paltry in size, the taste makes up for it.  And, unlike the raspberry, whose seeds cause tube trouble, strawberries adapt easily to g-tube feedings.

We have successfully grown a mix of June-bearing and ever-bearing strawberries along the southern side of our house, under shrubs facing the east, in hanging pots, in raised beds, and in Kyra’s window-box garden (so you know they withstand a fair amount of “yanking”).  Strawberry plants, once fruiting is complete, make an attractive ground cover that fills a space quickly, chokes out weeds and withstands frigid Iowa winters.  

For best production, the strawberry bed should be allowed to “rest” the first year of planting, and ploughed under and replanted after the fourth year. (However, procrastinators should not be discouraged.  We maintained a highly productive strawberry bed for 7 years before beginning our rotation process.)

Finally, since the strawberry is a member of the rose family, Shakespeare might well have said, “A strawberry by any other name would taste as sweet.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sow With Abandon

Sprouted radishes! Yum! About 2 weeks ago, my daughter Kyra and I planted the “greens space” in our garden.  We used baling twine and bamboo kabob skewers to mark off the space in our garden.  I then stretched Kyra’s stiff wrist and fingers open, filled her palm with seeds, and she sowed with abandon.  She giggled wildly as the seeds blew through the air, stuck in the cervices of her wheelchair, made her cat sneeze, and fell to the ground. Some even fell into our marked-off garden space. 

About a week later, we could see a bit of green poking through the ground in great bunches. Radishes! Spinach! Swiss chard! Beets!

After another week, we started to thin the bunched radish seedlings so that some of them could grow and swell and become, well, radishes.

Just a little tug plucks a baby radish from its crowded location in the garden. A tiny tap knocks away chunks of soil from the slim root. A quick swish of water, if you think it’s necessary, finishes the prep work. Then pop the seedling into your mouth, your salad, and definitely your g-tube meals, for a bite of fresh, spicy spring.
Radishes, and especially radish greens, are chock-full of vitamin C and calcium. As one of the cruciferous veggies (that’s veggies with lots of sulphur-based chemicals, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts), they contain properties that help fight off cancer, maintain liver function, and aid digestion (

Radishes grow nearly anywhere, and their quick germination and growth provide the closest thing to immediate gratification as a gardener can get.  You can grow radishes outside your back door, or indoors in a flower pot, an old sauce pan, or an empty cottage cheese container placed in a sunny window or near your desk lamp.  Even if ready-to-feed, nutritionally-complete, g-tube formulas happen to include all the micro-nutrients of a radish, it certainly does not include the joy that comes from sowing seeds with abandon, and harvesting the results.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Have you seen my roof?

We got a phone call this morning from our neighbor who lives about half a mile to the west of us. She asked if we had seen the roof of her barn in our timber, among the trees that had twisted and splintered and crashed to the ground during this week's storm.

No one was hurt in the storm, and none of the trees (or sections of barn roof) brought down a power line. Still, I was comforted by the knowledge that I had enough bottled water, seizure medicine, and g-tube meals to last us several days. Preparation = peace.