Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 04-25-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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THE VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | APRIL 24-MAY 1, 2019 SPRING IN THE VALLEY 2019 17 Garden with eye toward unique eats offers an alternative to apples in the European pear, as it defends better against disease and is much better adapted to the region. Once someone sets up their perennial garden, there will be no need to plant or seed each year. Root said it will be ready to go and the plants should spread. "I think there is a lot of appeal to grow your own food," Root said. "It's simply more nutritious. More people are doing permaculture agri- culture." Permaculture, as defined by the Permaculture Research Institute, integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutu- ally beneficial synergies. "Permaculture leads to sustain- ability, imitating how nature works," Root said. Most of the perennials that are here now were brought over from immigrants. Sea kale came from the southern coast of England. Perennial plants, fruits and flowers can either be found at local farms or, said Root, you can order them and they can be shipped. Certain markets such as Whole Foods may have some items as well. Root gets his perennials from Tripple Brook Farm in Southampton, Mass. He also works there, trading his labor for plants. There are also medicinal advantages to perennials as well. Schisandra is a Chinese fruit vine, Root said that can be quite adapt- able in New England. It is used for normalizing blood sugar and blood pressure, stimulating the immune system and speeding recovery after surgery. It can also be used to treat liver disease. Starting a perennial garden doesn't need to be difficult. Root said some people are convinced they don't have that green thumb, but with desire and the willingness to learn, good things can happen. "They're just plants. If they die no one is suing," he joked. Root added that once someone starts their garden, the roots will take hold and expand giving them more than you need, so they can share with friends and family. "It's something we can do to build the community," he said. Gardening leads to human contact while being outside and unplugging from our electronic lifestyle. Root said gardening toward eating is transformative in a number of ways. "The people who know more about nature do more to protect it and the better off we all are," he said. As people spend more time try- ing to get healthy while also limiting their carbon footprint, gardening has grown past a hobby to a way of life. There are always typical herb and vegetable garden options, but the trend is to discover unusual plants and flowers that can be grown included in a daily diet. And while edible flowers might seem like a new craze, it has been traced back to Roman times as well as to the Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures. For many it's all about perennials, the flowers that are planted once and come back each year. There are even flower petals that are edible. Calendula, a marigold flower, has been said to taste like saffron when sautéed in olive oil. Hibiscus pet- als can be eaten off the plant but are mainly used for tea, relishes, jams or salads or even in a cocktail. There are also lav- ender and pansies. A popular flower usually referred to as a weed or pest is the dandelion. With this flower, you can use the whole plant for food including the roots, stems and leaves. John Root, a naturalist based out of western Massachusetts, has become much more interested in the broader parts of the plant, even seeing the flowers as an afterthought. Root will be in Blackstone at Daniels Farmstead for a program on Edible Flowers on May 19. He has done a number of presentations there. "I developed an interest in plant- ing perennials that are edible," he said. He said that with perennials, the season is expanded and they are more readily available. The first perennial Root mentioned was the Welsh onion, which is coming up now. In that same family are ram- sons, which is wild garlic, wild leeks and ramps, which all can be found in western Massachusetts. Most fruits are perennials includ- ing blueberry, raspberry, currant, gooseberry and apples. But Root said that apples are challenging because of pests and disease. He kayla@valleybreeze.com BY KAYLA PANU Valley Breeze Staff Writer ROOT

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