Con report

The state session was well worth going to. While I’m familiar with the small sorts of plants you can find in catalogs and garden centers, it is very hard to get a good understanding of a tree by those methods. Being able to tour Carrington’s research plots of full-grown specimens was a wonderful opportunity, and gave me several more entries on my “I want that in my imaginary garden!” list. For example, I’ve been interested in sumac trees because of their unique lemonade fruit, but the plants themselves are just plain gorgeous. Rather like the papaya trees I saw in Brazil, the branches are architecturally bare of leaves until the very top, forming a beautiful umbrella canopy very suitable for a small specimen tree in your backyard sitting area. And their NDSU-introduced multitrunked peeling paper birch, resistant to birch borer! Just delicious. Their WeedBoretum was interesting as well, although I have to argue with the inclusion of mullein (Verbascum) – something that usefully medicinal should be harvested and cherished. I look forward to the results of the small fruit test plots started last year — the two tiny berries on the sea buckthorn were encouraging.

At the conference I met a nice couple who grow shiitakes outside on oak logs, in their Moorhead backyard. If shiitakes winter over there, I should have no problem doing so. Now I just need to get my hands on a suitable amount of wood. Unfortunately the maple deadfalls I’ve been saving are a bit old for proper growth –  there’s too much chance something else colonized the wood while I was waiting, and I would hate to find that out six months after all that work…  Paul Stamets’s newest book, “Mycelium Running”, has got me quite excited about the possibilities of mushroom cultivation. For example, the Lion’s Mane mushroom tastes like lobster when sauteed in butter, but is demonstratedly so beneficial to the nervous system that he suggests families with a history of Alzheimer’s inoculate a nice thick log to create a decades-long medical resource for them and their children. Even the common shiitake has anticancer properties. While I won’t be able to get the logs set up this year, I fully intend to get a couple kits for the basement this fall. The portobello we did last year was quite worth it. Now to find a few others to go in on the “buy four get 20% off” deal…

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