by Nancy Hastings
Our changing climate has brought warmer summers, longer, frost-free autumns, earlier springs and milder winters. What that means to ”Foodies” in the region is a whole new array of edible plants that now may be grown in your own backyard that you may never have considered possible here before! If you’re like me, then stir fry is not complete without a little … or a lot, of ginger added in. Well even here, far from the Orient, you can grow your own spice and make your shade garden landscape twice as nice. The normal “root ginger” you find at the stores is Zingiber officinale, not reliably hardy here. But now the White Arrow, Zingiber mioga, has been introduced that is not only the hardiest of the ginger family, it is also a beautiful addition with its long, sturdy 1-2 foot glossy leaves feathered with lovely white splashes. This rare species is grown in the colder parts of Japan where they use its edible young shoots and beautiful flower buds in
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New Food for Thought... and Growth!
their traditional recipes. The shoots of jointed, long, slender variegated leaves can be harvested periodically throughout the growing season for your dishes and even the beautiful orchid-like flower bud is edible. Plant your White Arrow in a moist, part shade location with good, loose well-drained soil so it’s rhizome like base can spread to its 18-24 inches and give you plenty of beauty and spice. This new introduction is hardy to -10 degrees so a little winter mulch doesn’t hurt for a “blanket,” but remove mulch layer so the leaves easily emerge in spring. Plant with and fertilize periodically with an organic fertilizer to keep it healthy and free of slugs and enjoy throughout the summer and fall in your wok! For a sunny hot spot, another great treat not commonly found in our area is a true fig tree. These can be grown as a container plant or if you are in Hope or downtown Sandpoint, against a south facing, winter wind protected wall. The most hardy varieties to try are Chicago, Celeste and Brown Turkey. Many will take temperatures down to -10 degrees but they may have some die back in the spring and will regenerate after pruning. Fruit will come forth from the oldest wood first in early summer and later the new growth may also bear the rich dark mahogany gems. The good news is that Figs are self-pollinating so you don’t need two varieties for fruiting and it allows you to create an interesting, wide-leaf sunny “deck tree” that you may grow in a large container and roll it into a non-heated garage for protection. Most varieties can get 10 to 15 feet tall, so light pruning in spring and root pruning every three years will contain the size of your fig in a planter. Although they are heat and drought tolerant, figs need even moisture, especially in the hottest months or they may drop their fruit. If you are nuts about nuts, then you are indeed pursuing some healthy habits. We are fortunate to be able to grow many different nuts here including hazelnuts (filberts), walnuts and even almonds! Nuts contain
beneficial unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins and fiber that help sustain energy between meals and help curb unhealthy snack attacks. Besides being beautiful landscape trees, the hazelnut and Carpathian English Walnut are some of the easiest nuts to grow here in our area. Hazelnuts will need two varieties to pollinate, so you will need about 20 feet from trunk to trunk when planting, but not more than 40 feet apart for optimal pollination. All Hazelnuts will want to sucker and therefore it is imperative that you periodically prune the suckers to groom your tree into a strong single trunk between 15 to 20 feet tall when mature. You may have to net your harvest to keep the squirrels at bay... but oh, the rewards! The Carpathian English Walnut tree is a large, wonderful addition to any landscape, providing shade and an abundance of nutrition with its easy-topeel, soft shelled walnuts to eat, unlike its cousin, the black walnut. This fast growing nut tree can reach 40 feet by 40 feet, so give it lots of room. Plant your walnut in rich loamy soil that drains well without any standing water during heavy rains and in full sun. The best part is that unlike fruit trees, you just sit under its shady canopy waiting for your harvest to drop! It will bear nuts within 4 to 6 years after planting and is partially self fertile, but will produce a larger crop if you have another variety planted within 50 feet. Don’t panic if you look out in the spring and your tree hasn’t leafed out when others have, these walnuts are typically the last trees to leaf each spring. So dig in … branch out and enjoy a new harvest in your landscape in the Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300-acre farm and owns All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint with her husband John. They have been cultivating community gardens and growing for almost two decades in North Idaho. AllSeasonsGardenandFloral@gmail.com
July 2016 issue of The River Journal