Many times I’ve seen veteran gardeners reach for a spent flower and pop it off (an action called “deadheading”), to prevent the plant from expending energy making seeds.
Sometimes a gardener grabs a blossom containing a bee, and the gardener gets stung.
It’s even more likely, especially with flowers such as calendulas, that the gardener will get a painful blister from a blister beetle. Those are the flowers I've most often seen blister beetles inhabiting. It’s a good idea to look before grabbing a blossom.
Early last month the Pacific Northwest Pest Alert issued a warning that homeowners in the Ada county foothills were reporting large numbers of blister beetles in the area.
They’re beneficial in that their larvae feed on grasshopper eggs, but the adults feed on vegetation. When they fix on alfalfa as their feed source, that can wreak havoc on large animals feeding on that alfalfa, even after it’s cured hay. Blister beetles in their mouths and digestive systems are toxic even to the point of killing the animal.
These beetles are long and narrow, about three quarters to an inch and a quarter long by about one-eighth wide. Those I’ve seen here are glossy black, but they exist in other colors, too.
BUG-FREE SWISS CHARD
Several gardeners I’ve spoken with love Swiss chard, spinach or beet leaves, and they busy themselves checking and removing daily leaf miner eggs that spoil those greens for human consumption.
This isn’t an ideal solution nutritionally, but I’m growing a Swiss chard this summer that leaf miners have NOT attacked. It’s light green in color, not deeply savoyed, so easily washed. Dark green vegetables are usually more nutritious than the light green.
This tasty variety is called Bionda di Lione, is available from Seeds from Italy (www.growitalian.com), and is in a Franchi seed packet. Those packets usually contain a lavish number of seeds. The catalog description says it “has the very large leaves and thick stems of Verde a Costa Bianca, but the leaves are lighter green.” They also carry Verde a Costa Blanca, so I think I’ll grow both next year and see if it’s the lighter color that puts off leaf miners or if there’s something else special about these chards.
Call them Idaho, russet or Irish potatoes, they all have skins that are perfect wrappers. Most of the nutrients are next to the skin, so many of us enjoy eating and benefiting from that as well as the rest of the potato.
Another highly nutritious food is the sweet potato of whatever color (white, yellow, purple or orange), and it, too, has the perfect wrapper, tasty and nutritious skin.
Thinking to improve on perfection or just to make good food cost more, some people are washing potatoes for you (they consider it a big deal, I don’t), then shrinkwrapping plastic film over the potato or sweet potato. If the washed potato isn’t dry, the skin molds under the plastic.
I was angry to find that Kroger-Fred Meyer carried some of those sweet potatoes, so I complained to the store and to the packer. Then I learned that in parts of Louisiana they’re also marketing russet or Idaho potatoes with plastic shrink wrap over them.
Wash a potato? Turn on water, insert potato in falling stream of water, and rub or brush soil from the skin. Not a difficult concept.
What’s next with food? Perhaps pills or smoothies, neither of which requires chewing. Will teeth become obsolete?
Margaret Lauterbach: email@example.com or write to Gardening, The Idaho Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707