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What surprise new food plants have you found growing in your polycultures?

 
pollinator
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This morning I was up on top of the living roof of my art studio brushing snow off my solar panels and I happened to notice familiar looking seed heads sticking up out of the snow.  Garlic chives!!  Looking more closely I found a few patches of them up on the roof.  I don't remember actually planting them there, though it is possible I once scattered seeds and forgot about them.  It's also possible some bird or critter transported seeds from the garlic chive clump I've got growing in one of the garden beds up to the roof to start some new clumps.  Either way it was a wonderful little surprise for my day.  Since they are perennial I will have to remember them next spring as another area I can harvest these from throughout the growing season!

Do you have any stories to share of foods you've discovered growing among your polycultures that you either didn't plant or don't recall planting?

garlic-chives.JPG
The tell tale seed heads of garlic chives.
The tell tale seed heads of garlic chives.
 
gardener
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I have mentioned it on other permies forums: Evening primrose. It is a heavy seeder biennial with leaves the first year that are very good in salads during the winter and spring then the flowers during the summer.  These originated from a wild flower mix my mother bought 50 years ago. When my mother and later my sister died I inherited this farm. Through out the farm there were persistent patches of potatoes from kitchen scraps being fed to chickens, ducks and pigs.
 
David Huang
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I do have Evening Primrose scattered around my property too.  I will admit I haven't tried eating the leaves.  I've harvested some of the flowers from time to time.  I need to pay more attention and look for the those first year low growing rosettes of leaves to try!  I sadly don't tend to notice them until the second year when the grow up tall.  Speaking of which, this year I had a monster one growing right by the door to my art studio, the biggest I've ever seen.  I wonder if the seeds are edible?  Either way I should probably look tomorrow to see if it's too late to harvest any of those seeds from that huge evening primrose plant that I could then scatter about more deliberately.  
 
master pollinator
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Evening primrose according to Green Deanne. The seeds are edible.

I like the leaves in a salad too. Here, it acts like an annual. I have found that the rosette leaves that hug the ground are the ones that are gritty, no matter how well washed. Once they are held upright the leaves are fine. As the stalk grows, the leaves do get tougher, but I like the taste enough to keep on using them, cutting narrower slices as the season progresses. I haven't used them after the upper flower stems form though. The peeled main stalk is good, steamed for a bit.

I have yet to catch them for digging at the right stage for experimentation with the roots.
 
David Huang
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Awesome!  Thanks Hans and Joylynn!  The info from both of you has the effect of me finding another surprise new food growing on my homestead.  I knew about it, knew it was edible, but didn't really know all the ways it was edible and that it's much more than just a few flowers to garnish a salad.  I'll have to try pealing the stalk on some next year too!
 
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Found claytonia growing in my garden this past summer. The seeds must have finally come alive from my forest-soil mixture. A nice find, and it fills in the empty spots. Plus the ducks love it!
 
pollinator
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This morning I found a pleasant surprise in the chicken run under the coop. I do cultivate winecaps in other areas of the community garden but these would have come in on the woodchips and came up in the least hospitable conditions. I have left them for the chickens.
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Winecaps in the chicken run
Winecaps in the chicken run
 
David Huang
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Sweet finds Simon and Megan!  I've been trying to get claytonia started deliberately at my place.  Your winecaps Megan remind me that a couple times in different areas where I've had wood chips I've found morels coming up.  Sadly it's only ever been the one time in each area.  I keep hoping they will establish and give me my own regular crop.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Observation about finding surprise mushrooms.  The mycelium may be there all the time but the fruit, the mushroom appears often as a surprise at seemingly unpredictable times and places.

The fruiting of the mycelium actually is quite predictable if you understand its method and purpose.
Notice in the picture above the mushroom came up at the edge of the cement paver. It could be that the paver was used to hold a water dispenser.  This would set up the conditions for he mycelium to fruit.
The mycelium needs a good amount of water in order to produce the mushroom. The purpose of the fruiting is to produce spores to carry on the mycelium beyond a barrier such as the soil being to dry or inhospitable to continued extension of its filaments.
Notice the commercial mushroom production encloses mycelium in a plastic bag with moist food source. When the food source is largely consumed they poke a hole in the bag. Now the mycelium has an avenue to search for new food but outside the bag is a hostile environment so it puts out mushrooms through the hole.
Inoculated logs are soaked then put in a shady place to dry which promotes fruiting.

To prepare the sandy soil in the orchard for planting the next year I flattened corrugated paper boxes and and spread them out between the trees. On the hill above the garden was a grove of maple trees so I gathered the fall leaves and covered the cardboard. The next spring after a dry spell Morel mushrooms cam up in a definite pattern along the edge of each  piece of cardboard.  Previously I commented on a permie post where he had carefully prepared a bed for morel inoculation and none appeared in his carefully prepared bed but came up in the lawn just outside of the wood border around the bed.
 
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