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Friday, July 15, 2011




Friday, 7:30 AM.  63.5 degrees, wind NE, calm.  It is an overcast, quiet morning.  A trace of rain fell last night and the barometer predicts more.  It does not look or feel like stormy weather but we may get a gentle rain at some point today.
    The new “Double Knockout” roses have been fertilized and mulched and are blooming nicely.
    I am finished planting rhododendrons and a pagoda dogwood in the front yard, and three old fashioned bridal wreath spireas in the back.  A few more rhododendrons and some appropriate ground cover and I will have a very nice Rhododendron and azalea display in the secluded front yard.
    It turns out that the common garden parsnip, Pastinacia sativa, in the parsley family (Umbelliferae) is a rather mysterious and foreboding plant.  A native of Europe, the parsnip has been collected or grown as a vegetable for thousands of years.  Over that time, garden varieties have been selected for their edibility.  European botanists even identify the wild parsnip as the variety sativa, and the garden parsnip as the variety hortensis.  Problems arise in that the wild and the garden varieties are difficult for even the expert to distinguish, and the wild plants are reported to cause severe burns and blisters when skin is exposed to sunlight after touching the plant.  To make matters worse, the parsnip produces seed prolifically and is very invasive, and I would suspect that once escaped from the garden that the parsnip may very well revert to its wild genetic makeup.
    Anyway, I love the unique flavor of parsnips, which are one of the most nutritious of vegetables.  Joan, on the other hand, insists that they have no taste whatever.  That’s another parsnip mystery, probably the result of genetic differences in humans.  I guess I should find out which of my children and grandchildren like or dislike parsnips to prove or disprove my theory.
    My advice is to be very cautious handling or ingesting any unknown plant in the parsley family, as many are very poisonous either externally or internally.

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