Pennycress a New Spice

I am a person who notices things most don’t. On a television show a lady in a ballgown turns and I see she has a small smallpox scar on her arm. Or a leading man is wearing platform shoes. The view of both is only one screen shot long. My husband has no such powers of observation. Therefor he does not get overwhelmed walking through Walmart because he does not notice all the things on the shelf and he can’t leave the isle and still describe shelf by shelf what was on it. Lucky him!! But put him in our small pantry room and he’s soon overwhelmed just trying to find the stewed tomatoes I canned last summer.

Imagine processing tons more information each moment and you like me would quickly shut down unable to compute anymore. There is a limit to how fast your brain can work shuffling things into waste, save, or decipher compartments. Yet I would not give up this gift or plague depending on the day for it allows me to experience so much more. Smell more, see more, hear more, feel more. I believe, and there is science behind it, that many autistic people simply can’t handle this vast influx of information and emotions that go with it. To survive I push things into my logical room to be analyzed. There I can better shut out emotions that threatened to destroy me. Sometimes I shut them out too much.

Years of trying to play normal has taken its tole. Days shut down in recovery is time I can’t afford.

“Rise up and become the person you were meant to be.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

has played heavily on my mind. I’m not a young lass and I’m thinking I have traveled the highway and not the deer trail I was meant to traverse. I’ve been studying minimalism, not because I will ever have few belongings but because it means concentrating on what matters most. I’ve watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo and thought long and hard on what brings me joy. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are taught, “Men are that they might have joy.” Joy which brings peace and a feeling of well being, not happiness which is fleeting.

So instead of putting blinders on my observations skills, I should be ramping them up. I’m missing out. It is my gift and it will allow the greatest change. The greatest improvement in my life. I have come to realize that I need to relieve the stresses. Things that if removed will give me more time living, not recovering.  So I am observing and changing.

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I began to take walks about our property late last summer to observe and experience nature. One week Kirk and I went munching. Tiny tastes of things that did not include mushrooms. We discovered Penney Cress, a plant I’d seen many times but basically ignored. The Penney Cress was past blossom stage and seeds had formed. We munched on them and found a peppery, mustardy, complex flavor that we really liked and wished we had enough of to cook with. Research told us what the plant was and that indeed it is in the mustard family. I saved some seeds and will plant them next year in the areas they have shown a liking.

We decided next summer we would do more walking, record the plants that naturally grow in our 5 acres. Is there more we should encourage growth of?

  • First we will have to identify what we have.
  • What parts of the plants are edible at what stages?
  • Do we like it or is it just survival food or animal fodder?IMG_9119

 Study tells me that young leaves on the pennycress taste better in the spring and can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a bitterness to them that increases with the growing season. Doesn’t sound like anything to add to the dinner table except if we were starving but good to know it is there. It is worth encouraging to grow in the wild for a spice.  In some states pennycress are a noxious weeds – but not here. Interestingly, Russian Olive trees have become a vexing problem just over the mountain from us but don’t spread in the least where we live either. It is about how inviting the soil is for them.

Pennycress seeds are super easy to harvest. By saving seed and spreading it in the spring, I hope to harvest enough seeds in a few years to have some for cooking. We may not every have enough for our needs but a little bit of this spice and whatever else we can grow will help fill the pantry. There is much talk about the worldwide food shortages because of crop failures. It is expected to be worse next year. It has made me realize that we can only grow so much in the garden so increasing the fields as a place to harvest from means full bellies.

Have you taken a close look in your yard or fields? What more can you glean to add to your pantry? What is something that may not be your choice for dinner but would keep your family from starving?

One thought on “Pennycress a New Spice

  1. There is an abundance of greens out and about. Most were naturalized from old cover crops. At work, much of the greens come from the perimeter of the abandoned ball field next door. There is something similar to pennycress there that we have always known by the same name. I don’t remember what it really is, but we use it the same way. (I would not know real pennycress if I were to find it.) There is a native species too, but it is scarce. I prefer the other cruciferous greens because they are more productive, last longer, and are more palatable after bolting. (Some are always in bloom, and their bloom is pretty good.) Nonetheless, pennycress is nice while in season.
    When I was a kid I used to get perplexed by background scenery on television. I thought that it was odd that the flora of Korea as seen on MASH looked just like that in Walnut Grove in Minnesota as seen on Little House On The Prairie . . . which all looked just like the flora of outside of Los Angeles. I seriously believed that Canary Island date palms lived in Germany because they were so prominent in the background of Stalag 13 of Hogan’s Heroes.

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