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Writer  /  Nancy Craig

“It’s spring, and the days are getting longer. The sunshine warms the earth. It’s time to plant the garden!” This opening sentence in the book, “Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in our Backyard” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, describes the month of April. We are eager to start our gardens this month with lots of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

My great nieces and nephews are going to try plants that are new to us in our gardens this year. Besides groundnuts or peanuts, we are going to try ground cherries (fruit), courgettes (vegetable) and calendulas (flower). Well, courgettes are not really new to us since this is a French word for zucchini. When we harvest the zucchini while they are smaller, we can call them courgettes.

My daughter, Ann, grows the calendulas as a staple in her edible flower and herb business, Handful of Herbs, out in Colorado. Calendula officinalis is an orange flower with the common name of pot marigolds. (They are not the garden marigolds, Tagetes, which are not edible.) Ann uses the flowers fresh or dried in a variety of ways from teas and salads to desserts. The twins, Lindsey and Lauren, will like decorating a cake with the colorful flower petals.

Ann also introduced me to the ground cherry, Physalis pruinosa, which is a small yellow berry inside a papery husk. Since they are in the tomato family, their common name is “husk tomato.” The Aunt Molly ground cherry is the variety that we are going to try which has a citrusy taste. They get their name because the cherries fall to the ground once they are ripe. My great nephews, Max and Eli, will have to help me harvest them before the squirrels get them!

All the plants will be easy to start from seed. We ordered our ground cherry seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. Check out their website, SeedSaversExchange.com, for the steps to grow this heirloom plant. Also, see other plants under the tab for Ark of Taste, “an international, living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.”

In the book, “Secrets of the Garden,” the narrator is a little girl named Alice who helps her family plant their garden. As we plant our gardens this year, we will remember the kids’ Grandma Alice who also liked to plant tasty fruits, colorful vegetables and beautiful flowers.

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