A Burst of Energy – It’s Growing Season!
Most of you will have seen the greenery decorating the Co-op’s front entrance—we’re in the final weeks of the annual plant sale! When I first arrived in Potsdam four years ago, the first few early plants along the co-op’s steps were a promise that warmer (meaning better, to this native Californian) days were around the corner. As more and more plants joined those early arrivals, I felt a new appreciation for this beautiful place we call home. Every year since, I look for the plants outside the Co-op to lend me a burst of energy that will last me the year ahead.
In the spirit of this wonderful season of growth in the North Country, I sat down with my neighbor and gardening inspiration, Eleanor Rosenthal, to capture her wisdom and advice. Many of you know Eleanor—she is a friend and mentor to so many in our community—and likely also know that she is a very impressive gardener and knowledgeable forager. Even though she is just shy of 100 years old, she works in her garden almost every day. She has given me some of my favorite plants, and brought me mushrooms from her walks along the river. I knew she would have guidance for the readers of this newsletter.
We met in her home on a cool morning in late May. Eleanor began by saying that she loves calling this community her home—its people, its natural resources, make it such a wonderful place to be. Eleanor makes full use of the abundance of our area by foraging, and I asked her to tell me her favorites. She grew up foraging mushrooms in Germany, she said, along with her mother in the fields behind their home. She still loves to forage for mushrooms, although she cautions that no one should eat a mushroom without having an expert identify it first. She especially loves morels, but you have to be careful, she explained, because there’s a poisonous mushroom that looks somewhat similar. Mushroom foraging is best in the spring and fall when it’s wetter, and you can often have luck along the Raquette River or in the Bayside Cemetery. Along with mushrooms, she will also forage wild berries and leeks, if she happens upon them. But with all foraging, you have to be thoughtful—if you take too much, you’ll destroy that resource for good. Greed is no friend to foragers.
As when she’s foraging, Eleanor feels at peace when she is outside working in and enjoying her home garden. When her four children were small, she remembers gardening in her front yard by the light of the streetlamp—she did what she could to make sure she took full advantage of our growing season. Her blueberry bushes were always a favorite, she told me, so she made sure to acidify the soil using pine needles every year, and watered them during dry spells. Today, a new family enjoys those blueberry bushes, and Eleanor cultivates a smaller but no less impressive garden at her new home.
I’m particularly impressed by Eleanor’s ability to plant her garden beds so that every season has something of interest. She said that it wasn’t intentional to do it that way, but that she finds plants she loves in every season. One of her early favorites is winter aconite, and in mid-summer, she loves pink single chrysanthemum. These days, she gets a lot of joy from the herbs in her garden, especially parsley and cilantro. And she cooks with poppy seeds from her garden as well. Her husband used to make a delicious rolled poppy seed cookie.
Eleanor spends time in her garden every day. My young daughters see her outside and run over to her house, asking her to share a flower. Of course, they leave with an entire bouquet.
She puts it best: “Gardening is the best psychology that’s available. When I’m out there I don’t think about anything else. I’m just right there.”
I, for one, know what she is talking about. Happy gardening, all!
Potsdam Food Co-Op Board Member