Asparagus : Pokeweed
Rare purple variety with a rich, sweet flavor
American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a large semi-succulent herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 10 feet (3 meters) in height. It is native to eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, with more scattered populations in the far West. It is also known as Virginia poke,12 American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget,2 inkberry, pigeon berry,12 pocan,2 pokeroot,1 pokeweed,1 pokeberry,1 redweed, scoke,2 red ink plant and chui xu shang lu (in Chinese medicine).1 Parts of this plant are highly toxic to livestock and humans, and it is considered a major pest by farmers. Nonetheless, some parts can be used as food, medicine or poison. The plant has a large white taproot, green or red stems, and large, simple leaves. White flowers are followed by purple to almost black berries, which are a good food source for songbirds such as Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird. Nutritional Information per 100 grams dry weight of shoots:3 Protein: 31g; Fat: 4.8g; Carbohydrate: 44g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 20.2g; Minerals - Calcium: 631 mg; Phosphorus: 524 mg; Iron: 20.2 mg; Magnesium: 0 mg; Sodium: 0 mg; Potassium: 0 mg; Zinc: 0 mg; Vitamins - A: 62 mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.95 mg; Riboflavin (B2): 3.93 mg; Niacin: 14.3 mg; B6: 0 mg; C: 1619 mg. Phytolacca americana is used as a folk medicine and as food, although all parts of it must be considered toxic unless, as folk recipes claim, it is "properly prepared". The root is never eaten and cannot be made edible.13 The leaves of young plants are sometimes collected as a spring green potherb and eaten after repeated blanchings. Shoots are also blanched with several changes of water and eaten as a substitute for asparagus. They become cathartic as they advance Young pokeweed leaves boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling, results in "poke salit", or poke salad15 and is occasionally available commercially.Asparagaceae Asparagus officinalis
Agrotis, Amathes, Peridroma, Prodenia spp.
These caterpillars (the larvae of Noctuid moths) spend their days hiding underground and their nights feeding on the surface. They feed by wrapping themselves around the stem of a plant and eating it until the plant falls over. It can be very frustrating after you have spent weeks nurturing your transplants, to have them destroyed within days of planting out. If you suspect cutworm damage (it’s pretty obvious - the fallen plants will be laid on the ground with the stem still sticking out of the ground) dig down into the soil around the plant to find the culprit. During the day they hide in the soil near the fallen plant, so, it’s almost always there if you search around. If Cutworms are very bad you can deter them by putting little collars of cardboard or aluminum foil around the stem of each seedling. Night patrols can catch cutworms in the act.
Image: Eugene E. Nelson, Bugwood.org