Cover

Coyote Bush, also known as Chaparral Broom or Bush Baccharis, is a shrub that grows in California, Oregon, and Baja California. It is usually smaller than 8 feet in height.

It is known as a secondary pioneer plant in communities such as coastal sage scrub and chaparral. In California grasslands, it comes in late and invades and increases in the absence of fire or grazing. Coyote bush invasion of grasslands is important because it helps the establishment of other coastal sage species.

Coyote bush is common in coastal sage scrub, but it does not regenerate under a closed shrub canopy because seedling growth is poor in the shade. Coast live oak, California bay, or other shade tolerant species replace coastal sage scrub and other coyote bush-dominated areas, particularly when there hasn’t been fire and grazing.

Coyote bush is used infrequently in cultivation since it is very useful for hedges or fence lines and for ground cover. It is drought tolerant and rather deer-proof. It requires watering once a week until established and then about once per month during the first summer. It can mature in one to two years.

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Ornamental

Photinia fraseri, also known as Red-Tip Photinia or Red Robin, is a fast-growing evergreen shrub very popularly planted in Oregon and California as a hedge. It is a hybrid of Asian parentage.

The new growth is a bright red during spring, then turns to a dark glossy green as the leaves mature. The plant is toxic to horses and other grazing animals, but there is no indication of toxicity to dogs or cats.

It has umbrella shaped flowers of creamy white that grow in dense clusters. Small red to black berries are produced in the fall which are consumed by birds, mostly thrushes, waxwings and starlings. It lends itself well to pruning and is usually planted as a privacy hedge.

Photinia fraseri is a fast grower, and can form a very dense hedge, but this is best done with regular trimming. Left untrimmed, the shoots can grow three to four feet or more in a season, but this will produce a bare-looking or thin shrub.

Texture

Claytonia perfoliata is a fleshy annual plant native to the western mountain and coastal regions of the Pacific United States. The common name “Miner’s Lettuce” refers its use by California gold rush miners who ate it to get their vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

It is very common in the spring, and prefers cool, damp conditions. It first appears in sunlit areas after heavy rains. The best stands are found in shaded areas under trees, especially in the uplands. As the days get hotter in June, the leaves turn a deep red color as they dry out.

It can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. Most commonly it is eaten raw in salads, but it is not quite as delicate as other lettuces. It is often boiled like spinach, which it resembles in taste and texture.

Rumors mention that California original Americans used to place it by red ant hills to pick up formic acid as a “dressing”. Claytonia perfoliata has none of the peppery kick of Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus, also in the Purslane family, which is how this custom may have originated.

Longevity

Strawflower is a warm-weather annual with daisy-like flower heads in yellow, pink, bronze, cream, purple or white. From late spring until fall, strawflower bears flowers on the ends of the branches. What look like ray flowers or petals are actually modified leaves surrounding the central corolla. The bracts are papery with a straw-like crackly texture, hence the common name.

Several species are grown as ornamental plants and for dried flowers. When cut young and dried, the open flowers and stalks preserve their color and shape for years. The genus name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek words helisso (to turn around) and chrysos (gold). Common names include immortelle and everlasting.

Helichrysum augustifolium is steam distilled to produce a yellow-reddish essential oil popular in fragrance for its unique scent, best described as warm, rich and buttery, with green notes of wood, spices and herb. Mentally, the oil is very supportive and comforting. It is believed by some to open the right side of the brain and improve creativity as well as increase dream activity.

The oil is antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. The literature and aromatherapy lists are full of anecdotal evidence of Helichrysum’s power when used on rashes or skin irritations. It acts by causing the blood to be reabsorbed into the tissue, alleviating the pain caused by pressure on the nerves.

Specialty

The kiwifruit is the edible berry of a woody vine distantly related to other fruits such as blueberry and flowering plants such as rhododendron. It was originally known by its Chinese name, Macaque peach. Also known as the Chinese gooseberry, the fruit was renamed for export marketing reasons in the 1950s. It was briefly known as the melonette, and then called the kiwifruit, named after the brown flightless bird that serves as New Zealand’s national symbol.

New Zealand exported the fruit to the United States in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, Frieda Caplan, founder of Los Angeles-based Frieda’s Specialty Produce, played a key role in popularizing kiwifruit in the United States, convincing supermarket produce managers to carry the odd-looking fruit.

Gold Kiwifruit have a smooth, bronze skin, a pointed cap at one end and distinctive golden yellow flesh with a less tart and more tropical flavour than green kiwifruit. It has a higher market price than green kiwifruit. It is less hairy than the green cultivars, so can be eaten whole after rubbing off the thin, fluffy coat. While the skin of kiwifruit is often removed before serving, it is completely edible.

It is a rich source of vitamin C, with a potassium content slightly less than that of a banana. The skin is a good source of antioxidants. It is often reported to have mild laxative effects, due to the high level of dietary fiber. Raw kiwifruit is also rich in the protein-dissolving enzyme actinidin, which is commercially useful as a meat tenderizer but can be an allergen for some individuals. Specifically, people allergic to latex, papayas or pineapples are likely to be allergic to kiwifruit.

Kiwifruit also serves as a natural blood thinner. A recent study performed at the University of Oslo in Norway reveals that, similar to popular mainstream aspirin therapy, consuming two to three kiwifruit daily for 28 days significantly thins the blood, reducing the risk of clots, and lowers fat in the blood that can cause blockages.

Delicacy

Ginger is a tuber that is consumed whole as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. Cultivation of ginger originated in Asia and has since spread to West Africa and the Caribbean. It is cooked as an ingredient in many dishes and can also be steeped in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey, sliced orange or lemon fruit is often added.

It is often used as a spice in Indian recipes and is one of the main spices used for making curries and other vegetable preparations. In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes such as fish, and in some parts of the Middle East ginger powder is used as a spice for coffee. In Japan, ginger is pickled to make gari, which is often served and eaten after sushi. It also acts as a food preservative and has been proven to kill the harmful bacteria salmonella.

Ginger is a stimulant to the digestive tract which aids in digestion. It may also decrease pain from arthritis and have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease. Ginger compounds are active against a form of diarrhea which is the leading cause of infant death in developing countries, and has been found effective in multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy. When taken into the nostrils ginger causes severe sneezing.

Ginger beer was first produced as an alcoholic beverage in the 1700s and became very popular in Britain and North America. In Kenya and Tanzania, ginger beer is a very popular drink called tangawizi, which is the Swahili word for ginger. Stoney Tangawizi is a product of the Coca-Cola Company.

Specialty

The Quince is a small deciduous tree native to warm-temperate southwest Asia. It is related to apples and pears, and has a fruit which is bright golden yellow when mature. The fruit can be eaten cooked or raw and is an excellent source of vitamin C.

Cultivation of quince preceded apple culture. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber.

Quince was later introduced to the New World, but has become rare in North America due to its susceptibility to fireblight disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. Almost all of the quinces in North American specialty markets come from Argentina. In Latin America the gel-like, somewhat adhesive substance surrounding the seeds was used to shape and style hair.

In South America, the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish jello-like block or firm reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. The sweet and floral notes of quince contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese.

In the Canary Islands and some places in South America a quince is used to play an informal beach toss-and-swim game, usually among young teens. When mixed with salt water a mature quince will turn its sour taste to sweet. The game is played by throwing a quince into the sea. All players race to catch the quince and whoever catches it takes one bite and tosses the quince again, then the whole process gets repeated until the quince is fully eaten.

Taste

Blackcurrant is a small shrub growing to three to six feet tall. The plant is distinguished by a strong fragrance from leaves and stems. The fruit is an edible berry, very dark purple in color with a glossy skin.

During World War II, most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of vitamin C, blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the British government. From 1942 on, almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup and distributed to the nation’s children free, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavorings in Britain.

Blackcurrant cordial is often mixed with cider to make a drink called Cider & Black available at pubs. Adding a small amount of blackcurrant juice to Guinness is preferred by some to heighten the taste of the popular beer. Japan imports $3.6 million in New Zealand blackcurrants for uses as dietary supplements, snacks and food products. In Russia, sweetened vodka may also be infused with blackcurrant leaves or berries, making a deep yellowish-green beverage with a sharp flavor and astringent taste.

In the United States, Blackcurrant flavor is rather rare in candies and jellies compared to UK candies. The syrup mixed with white wine is called Kir or Kir Royale when mixed with Champagne. Blackcurrants are used in cooking because their astringent nature brings out flavor in many sauces, meat dishes and desserts. The whole blackcurrant stem with fruit can be frozen, then shaken vigorously. The tops and tails are broken off and fruit can be separated easily.

Vessel

A gourd is a name given to the hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. It is in the same family as the pumpkin. Gourds are the product of the calabash or African bottle gourd, native to Africa, which at a very early date spread throughout the world by human migration. This species may be the oldest plant domesticated by humans.

Gourds were originally used by people as containers or vessels before clay or stone pottery. The original and evolutional shape of clay pottery is thought to have been modeled on the shape of certain gourd varieties.

In addition to utilitarian uses, gourds have seen other functions throughout history in various cultures. Very early specimens of squash shells discovered in Peru indicate the use of squashes as means of recording events of the time. In North America, the carving of pumpkins and some other squashes into Jack-o-Lanterns is a popular cultural activity during Halloween.

The shell of the gourd, when dried, has a wooden appearance. Drying gourds, which takes months in some cases, causes the internal contents to dry out completely, although seeds are often still capable of germination. For the uninitiated, cutting open a dried gourd can present hazards. The resulting dust is extremely fine and can cause respiratory problems.

It has also been found that gourd skins were used to replace missing portions of skulls in Neolithic times as part of surgery. This is seen as evidence of prostheses made of very fine gold sheet and gourd skins, which were inserted in the skull under the skin or to cover the hole left by an operation.

Generally, gourds are used more for utilitarian uses than for food. Only a few varieties are harvested for consumption, mostly in Asia. White gourd juice is a common beverage retailed in China and Chinese outlets outside China. It has a unique, smokey taste.

Plenty

The Feijoa, also known as Pineapple Guava, is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing 4 to 20 feet in height, originating from the highlands of southern Brazil and parts of Colombia, Uruguay and northern Argentina. It is named after botanist João da Silva Feijó, a Brazilian botanist.

The fruit, maturing in autumn, is green, ellipsoid and about the size of a chicken’s egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear jelly-like seed pulp and a firmer, slightly gritty, opaque flesh nearer the skin. The fruit drops when ripe, but can be picked from the tree prior to the drop to prevent bruising.

Feijoa is usually eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon. The fruit have a juicy sweet seed pulp, and slightly gritty flesh nearer the skin. The flavour is aromatic and sweet. Like the closely-related guava, the fruit pulp is utilized in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant.

It can also be used as an interesting addition to a fruit smoothie, and can be used to make feijoa wine or cider. It is also possible to buy Feijoa yogurt, fruit drinks, jam and ice cream in New Zealand. The Feijoa can also be cooked and used in dishes where one would use stewed fruit. It is a popular ingredient in chutney.

Fruit maturity is not always apparent from the outside as the fruits remain green until they are over-mature or rotting. Once the seed pulp and surrounding flesh start to brown, the fruit is over-mature but still can be eaten. However, these over-mature but not rotten fruits can be used to make a delicious juice very popular in the Colombian Highlands.

Feijoa has been spotted in Georgia and both flowering and fruiting in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and California. It is widely cultivated as a garden plant and fruiting tree in New Zealand, and can be found as a garden plant in Australia, Israel and China. The shrub has very few insect pests. In northern California, robins, mockingbirds, hummingbirds, starlings, scrub jays, towhees and grey squirrels feast on the flowers and assist with pollination.