Courtesy of MARTY OWEN

What’s for dinner? Pasta served on a bed of steamed goose tongue, a wild edible that grows at the beach, on cliffs and in salt marshes. 

 My inbox is filling up with questions, so hang onto your trowel: It’s Q&A time!


Q: Is it too late to plant?

A: Heck no. Whoever gave you that idea? All kidding aside, when July approaches, this is a common question. 

Rest assured that you have plenty of time to garden. In fact, there is quite a variety of veggies that you can still plant for the first, second or third go-round. (Maybe not Brussels and jalapeno peppers.) Indeed, this allows for staggering of crops (and harvest). Even if they don’t reach full maturing by fall, you’re ahead of the game.

Here is a list of late-comers I put together last week. Did I miss anything?

• A late crop of carrots or beets

• Mixed gourmet greens

• Turnips

• Radishes

• Swiss chard

• Arugula

• Lettuce

• Spinach

• Chinese cabbage

• Peas

• Broccoli and kale

• Cilantro


Q: What is the thick grass growing at the beach? Is it edible?

A: You might be thinking of goose tongue. I say might because goose tongue, a tasty and tender wild edible, is often mistaken for arrow grass which shares the same habitat. (Arrow grass leaves contain hydrocyanic acid, a toxin that interferes with the cellular uptake of oxygen). 

Goose tongue (Plantago maritima) grows as a dense cluster of thick, fleshy leaves that grow to 8 or more inches. It grows on rocky beaches, seaside meadows, tide flats and cliffs. The best time to harvest is late spring to early summer.

Jeanne Shepherd, who lives on the west side of Kodiak Island, looks forward to harvesting goose tongue in the spring. “I harvest goose tongue until it starts to flower.”

A member of the plantain family, goose tongue has been described as crunchy and tasting like a pickle, with a touch of “ocean.” Both the leaves and seeds are edible. Goose tongue is excellent fresh in salads cooked in soups, in mixed cooked greens. And it freezes well.

“I prefer to eat it steamed,” says Jeanne. Goose tongue is “a little sweet and a tad salty.”

Humans aren’t the only animals who target goose tongue. According to Stacy Studebaker, author of “Wildflowers and other Plant Life of the Kodiak Archipelago,” goose tongue is an important food source for Kodiak bears.


Q: Aphids have attacked my nasturtium plants. And now they’re showing up on my hoophouse plants. What can I do?

A: Aphids come in so many varieties it sometimes seems like there is a special one for every plant that grows. But all of them have the same basic habits and the first line of defense is the same: Take care of the plant’s health because aphids concentrate their attacks on the sick and weak.

Start by making sure your plants are well-watered. Aphids love drought-stressed plants. Then try a spray of immune-system-boosting liquid seaweed extract which you can make yourself. And avoid fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro that contain a lot of nitrogen; the soft, lush growth is a favorite target for aphids. 

Blasting with water helps to bring down the population and good air movement in the form of open windows and fans discourages them.

Like dealing with slugs, it’s all about bringing the population down to tolerable levels. And if one happens to hitch a ride on a lettuce leaf which ends up in the salad, simply smile and say, “Lucky you! More protein!”

There’s one more solution to aphid problems, though it’s probably not a solution you want to hear ...


Q: What can I do about yellow jackets?

A: Unless these insects are posing a danger by building a nest near your front door to your house or other place where there’s a good amount of human activity, leave them be. So says Anchorage Daily News garden writer Jeff Lowenfels. 

“Yellow jackets are very beneficial insects,” he says. “They control aphid populations, take out delphinium defoliators and other leaf rollers and so much more. In short, they are usually good news.

“It is when they have a nest in the ground — or a paper wasp builds one by a door — that you must be extra careful.”

Yellow jackets are extremely protective insects and they are known to pursue invaders. Unlike bees, yellow jackets don’t lose their stingers when attacking and can sting multiple times. 

There are many ways to deal with a yellow jacket nest should you need to remove one. You can spray nests yourself with commercial sprays or use a recipe from the internet. But you may want to contact a local professional for complicated situations such as a nest under a porch. 

Have a great week and remember to share your produce, herbs and flowers with your neighbors.


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