A trip in time through the wilds of North Florida

Polly Waller

Polly Waller
Perry, Florida,
November 18
The Book Mart
Polly Waller is the owner and operator of the Book Mart in the small town of Perry, Florida. Seventeen years as a bookseller has fueled her interest in reading, writing, and Florida history. She has been a contributing columnist for the Perry News-Herald since 2004, writing book reviews, and more recently, essays about the history and culture of this unique part of the Florida gulf coast. Polly is married, has four cats,a year round vegetable garden and a husband that makes living life grand.


JANUARY 8, 2012 12:19PM

Grasses, greens and grains

Rate: 3 Flag

 Welcome to our garden, two years ago it was all lawn.


 Alfalfa - February '11

Alfalfa is a delicate little seedling that needs assistance battling the weeds, but once established, it is a cut and come again hay producer.  The rabbit approves.


Mixed turnip and mustard greens in bloom - March '11
Planted mainly as a compost/ground cover crop, there are plenty of greens to havest and eat. In the foreground is a seedling mix of millet, sunflowers and greens.


Turnip green volunteers  -  March '11
Turnips are the easiest thing to grow in our area. These just popped up from last years crop in amongst the english peas.  


 Cereal Rye - April '11
This area was lawn and St. Augustine grass just a few months before.  Tilling and planting a rye cover crop is the first step in preparing the soil for planting more substantial crops.


A mix of wheat and rye - May '11

We've yet to attempt harvesting and processing the rye and wheat for cooking.  Its purpose here is to serve as a ground cover and cushion around tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins.  It makes a great companion plant.


Amaranth, lettuce and sorghum - May '11
The lettuces shown are much to old to eat, but we let them stay for their beauty. They benifit being planted around the taller grains to give them some relief from the hot Florida sun.
Sorghum/Milo - May '11
We planted a half a dozen different varieties of sorghum this past year, but didn't record which varieties went where.  I call this the pretty one.

Mature Rye - May '11

2011 had an unusually early last frost/freeze.  We had sunflowers in full bloom in mid April.


 Millet, several types of sorghum, with amaranth in the background.

While most of the grains we planted did well, millet (bird seed) is perhaps the most dependable and prolific.  It can be planted to choke out weeds anywhere. 


 Amaranth - May '11 

This was our first year growing this amazing plant.  Surprisingly, it thrives in our hot, humid climate.  Mostly grown for grain, but the leaves are edible too.  


 Flax - May '11

The flax didn't do so great. We havested about a tablespoon of seed out of our entire crop.  The frail plants couldn't compete with the weeds. 


 Field corn - June '11

That favorite southern grain, corn.  This Hickory King variety is great for grinding into cornmeal for bread.  Planted beside it is another southern favorite, acre peas (in the same family as blackeye peas, but picked green and served or frozen fresh, not dried).


 Ripening grains -  July '11

If anyone knows an easy way to separate the grain from the chaff, let me know!


 Sorghum, the tall kind - July '11

Notice the luffa gourd growing in it.  The tall sorghums make a great support for vining vegetables or flowers. 


 The mighty collard green - July '11

Another southern favorite.  This is the heading, or cabbage, variety of collard.


 Golden Giant Amaranth - September '11

Amaranth continued to stun us all summer, reseeding immediately.  We got two crops between spring and frost.


 Second crop Amaranth - October '11

The variety on the left is Burgandy Giant.  FSU Seminole fans in the neighborhood loved the colors.


Reaching for the sky


  Mixed greens - December '11
Still having to water every few days.  We're at a 25" rainfall deficit this year.  English peas in the foreground.  Brown stuff in the background is my crop of heirloom cotton.

 Mustard Green - December '11

My favorite green, the southern mustard is tender and sweet.  The Asian varieties are sharp and hot, and make a great addition to stir fries. My project for this winter is to learn how to make Chinese mustard condiment from the seeds.


A mix of rye, lettuce, several kinds of mustard, leafy cabbage, scallions and dinosaur kale - December '11

Dinosaur kale has been a big hit.  We've got one plant still thriving that is over a year old.  


If there's one thing that we've got plenty of, it is turnip greens and roots.  Here's a recipe for the roots for those that don't like them prepared the traditional way, boiled with greens.

6 - 8 turnip roots, peeled and chopped into 1" squares

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 pats butter

a smidgen of milk

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped garlic chives or your choice of herbs

Bring water to boil and add sugar, salt and turnips.  Boil 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain very well.  Turnips hold more water than potatoes do when drained.  Return to pot and either mash by hand, or with a mixer.  Add butter, sour cream, milk and chives.  Be careful not to make it too soupy. Turnips thin up a lot more than potatoes do - they are less gluey and more delicate.  The sugar in the cooking water takes away the strong taste.

Either eat as is, or pour into single serving size casserole dishes and bake 20 minutes, as you would a stuffed potato.  Additional ingredients could be cheese, chopped vegetables, name it!  You can even add a few eggs to make a souffle type dish.

I like to steam a few chopped turnip greens on the side and then mix in with the mashed turnips on my plate.  Mmmm.



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What a bountiful post resplendent with colors of hope for the sore eyes looking at nothing but snow. Thank you for sharing this as well as your recipe!

A feast for the eyes!

Christmas is over, it's going to be winter here until mid-March and my little mitts are itchy to go dig in the dirt already.
Thank you both! I am happy to live in a place with such mild weather. However, I am going on 50 and have never seen snow.
What a lush, green, & beautiful sight! The turnips sound so delicious!

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