Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

061 Edible Succulents

November 13, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 61
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
061 Edible Succulents
Chapters
1:31
Edible Succulents
21:45
Smart Pots!
22:51
Quick Tip: Where to Apply Snail Control Bait in a Raised Bed
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
061 Edible Succulents
Nov 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 61
Fred Hoffman

If you're staring at the picture accompanying this episode, you might be wondering: "Where is the edible succulent in this spinach-cherry tomato-feta cheese salad?" It's those little green nuggets on top, the leaves of Portulacaria afra, also known as Elephant's Food plant. It's a succulent that you can grow in the drier, milder areas of USDA Zone 9, or in a greenhouse anywhere. And, yes, elephants do eat it. Succulent expert and author of "Succulents Simplified", Debra Lee Baldwin, talks about edible succulents. And, of course, I bring up tequila. Also, college horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower has some important tips about where to position snail bait in a raised bed garden. It’s Episode 61 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast: Edible Succulents, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes.…let’s go!

Links:
Smart Pots
Great succulent info at DebraLeeBaldwin.com
Ten Edible Succulents and How to Prepare Them
How to make an Elephant's Food Salad video
The books of Debra Lee Baldwin
Succulents: Care and Maintenance
Snail Control (Sluggo/Iron Phosphate) Product Label

Garden Basics comes out every Friday during November through January. We’ll be back to a twice a week schedule in February.  More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below.
All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

If you're staring at the picture accompanying this episode, you might be wondering: "Where is the edible succulent in this spinach-cherry tomato-feta cheese salad?" It's those little green nuggets on top, the leaves of Portulacaria afra, also known as Elephant's Food plant. It's a succulent that you can grow in the drier, milder areas of USDA Zone 9, or in a greenhouse anywhere. And, yes, elephants do eat it. Succulent expert and author of "Succulents Simplified", Debra Lee Baldwin, talks about edible succulents. And, of course, I bring up tequila. Also, college horticulture professor (retired) Debbie Flower has some important tips about where to position snail bait in a raised bed garden. It’s Episode 61 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast: Edible Succulents, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes.…let’s go!

Links:
Smart Pots
Great succulent info at DebraLeeBaldwin.com
Ten Edible Succulents and How to Prepare Them
How to make an Elephant's Food Salad video
The books of Debra Lee Baldwin
Succulents: Care and Maintenance
Snail Control (Sluggo/Iron Phosphate) Product Label

Garden Basics comes out every Friday during November through January. We’ll be back to a twice a week schedule in February.  More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below.
All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Farmer Fred:

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred:

Fruits, vegetables, berries, and even flowers can be grown and eaten from your garden. We've talked about a lot of them on this program. But what about succulents? Well, there are edible succulents, and we're going to talk with one of the country's leading experts on succulents, author Deborah Lee Baldwin about tasty succulents, and we'll even touch on that a GAVI variety used to make tequila. And did you know there's a very common succulent weed that makes a great addition to a salad. We've got all that. But there are precautions before you start munching on this family of low water use plants that love the heat. Plus horticultural Professor Debbie Flower has a quick tip strategic advice about where to put snail bait around a raised garden bed to get the best results. edible succulents, dead snails. It's Episode 61 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast brought to you by smart pots. And we'll do it all in under 30 minutes. Let's go.

Farmer Fred 2:

We talk a lot about edibles that you can grow and most of you are very familiar with the fruits and vegetables. But did you know that the biggest selling component at a nursery are succulent plants, especially here in California? So that might raise the question. Can you eat a succulent? Well, as a matter of fact, Debra Lee Baldwin says, Yes, you can. There are several edible succulents for you to try. Deborah Lee Baldwin noted author of several books about succulents. Wonderful website, Deborah Lee baldwin.com YouTube channel as well and so much more. And Deborah Lee Baldwin, it's a pleasure to have you here on the garden basics podcast.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, thank you for its gosh, this is exciting and fun. I remember meeting you in Sacramento several years ago. So here we are.

Farmer Fred:

So let's talk about succulents. To begin with, what is the definition of a succulent?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, succulents are plants that survive periods of drought. By storing moisture in fleshy stems and leaves like typical of Aloe Vera. You can take a fleshy stem and snap it open and what you see inside is gel, and that's what the plant lives on. When there is drought time. In other words, it's not getting water and it might not be getting water because there's no rainfall, or you simply haven't watered it. But regardless, that's what they do. They live off of the moisture stored in their tissues.

Farmer Fred:

My knowledge of edible succulents is very limited. I think it's limited to basically tequila which comes which comes from blue agave. Is that right?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, Fred, it comes from Agave tequilana. Yes, the species name sounds like tequila. In fact, maybe tequila was named after the species name. The blue agave is a common name for Agave tequilana.

Farmer Fred:

Can you grow that?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Oh, yeah, sure. It is an ornamental plant. It has long narrow bayonet shaped leaves, it looks like a giant pin cushion. It gets maybe not as big as a century plant, which is often confused with century plants. But the Agave americano or century plant has thicker, wider, broader leaves and gets even larger. Whereas century plants will get as large as a Volkswagen Beetle. The tequila agave doesn't get quite as large. They are spiky, dangerous plants if you have toddlers or small dogs or just plain clumsy. So think about it before you plant them. But they're beautiful in their own right. I mean, they're geometric and sculptural look great against a blank wall. Wonderful plants.

Farmer Fred:

Yeah, there would be a couple of restrictions on growing that. One would be the climate where you live would have to be conducive to growing that particular succulent. And I think you'd also need to own a distillery.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yes, and you've got to be patient because they're normally harvested and they are grown as a commercial crop in Mexico at around the age of seven years. So what happens when an agave prepares to bloom is that and they only bloom once when they're mature. So when Agave tequilana approaches maturity is getting ready to bloom, it condenses or gathers the sugars and its tissues. And that's what propels that tall blue spike above the plant. And you've seen, you know, agaves bloom. So like century plant blooms can be as can be 20 feet tall. So what they do in the commercial tequila operations, is they whack it back, they grab it, and they slice off those leaves and they pineapple it so that all the leaves are sliced right back down to the center core. And that's what they harvest. And then that gets roasted, and it has several steps before it actually becomes the product tequila. So it's it's a fascinating process. But it's not something that your backyard gardener would want to attempt.

Farmer Fred:

What about the environment that succulents thrive in? And I maybe it's not even fair to generalize that since I imagine there are probably succulents for just about every climate.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, you think so. But by definition, and you know, we define them as plants that store moisture. These are plants from dry climates, and warm climates, for the most part. Now, there are always exceptions, but the majority of succulents are from the southwest, and Mexico. And those are your cacti and agaves are from a similar region in South Africa. And those are your crassulas, and that more of a non spiny plants, although euphorbias are included in that. So there's a I tend to think of the South African succulents as the more commercial, because they're not as armed and dangerous. They tend to, they tend to be Oh, the pretty ones. But they also tend to be a little bit more frost tender and a little finicky to grow. So, you know, it's all a matter of taste.

Farmer Fred:

Well, let's talk about a very common one that you see growing along the freeways throughout California. And it's called Opuntia. The opuntia cactus, paddle cactus to some and the Opuntia has rather big dramatic paddle shaped leaves, that some people consider a delicacy other people consider them a threat because of how spiky they are.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, you know what I thought you're gonna say Fred was the Carpobrotus edulis, the pickleweed, that grows along the freeways, which is not it, but despite its name, it's called pickleweed. Because the stems, which are about the size of a finger are green, and they look like pickles. So Alright, so along the freeways, you see probably see more pickleweed than Opuntia or paddle cactus. Oh, what's interesting about paddle cactus, and a lot of these cacti are are considered a delicacy and Mexico. So the, the paddle cactus is often seen in Mexican markets. And if you go into Mexico,you'll see a stand of stacked pads. And each one is about a half an inch thick and oh, maybe slightly bigger than a ping pong paddle. And behind the table where these are stacked, is you know, one of the kids or the family or a grandparent is just scraping the spines off just sitting there scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, because the spines of course are the one thing about them you do not eat. So they're sold to be used, to create a vegetable dish and as an ingredient in soups and stews. One of the things that we tend not to like about them is the same thing we don't like about okra, and that is that the tissues have a mucilaginous texture. Some people would call it gooey or goopy, which is not you know, it's an acquired taste. So what you want to do with that, and And believe me, if you grow Opuntia you can harvest it and you can do this. You score it, you take the pad, nice young tender pad, not a woody older pad. Ideally you harvested in the spring after rainfall has plumped the plant with with new growth after scraping off the spines, and I want to tell you about a spineless variety in a minute. Then you score it in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife and you put it on the grill. And then that that goop kind of, you know sizzles out and drips and what you're left with is a bunch of nicer texture, more of I think of the taste is sort of like green beans. And I guess the texture would be more like a green bean, too. Just not that gloppiness, that that's kind of undesirable and when the skin gets a char on it, it has a nice flavor too. But that's just one way of preparing it. They're Nopales, n-o-p-a-l-e-s. And that is the ingredient for numerous Mexican delicacies and dishes. So what if you didn't have to scrape those spines? Right?

Farmer Fred:

Well, I want to know what you use to scrape the spines away.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Oh, well, you as I've seen it done. I haven't personally done it. You put the pad on your on your lap on on a towel or something. And you have you have a glove, left hand if you're right handed. And with that glove, right, left hand, you hold the pad in place and with your right hand, you've got a knife and you scrape along the surface of the skin of the pad away from you. And it catches in the towel.

Farmer Fred:

Hmm Okay. All right.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I don't know what you do with the towel after that? Yeah. You want to hear about spineless?

Farmer Fred:

Spineless paddle cactus?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yes. Yes. this is one of my favorite plants. And I think it could end world hunger. And I know that's an overblown claim. And, uh, but I'm not kidding. And you know who I have this in common with? He's deceased. Luther Burbank. Oh, the famed hybridizer. Yes. He was determined that he was going to create a market for spineless paddle cactus as cattle feed. Because, I mean, compared to grain, which needs all kinds of you know, it's seasonal crop, it needs harvesting. It needs storage, it's prone to, you know, I don't know, all kinds of pests and you know, fungal things. Well, so with a paddle cactus, you know what you have to do to grow it in USDA Zone 9 climate? Throw it on the ground.

Farmer Fred:

Yeah. And it takes root? Yes.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yeah, it takes root. Wherever there's a spine. That's meristem tissue, new, or a little roots will form. I have one. I have one in my garden, lying on the ground. And I was recently visited by a nursery man from Northern California. And we were walking through the garden and he's looking at all these giant succulents he can't grow. And I said to him, oh, that's a spineless paddle pad on the ground. Would you pick it up for me? Well, they had curled up and was in contact with the crown on just that little bit of lower side. And he couldn't, and he tugged on it. And he touched some more. And he said, this is a joke, isn't it? I said, Yeah, it's taken root. Yeah, I know. Yeah. So anyway, Burbank was really into this idea. And I think it's a fabulous one. But he ran into a problem. Now, this is not a problem you might expect. like trying to talk ranchers into feeding this to the cattle, no problem. The cattle ate it. Cattle eat a lot of things including that wasn't nutritious enough. Yes, it's high in vitamin C, got great fiber. In fact, you can cut down on how much water you give your cattle because it's so full of water. Okay, easy to grow, easy to store. How do you store it? Well, you just leave it on the plant until you're ready to you know, whack it off and put it in the trough. Okay, so what was the problem? Why didn't it work? Well, the plants regressed. So what started out as Burbank Spineless and that was the cultivar name, Burbank spineless, Opuntia Burbank Spineless. So it started out as spineless cactus. After a few generations or a few seasons, the new growth had spines.

Farmer Fred:

Yes, we see that a lot in nature where fruitless mulberries all of a sudden have fruit or ornamental pears all of a sudden start having fruit or even some ornamental trees that you might buy that you had bought purposely, say the male of the species, and in 10 or 15 years, it too, starts bearing fruit.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Yeah, well, Burbank unfortunately passed away before he perfected it. And when I started getting into this, I was just really enthralled at the idea that there was a food, a vegetable that you could throw on the ground, it would grow and people could eat it. Think about that in terms of, you know, the famines in some parts of this world, right.

Farmer Fred:

But basically, with Opuntia, the paddle cactus, It's easy to grow you if you take off the spines, and then it's very edible in a wide variety of dishes.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I don't eat a lot of it. But when people tour my garden, I always tell them the same thing. And it's something my dad told me because he grew it. He actually grew it as a security fence around the property. He said, and when the famine comes, we can eat it. There you go.

Farmer Fred:

Yep. Okay. Now, here's something that just about anybody who lives in USDA zone nine could partake of in a different way, instead of getting out their weed whacker or their trowel and digging it out and throwing it away would be to eat it. And I'm talking about purslane.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I know. I know. Don't you love it? The it's a weed. Yeah, yeah, the problem is it looks a lot like spurge and spurge is in the Euphorbia family. So if if you're pulling weeds, and you take a look at you need to see what purslane looks like, obviously, and you need to know what spurge looks like, because they are very different. if you're familiar with them, but just looking you know, just a casual glance, your first time around, you might not know the difference, but any Euphorbia is going to have a milky sap. That's the clue. You know, don't eat the one with the Milky sap. But yeah, yeah, but purslane comes up as a weed. it's not a noxious weed. It's not a problem, we but when you're weeding, you're probably run across it and you may pull it out, that's fine. But it is a flat growing, succulent. And it just kind of like makes a match that is curves from a main central stem so it sends out stems that are red in color, kind of a reddish pink. And then the leaves that come off of those stems, which are also right on the ground are green and oval. That probably rings a bell a lot of people because it is everywhere. I don't consider it invasive. But for some reason it always comes up in my garden. But after I did this blog post on edible succulents, and I learned more about purslane, I was out in the garden hunting for it. I was like oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I can't believe I pulled this out and wonder if my neighbors would mind if I went over there and hunted for it on their property. Because it is so incredibly nutritious. You know, when I was doing my research, I did find out that the taste is similar to watercress. So you would use it as you might spinach or lettuce. It's loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is higher in omega three fatty acids than other greens.

Farmer Fred:

I think we have time for one more. Why don't you pick it though, the one you want to talk about?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

I'm going to talk about Elephants Food because it's dear to my heart. This is my new favorite succulent, of course they change. But elephants is actually eaten by elephants in South Africa. It's their main diet. It's Potulacaria afra. It's very ornamental. In fact, it's grown primarily because it is a landscape plant. It looks a lot like Jade with small leaves and red stems. And it kind of has an every which way direction for its branches giving it sort of bad hair day look. The solid green variety, which is the one that's common in South Africa grows quite large, it will get to over six feet tall and is wide over time. And what you eat on that would be those little green leaves and they are sour and crunchy. I have a video where I show how I added as a garnish to a salad that includes sliced seasonal tomatoes and feta cheese. So it's, you know, and some oil and vinegar and herbs. So it it's not the kind of thing you'd sit down and eat a lot of. But again, it's one of those plants that's good to have around in case there was a famine when it comes. But it's just one of those ornamental plants that you don't expect to have more benefit than it first appears. And in Africa, the elephants go stomping through big stands of it. And the plant has a symbiotic relationship with the elephants because being broken apart like that helps the plant to start from cuttings. And that's how it spreads.

Farmer Fred:

Debra Lee Baldwin. Wonderful website DeborahLeeBaldwin.com. Now, of all the books about succulents that you've written, which one would you recommend to somebody just starting off in the world of succulents?

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well I would definitely recommend "Succulents Simplified". This book has just taken off. It's a tremendous seller. And it is one of the best introductions to succulents. succulents, simplified, published by Timber Press. You can find it on my websites book page and or just go to Amazon and type in succulents simplified.

Farmer Fred:

and of course, you're on YouTube, you've got the blog, you've got a very active website and a marketplace as well.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Well, yeah, yes, thank you. I so love what I do. And as a journalist by profession, who's come into succulents, first as a hobby, and then as a passion, I keep running across more cool things to share. So I'll add a post to my website. Oh, I have a newsletter celebrating the joy of succulents which people can subscribe to for free by going to the homepage of Deborah Lee baldwin.com. I have over 6 million YouTube views. And I also have a presence on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Farmer Fred:

One of the nation's leading succulent experts Deborah Lee Baldwin specializes in showing how top floral landscaping garden designers can use sculptural succulents and a wide variety of eye catching applications. Her own garden has been in Sunset magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and she lives in the ideal gardening climate, near San Diego, California. Debra Lee Baldwin, thank you for spending a few minutes with us here on the Garden Basics podcast.

Debra Lee Baldwin:

Thank you for it, I really enjoyed it.

Farmer Fred:

Smart Pots are the original award winning fabric planter. They're sold worldwide. Smart Pots are proudly made, 100% in the USA. Smart Pots are also BPA free. There's no risk of chemicals leaching into the soil your herbs, vegetables and other edibles. That's why organic growers prefer Smart Pots. Smart Pots' breathable fabric creates a healthy root structure for plants. Smart Pots come in a wide array of sizes and they can be reused year after year. Speaking of the cold weather that's on the way, if a frost or freeze is in the forecast, moving your frost tender plants that are in the Smart Pots that have handles makes them even easier to move closer to the house for added warmth or you could even move them inside for the winter. Visit SmartPots dot com slash Fred for more information about the complete line of smart pots lightweight fabric containers. It's Smart Pots, the original, award-winning fabric planter. Go to SmartPots.com slash Fred for more info and that special farmer for a discount on your next Smart Pot purchase. Go to SmartPots.com slash Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

Time for a quick tip here on the garden basics podcast and we turn to our favorite retired college horticultural Professor, Debbie Flower, and she's off hunting snails and slugs, and maybe you're using a bait to get those snails and slugs. The key, though, is where you put that bait. And if you have raised beds, especially with wooden sides, Debbie Flower has some good tips about where to put it in order to get the attention of the snails and slugs.

Debbie Flower:

The worry free or sluggo brands are iron phosphate based. and realize it's a bait. they're going to come to it. So in my raised beds, I don't put it around the plants. I put it around the periphery of the raised bed itself, because during the day they're probably hiding between the wood that's making the sides of the raised bed and the soil where the moisture is and the shade is. And so when they come up from there to go start munching in the garden, the first thing they run into is the bait.

Farmer Fred:

When choosing a snail and slug killer always choose the one that has the less toxicity but still does the job. Look for iron phosphate as the active ingredient when shopping for snail and slug bait. When you go shopping for snail and slug killer you're also going to come across the active ingredient Metaldehyde. it's b en around for years, been round for decades, but it is lso very problematic around mall children and hungry small ets. It is quite toxic to them. nd as we're fond of saying on his program, read and follow ll label directions.

Farmer Fred 2:

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode: transcripts links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us. We have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmerfred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? Now, if the place where you access the podcast doesn't have all that information, you can find it all at our home podcaster, Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout.com. Just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes.

Farmer Fred:

The Garden Basics podcast is going to a winter schedule, maybe just like your favorite local nursery. November through January, Garden Basics will come out once a week on Fridays. Then, as the weather warms back up in February, we'll return to our twice a week schedule. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and leaving comments. We appreciate that you've included us in your garden life.

Edible Succulents
Smart Pots!
Quick Tip: Where to Apply Snail Control Bait in a Raised Bed