I stand corrected.
What I told you last week was growing in my yard Ė wild onions Ė appears to have been a kissing-cousin, false-garlic.
Happens that I got out my Wildflowers of Louisiana by Clair Brown for some research on local wildflowers and realized, upon seeing a photo of real wild onions, that somehow I had gotten it mixed up in my feeble pea-brain. In fact, I havenít seen wild onions in so long I had forgotten how the clusters of seedy-looking, pungent onion-pods grow on the stems. Does anyone see wild onions anymore? I donít have any in my yard.
So itís false-garlic. Out of curiosity, I pulled a stem out the yard and bit off a hunk. Well, they donít call it false-garlic for nothing, I tell you, because itís pretty rank and tastes nothing like garlic or onion. And all this time I thought I had a healthy barrier against vampires, dang the luck.
But it reminded me how my dad taught me to eat those big thistles with the spiny leaves and pink flowers. That was the coolest thing for a kid, to go out and cut down those prickly rascals, deleaf and devein them, kinda like celery but not nearly as good. In fact, they probably tasted awful, but when youíre a kid "coolness" can make things taste better. The pink flowers are pretty tasty, too.
I am sure of the spiderwort, though I had been calling it bluewort, which I think is a Louisianaism. Love that stuff, and I let it grow in clumps wherever I find it, then mow it back to a lawn after it dies back in hot weather.
Last year, maybe year before, my girl and I dug up a half dozen wild Louisiana irises from the bayouside. My bayouside is chock-a-block full of them, mostly red. We planted them in a little flower bed off the back patio, and she added some mint, dahlia and some sorta lily I canít remember the name of. The irises have done pretty good but this year theyíve really taken off. I have three in bloom right this minute, and about five or six more buds getting ready.
They come in blue, purple, yellow, pink, white and red. Grand Avoille Cove is full of the purple ones and Iíve been threatening to go collect some for the garden. My mom has some yeller ones, too, that I want to get some samples of.
(Odd expression, isnít that? "Threatening to." What does that mean in such a context? "Iíve been threatening to go collect some for years." Threatening who? The irises? The cove? I just dunno.)
Plenty of yellow-top in the yard, too, and I noticed some buttercups not long ago, but thanks again to Brown I now know that those pink things with the fluffy yellow-and-white middles we used to stick on peopleís noses are actually Mexican primrose. True buttercup is hard to find, but they say itís still around in this area.
I got to looking around the yard and noticed that the azaleas I planted last year are doing nicely. Could maybe use some Miracid. I also have some hybrid lantana at the base of the fig tree and also below that dastardly hackberry on the other side of the yard. The one with the roots growing above the ground that cause me fits when cutting grass. Iím hoping to make a groundcover of the lantana. I have a wild lantana on one side of the front steps that would easily devour the porch and entire house if I ainít careful. On the other side of the steps is a gardenia with that typical gardenia smell that most people like but then feel guilty about it and swear they donít.
Thereís plenty of elephant ears down by the bayou, and a few white lilies of some kind, spidery concoctions that I need to get a few samples of for the garden. I take after my dadís brother, I guess, my Uncle Ray. He was quite the grower, Iím told, and on visits to Louisiana would often go back to Ft. Worth with many samples of our indigenous flora. My dad appreciated flowers, particularly yellow ones, but he wouldnít even plant a vegetable garden because it interfered with the fishing.
There used to be lots of blackberry at the bayouside in my youth. Just a few stragglers now that the property I once roamed has been subdivided four-ways and mostly mowed. I love the taste of blackberry straight off the vine, no matter how many times I was told to bring them to the house and wash them first. The birds had been leaving little presents on them, or the farmer who grew corn on part of the land might have sprayed them with some chemical or what-not, but I couldnít resist. What kid could? Kids donít care. They know theyíll be fine. Only growing up and developing so-called sense makes you vulnerable to such things. As a kid, if you drop your moon pie in the dirt, pick it up and blow on it real hard, itís perfectly safe and good to eat, right? Thatís because before you know better, nothing can hurt you.
My grandpa chewed me out one time for picking a wild something-or-other for my grandmother when I was real little. He could be like that sometimes. He chastised me mightily for killing the flower when it could have lived on and given joy to everyone who saw it, not just those who went into the kitchen where it would be slowly dying in a little vase of water. I respected his opinion, but thereafter gave my grandma flowers behind his back.
Weíre going to plant purple hyacinth bean and blue morning glories over whatís left of my old oak tree that toppled last year. About a third of it is still standing after it split vertically and the bulk of it collapsed. Iíve let folks come cut it for firewood, and most of itís gone. Itíll become a landscape item, hopefully covered with vines and look frighteningly like a place anacondas and boa constrictors would hang out. That might keep the neíer-do-wells out of the yard, you see.
There was a wild persimmon or plum tree, I donít remember which, growing over the water on Grand Avoille Cove years ago. Once my dad and I came across a whole herd of catfish feeding on the overripened fruits as they fell from the tree into the water. Dad got us each a Heddon Lucky 13 that was mostly red and we caught the bejeezus outta the catfish that day, friends and neighbors. Iíd never seen anything like it then, and never have again. I think a hurricane took that old fruit tree out decades ago.
Back then, the flat-topped lilies the cove took its name after still grew there. They made beautiful purple and white flowers, and the most exciting thing I ever saw was when a blackbird landed atop one and the most humungous bass you ever saw leaped out of the water and devoured that bird.
Thereís a little canal I know of thatís full of muscadines. My buddy, who goes by the monicker The Old Fella in these columns, and I found an entire bank of them, thick and impenetrable as a wall and packed with the red-purple-black fruit. I negotiated the boat alongside that tangle of grapes and we feasted silently for a long while. The taste was robust, unfettered. It reminded The Old Fella of the days of his youth, fishing with his uncle and cousins. It reminded me of my own youth, of my grandfather making muscadine and elderberry wine at home. Now and then theyíd give me a sip: It was sweet and potent, earthblood, wild, silver magic. You could taste rivers flowing in it, hear winds whipping and feel rain, cool and gentle as kitten paws through soft prairie grass.
I hadnít perceived that in decades. I had grown up and gained sense, losing my invulnerability. I suppose the birds might have been leaving little presents and there probably were bugs. But when the first muscadine skin burst under my teeth and filled my mouth with spring-fresh, magic-charged wonder, I was invulnerable again. Nothing could, at least for a little while, harm me at all.