"Mom, that's a female yellow pepper because it has four bumps," my 14-year-old daughter said as she pointed at the peppers on a cutting board. "It's sweeter." She was grinning sweetly and looking at me. I mean my daughter, not the yellow pepper. "That red pepper is a male pepper because it has three bumps," my daughter continued. I had rinsed the peppers and was preparing to cut a yellow, orange and red bell pepper into strips to saute for fajitas. I glanced at my daughter sideways as I cut. I could tell she was testing me or teasing me, or both.
My flowers and vegetables are growing nicely with the regular rain. The weeds are doing well, too, so I needed to clean up my gardens recently. I pulled weed after weed that had sprouted in my planters, raised garden beds and ground-level garden patch. These opportunistic green invaders were hiding under flowers and foliage and in the crevices by the raised beds. Why didn't all my plants grow as well as the weeds? I tried to make it fun by playing "name that weed." No, that wasn't a fun game at all. I needed a reference book or a weed scientist for consultation.
Like many people, I have been busy with yardwork lately. We have had a proliferation of miniature maple trees popping up all over our yard, thanks to hundreds (maybe thousands) of propellerlike seeds dropping from our tree. I wander around the yard every day, inspecting my pots and gardens for the telltale reddish stems and pointed leaves. Other than preventing a maple tree forest from sprouting in my yard, I really don't need to check my plants several times per day.
I thought back in time as I drove by the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center recently. I had reached the rolling hills near Washburn, N.D., on my way to the North Dakota 4-H Camp. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark and their crew built Fort Mandan in the Washburn area in November 1804. The two-year Corps of Discovery Expedition had been commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to find a direct waterway to the Pacific Coast between 1804 and 1806.
"Mom, how did they figure out we could eat rhubarb, anyway?" my older daughter asked me. I had cut some stalks of rhubarb and was disposing of the large green leaves. A wilted leaf caught her attention and soon she had it draped over her head like a large green scarf. Of course, she snapped a couple selfies to share with her friends. A friend's dachshund puppy was at our house, and the curious puppy came close to check out the situation. Soon the puppy was wearing the rhubarb leaf. She trotted around with her green robe like a princess without a crown.
The other day, I wiped off and arranged the outdoor furniture on our patio after the furniture finally came out of storage. Then I sat down at the table to enjoy the warm breeze and admire the flowers I just planted. After a long, cold winter and spring, I was beginning to wonder whether warm temperatures ever would arrive. My husband started firing up the grill. Our dogs trotted over to check out the situation. Usually, the smell of a grill means they will get a little sample of meat. They received a pat on the head, which they appreciated slightly.
"Use your gears," my husband called back over his shoulder. That's easy for him to say, I thought to myself. He can figure out mechanical things almost immediately. We were trying our new bikes, which have four shifting mechanisms, one pair on each side of the handlebars. I had been riding around our very flat neighborhood, so I had a little practice but not enough.
"I suppose this is going to be a column," my son said as I pushed a grocery cart and he added items to it. We had paused in the produce aisle and he added bananas, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, potatoes, several types of peppers and other colorful produce items. He examined the items carefully and looked at the prices before putting them in the cart. Truly, I was amazed and increasingly amused as we strolled through the store. "I wish I could see what is going on in your brain right now," he teased.
"Do you know what's in the sauce?" I asked the server. "Do you not like it?" he asked. I need to adjust my facial expression, I thought to myself. "Oh, I like it a lot. I'm just wondering what the ingredients are," I responded with a smile. "I am not sure, but I will check with the chef," he said. I was at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Va., at a national Extension conference, having lunch with a colleague. I was enjoying crab cakes with a tasty green condiment.
"Can I eat the romaine lettuce in my refrigerator?" the caller asked. "No, we need to toss romaine lettuce for the time being, until the source and cause of the outbreak is determined," I replied. I cringe when I have to tell people not to eat their leafy green vegetables. Fortunately, we have some other choices that are similar nutritionally, such as spinach, so don't give up on leafy greens entirely.