I am piecing together a guide to new crops that can build a new, sustainable agriculture and food art culture in this grassland sea. Yesterday, I noticed that a late spring crop was at its peak, and I let myself walk for awhile in its story. I invite you to walk along. Watch where you step!
Pineapple Weed Making a Carpet of Our Path into the Hills
This little gem is also called false chamomile, which is just plain weird, because there’s nothing false about it. So what that it doesn’t have big lovely white petals like its sister that grows on the road shoulder in front of the old Japanese orchards down below, spread through the gravel by the annual shoulder mowing machines. It smells so fine when you step on it and it lingers for hours on the fingers. Here’s my first harvest, looking very real and pineapply (Pineapplish?)… And here it is, catching the sun in a teapot of boiling water, just a few minutes later… Glorious, isn’t it! Look at the beauty that it makes out of the water. And ten minutes later? Aha. Here we are, out on the deck, with the apricot and nectarine tree in the back and all that lettuce … hey, you don’t want some lettuce, do you?
Pineapple Weed Tea, Ready for You and Me
The top half of the cup and the little waves of light on the railing show the actual colour of the tea: a pale yellow, like sunlight pooling inside a grass blade. The tea smells like fresh pineapple, tastes light and sweet and fruity, like chamomile without the bitterness and with a touch of pineapple honey. It’s a very calming drink, and, oh, did I mention, it smells sooooo good?
Flavour, purity, light, scent, spirit and beauty, all without chemicals, water, tillage or any labour other than a couple minutes on the way home from watching a blackbird dance. It grows anywhere you let it. Currently farmers spray it with Roundup because they are intent on growing Royal Gala apples which no one wants, in tight rows which can only be factory farmed using incredibly expensive machines. Premium teabags go for about $2.50 down at the local tea shop. Imagine growing it in a restaurant or teashop window and serving it in a glass teapot. Imagine what you could do with it. Not only could you build an agriculture and a food culture, but you could stop the insanity of lazy, careless men who react to the undesirability and industrial blandness of their product by doing this:
People, you aren’t supposed to spray it on the tree. It is a systemic herbicide. It goes into the sap of the plant and kills it from within. Is it any wonder no one wants to eat these apples? Yuck. I mean it. Yuck. Look again.
One second with a pair of hand clippers would have helped, but, you see, in an industrial plantation you do your pruning from a platform. This farmer never, ever walks his soil. It is, in effect, not a farm. It is a factory. Now, I think food is a spiritual substance, and look: while I was sipping my light yellow-green tea, this beautiful creature came a-calling…Female Bullock’s Oriole Pulling the Stuffing Out of My Old Chair to Build Her Hanging Nest
Go, girl! And, would you look, she’s the same colour as the tea. If she was the colour of Roundup, or smelled like that gunk, I’d be worried for us all.
So, this is exciting. The only thing is, what should we call Pineapple Weed when we grow it and sell it and drink it and it makes us as calm as the gentle grassland wind? The name is a bit weedy. Oriole fern? Oriole Blossom Tea? Pineapple Cone Tea? Pineapple Bird Tissane, Desert Pineapple Tea? Feel free to chip in.