Gardeners of Somerset Valley

March 2008					Editor: Mitch Greenbaum

NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 7:30PM
at the North Branch Reformed Church.

(Note: This is the fourth not the usual third Wednesday)

Mushrooms can be one of those topics that elicit a strong response from just about everyone. Because several are poisonous and hard to distinguish from safe specimens, some people won’t go near one in the wild with a ten foot pole nor ever consider eating them. On the other hand, particularly with Asian or European cuisine, a fine meal wouldn’t be considered complete without delicious, healthful mushrooms. Traditional Chinese medicine relies on mushrooms to fight illness and to strengthen the body’s immune system. Now modern medicine is researching Shitakes for their anti-cancer benefits and many a man believes the selenium in mushrooms helps keep prostate cancer at bay. Even back in the turbulent late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Carlos Castenada’s books about the teachings of Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian shaman who used psychedelic mushrooms to enter a mystical world as a means for philosophizing about ‘non-ordinary reality’, were both extremely popular and controversial. To this day, many a baby boomer doesn’t remember the philosophy much, but recalls the mushrooms and other plants that the shaman used to increase his awareness and see the world from a dramatically different perspective. Of late, mushrooms because of their broad range of vibrant colors have made a comeback as a natural replacement for synthetics used to dye wool and paper products. With so many useful traits, these fruit of lowly fungi merit serious attention, and next month’s speaker, Susan Hopkins of Oldwick, has an appropriate program called “Mushrooms-More than Edible”. Her credentials include active membership in the NJ Chapter of the North American Mycological Association and for the past twenty years she has traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia passionately studying mushrooms. Ms. Hopkins devotes time to wool dyeing, paper making and other craft activities. She promises to bring in samples and share favorite recipes. She also encourages brave members to hand carry backyard samples as a challenge to her identification skills, and who knows, these may prove to be a new source of household food or something the neighborhood shaman might find interesting.

February’s Amaryllis contest was a resounding success. Barry Weissman served as judge, and with the entries very evenly matched, the suspense remained high. Ultimately, Fred/Alice Swan won for largest bloom, Ralph Maiwaldt’s earned the most potential award, and ‘Best in Show’ went to Fred Yarnell for a plant which he described as the “most unusual”. Thanks to Pien Nagy’s photography, all these beauties can be seen on the website under Past Events.

Larry Haas reported that Pat Matsen has volunteered to return for another term as a trustee, therefore elections are set to take place at the March meeting. Dues checks have been coming in nicely and let’s try to close out this activity over the next few weeks. Also, remember to bring in your updated e-mail address.

The 2008 Geranium Order Form and the Ace Hanging Basket and Flower and Vegetable Forms are on the website. Much of the scholarship money comes from these programs. Just the other day a co-worker noted for frugality complained that his Home Depot purchased seed geraniums performed badly last year and now wanted to try the GOSV special cuttings. With days getting longer and warmer, start thinking about revving up your sales strategy with former and potential customers. Note that the basket and annual orders are due on or about April 1 so as to avoid stock outs.

By now everyone should have received a Charter Night flyer either by mail or e-mail. The April 13 luncheon date and the April 4 RSVP deadline are creeping up fast. Make Chairperson Susan Dodge’s job easier by sending those checks early. Usually around mid-April everyone’s sore body needs a break from tending the yard anyway, and in year’s past socializing with the scholarship students was both a club priority and a true joy for membership.

Not to sound like an overbearing cheerleader, the mushroom program offers something for everyone and is an interesting start to the spring season.