Grow Gainesville, garden serendipity, pig pool

Melissa DeSa, one of the most dedicated local foods and community gardening activists in this area, started a local gardening group on Facebook that is quickly becoming a fantastic resource. It is focused on organic and almost-organic gardening and most if not all of the people on there are conservation-minded. I’m learning a lot on there!

Cassava/Yuca plant. Isn't it pretty?

Yuca has been all around me lately. A few days ago my father and I were discussing cooking with yuca and the history of the plant. Yesterday someone posted that yuca can be grown here in Gainesville. I immediately start looking up information on yuca and its growing conditions. Then yesterday the Edible Plant Project booth at the downtown farmer’s market had a yuca plant for sale and I was able to chat with a gardener about growing it here! Garden serendipity.

Yuca is a fascinating plant. Did you know that tapioca root, yuca, manioc, and cassava are all the same plant? Those are all regional names for Manihot esculenta, a tall bushy shrub responsible for feeding a significant portion of the world’s tropical population. I didn’t know it was native to Brazil either, I thought it was originally from Africa. It’s so beautiful, it looks like okra or castor bean plants.

I want to grow this in my little garden so badly! Right now I don’t have the room, unless I want to give one entire bed over to the yuca. I might be able to get away with planting it along the half-wild corner of the common area, but it might be difficult to dig up the roots next year without digging up the grass, too, and the neighborhood association may not be too happy about that. I could construct another bed with permission from the neighborhood association, or even get a community garden plot in McCrory and just grow the xeric-friendly perennials like yuca. Strawberry guava and turmeric are on my wish list for the fall planting too.

There’s a pig pool coming up and I’m not coordinating it. Isn’t that great? I’m so excited that others are “jumping in”. The whole point for this was not for me to become the Cow Pool Queen of Gainesville, but to start a network of buyers and farmers and teach others and take turns. Unfortunately I probably won’t participate in this one, it’s edging towards $7 a pound and my limit is $5, but there are many people in the group who’ll happily pay that price. I hope it goes smoothly and more people are willing to take turns organizing them.

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