Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

Between every two pine trees is a doorway to a new world.” — John Muir

Wow, my mailbox is loaded with garden catalogs. It is the perfect antidote to the winter blues, especially in January since I think it is the most boring month of the year. The catalogs give us a chance to try new and unusual flowers and vegetables local nurseries can’t provide due to limited space. People with limited space can find dwarf varieties and in colder zones there are varieties suited for a short growing season.

For those who would like to grow flowers and vegetables but don’t have space or don’t know how to start them, why not rent a plot in a community garden? We have at least three in Sauk County. There are gardens in Baraboo, Reedsburg and Prairie du Sac. The cost is minimal and help is available. It is fun for kids and adults alike. An hour a week is about all that’s needed to grow produce.

For those who don’t have time or the inclination to group produce, consider purchasing a share at a Community Support Agriculture farm. A CSA share provides a season-long supply of fresh and nutritious produce, fruits and flowers. We have many in Sauk County. Don’t forget to support the local farms by stopping at the roadside stands and farmers markets.

Did you know that some evergreens have edible fruit? If you ever needed to buy pine nuts to make pesto, then you know how expensive they are. Pine trees produce pine nuts. All pine nuts are edible but some are too small and hard to get out of the cones. Korean pine (pinus koraaensis) and the Siberian pine (pinus sibirica) are the best since their nuts are larger. When planing one of these pines, it should be noted it will take about five years to get nuts but is worth it. I get the nuts I need from my white pines, but it takes a while.

Common juniper also has edible berries with a refreshing piney scent. The berries are used to flavor gin and may be crushed and used for hearty meats and sauces. Europeans, especially the French, use these in cooking.

The Americans have not yet caught on.

Another edible berry is wintergreen. It ripens to bright red in autumn and the glossy green leaves provide winter interest. Even the leaves can be dried and made into tea. Have you ever heard of teaberry teas? Winterberry is a lovely ground cover that stays green all winter.

The Sauk County Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Department is holding its annual tree sale and taking orders.

One of the trees available is the shagbark hickory. It is a large landscape tree that has interesting bark and beautiful fall colors. I love this tree is for its nuts. Hickory nuts can be gathered in the fall or dried for holiday baking. They can take the place of pecans and used in a nut brittle. Their flavor is sweet and creamy. Unless you know someone with a tree or grow your own, you cannot find these except in the grocery store.

A possible problem could be fighting off the squirrels.

Nursery-grown trees should produce nuts in two or three years. The trees CPZ sells are small, but they should be planted with the future in mind. For more information, or to order, call CPZ at 608-355-3245.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.