By Susan Ohanian

Moving into summer many of us are focused on gardening. Ray Bradbury once noted, “Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies…” And speaking of peonies—surely their abundance is a June blessing. The symbol of good fortune and a happy marriage, the peony comes in every color except blue. Vermont’s state flower was designated in 1894: Red Clover, Trifolium pretense (which is also the national flower of Denmark). If you challenge someone to name which of the 50 states celebrates the peony as its state flower, how many guesses do you think it will take to come up with the right answer?

Like orange, there is no perfect rhyme for peony, but that hasn’t prevented it from being the centuries-old favorite of poets. In China, peonies, known as the “queen of flowers,” symbolize fame and wealth. The Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762) writes of “A vibrant red peony, moist with pearls of fragrant dew.” More recently, in “Peonies,” Mary Oliver gives us:

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment….
And here’s Jane Kenyon in “Peonies at Dusk”:
Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance….
The peony may be the queen of palace flowers, but poet Vachel Lindsay pointed to the dandelion as the king.
O dandelion, rich and haughty,
King of village flowers!
Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours….

One of the most widespread of wild plants, all parts of the dandelion are edible: root, leaves and flowers. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin C and all parts are rich in vitamin A and iron. Alice Waters recommends a salad of dandelion leaves, shallots, fennel, small red radishes and lemon zest.

During the 19th century the dandelion root, roasted and ground, was a popular substitute for coffee—and this brew is still around. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the roots are first scrubbed clean, then roasted (for about 4 hours), and then ground in a blender. Think Dandelion Mocha Chicory Herbal Coffee as well as Dandelion Tea.

A Special Thank You
Forty-eight people responded to Susan Raber Bray’s wonderful offer of beautiful hand-crafted ceramic bowls and her generous talent brought the Food Shelf $4,402. You can see the bowls at Susan Raber Bray’s website.

Thank you to Beth and Edd Merritt for the new twin bed and mattress, two sleeping bags, and a quilt. Dave Miskell donated big bags of beautiful lettuce, spinach and Asian greens.

Bud, Barbara and Tessa Lawrence dropped off several bags of wonderful items.

Thank you to Stuart Robinson. As his Eagle Scout project, Stuart is building a Little Free Library. The assembly of the library is currently in the works, and meanwhile, there is a temporary box filled with wonderful children’s books on the porch at the Charlotte Grange. These books are sanitized for safety and free to take and enjoy.

Donations received
Clarissa Townsend, Helen Garvey, Anne Castle (Co-op), Cathy Hunter, Josie Kaestner, Edward & Patricia Sulva, in honor of the Zahn family and in memory of Mom, Irene Santulli, Norman W. Bohn, Deb Cook, Barry Finette & Sharon Mount, Diane Cote On behalf of Cara Gallagher, Kathleen Nolan, Robert & Marjorie Archer, Trafton & Laura Crandall, Kathleen Nolan, Robert & Marjorie Archer, a generous anonymous donation.

Keeping safe
The Food Shelf continues to take precautions to help everyone keep safe. Anyone who has a fever or cough—or symptoms that might seem like a cold—should not come to the distributions. Also, don’t come if you have been in contact with anyone who has these symptoms. Instead, call (802) 425-3252 and leave your name and number. You will receive a call back to come up with a plan. We need to help families and volunteers stay safe.

We are open every Wednesday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is for curbside service only. Cars pull up to a sign that says “Please wait in car.” A volunteer offers a checklist for patrons to select the items they need. A volunteer packs the items and another volunteer carries the bags out, setting them beside the car.

Financial assistance
Reminder: The Food Shelf has some funds available for emergency assistance with fuel and electric bills. Call (802) 425-3252 if you need assistance. For emergency food call John at (802) 425-3130.

Donations
The Charlotte Food Shelf Inc. is a nonprofit organization, and all donations are tax deductible. Our organization is run by volunteers, and so all donations made to the Food Shelf go directly for nutritious food or assistance to our local neighbors in Charlotte and North Ferrisburgh. Should you wish to honor someone with a donation, a special acknowledgement will be sent to that person. Checks may be mailed to Charlotte Food Shelf and Assistance, P.O. Box 83, Charlotte, VT 05445.

Call the Food Shelf at (802) 425-3252 for a recording of the distribution times.