Ewing Environmental Commission’s Tree of the Month – Osage Orange

The Ewing Green Team is delighted to bring the Ewing Environmental Commission’s Tree of the Month Series to you.  Our publication of this series begins with the November 2014 entry, the Osage Orange, aka Hedge Apple, Monkey Ball, Bois d’arc.


osageorangefruitIn the fall, walking along roadsides, old home sites, or the edges of fields, one often comes across a strange looking, greenish-yellow, round and rough-surfaced fruit on the ground; it is from the Osage Orange tree, Maclura pomifera. We have chosen this unusual, very tough, native American tree to be the November Tree of the Month.

The Osage Orange tree was once found primarily in the Red River drainage areas of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in blackland prairies and post oak savannas and was originally used by the Osage and Comanche Indians to make bows and war clubs. It was naturalized extensively throughout the country from the Rocky Mountains to the East, North of Florida to Ontario, by the efforts of early American settlers as well as the native Americans who would travel hundreds of miles to gather the wood for their bows and clubs. The wood was unequalled for prickly hedgerows, windbreaks, posts, fences, furniture, tool handles, and railroad ties in addition to archery bows.

It has been planted in greater numbers than any other native, American tree, and recently has been used for strip-mine reclamation as it is so site-tolerant. It is hardy from USDA Zones 4-9 (Ewing is USDA Zone 6b).

The fruit, which ranges in size from 4” to 6” in diameter, is actually a group of fruits, each with a seed, all covered within a rough, round, yellow-green rind. The “orange”, which has no relation to citrus oranges, is filled with white, bitter, milky juice which can be irritating to the skin; it is not poisonous, but has a chemical-like flavor and unpleasant texture. It is not readily eaten by animals, but squirrels do eat the seeds. The Osage Orange fruit is very messy on the ground, and beware of standing beneath a fruitful, female tree in an autumn wind when the fruit is ripe!

This tree ranges in size from 20’ to 40’ although it can reach 60’. It is fast growing, has a short trunk, and develops a rounded canopy. The trunk is deeply furrowed, an ashy brown to orangey brown, and has scaly ridges and deep fissures. The leaves are alternately arranged, smooth-edged, bright green above and lighter and fuzzy below; they are 2”-5” long and half as wide. Sharp, 1” thorns develop in the axils of the leaves. The fall color is bright yellow-green.

Osage Orange is dioecious, meaning that male flowers are borne on one tree and female flowers on another. It is wind pollinated. The inconspicuous male and female flowering usually occurs in June when the leaves are fully developed.

The wood, has many uses as it is exceptionally rot resistant, very hard, heavy, immune to termites, flexible and strong. It is said to have the highest BTU content of any commercial U.S. wood and it burns long and hot (never use it without a screen, however, as it pops sparks for long distances). Fence wood used to be installed green, as the dry, seasoned wood was too hard (said to be 2.5 times harder than white oak) to accept nails and staples. The wood is straight grained; several dyes can be extracted from it.

This is obviously not a residential or street tree, but is picturesque in natural settings and parks, and is a valuable habitat for pheasants, quail, and other birds. Male tree varieties are favored and available as they do not bear the messy “oranges”. Osage Orange is tolerant of almost all soils and conditions and is not favored by pests and diseases. It thrives, however, in moist soil and full sun and prefers no competition from other trees.

During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt, with the W.P.A. project “Great Plains Shelter Belt”, had many miles of Osage Orange trees planted as wind breaks to modify the weather and erosion. Until barbed wire was invented in the 1870s, prickly, dense, Osage Orange hedgerows, tightly pruned, were used to keep pasture animals contained. Remains of these can be seen today around Ewing.

Meriwether Lewis, of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition to the west in the early 1800s, sent slips of Osage Orange to Thomas Jefferson. The scientific name, Maclura, is named after William Maclure (1763-1840), a Scottish geologist who was president of the American Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for twenty-two years.

By Ann Farnham, LLA

“Leaf Cycling” Is the Eco-Friendly Way to Maintain Your Yard

Leaf Your Leaves in Your Yard!

raking autumn leaves Every fall there’s a certain amount of cringing going on during my trips around town when I see  bags or piles of leaves out at the curb - all of that wonderful organic material that could be used to recharge your yards just tossed away!  So this is a prime opportunity to discuss the best way to handle your leaf cleanup at the end of the gardening season. I can’t urge you strongly enough not to give your leaves away!  It is a huge waste of natural materials that could benefit your yard! There are a number of really simple environmentally friendly ways to handle your leaf drop that don’t starve your yard and also decrease your impact on municipal services to save $$$.

So what to do with those leaves?

The first method is the lazy man’s way (my favorite) and involves very little raking and effort on your part. Simply run your lawn mower over the leaves where they lie and chop them up into small pieces.  (Yes, I know that using gas mowers are considered an unsustainable gardening practice, but consider the greater good.)  The chopped leaves can stay on your lawn and decompose there. This is an excellent way to help build up the soil. This works best with a mulching mower which is meant to chop materials (you do grass cycle, don’t you?) into fairly small pieces. Do this as needed until the end of the season and the leaves will break down over the winter providing your soil with valuable nutrients. You won’t have to rake a single leaf, and your lawn will thank you for it with improved performance next year.  Check out the video below to see how easy it is.

Another method not quite so effortless is taking those chopped up leaves and mulching your garden beds with them. This will protect your plants from the vagaries of the winter weather and also provide your beds with valuable nutrients when the leaves break down.

If you run out of time (or energy) you can forgo the chopping with the mower and leave the leaves in the beds where they fall and pile on more.  This will accomplish two necessary tasks.  (1) Removing your leaves from any hard surfaces on your property where they can become slick and messy. And (2) removing those leaves from your lawn where they can smother the turf grass.  This also will provide for a neater end of the year appearance.  Research does show that most garden plants in the colder hardiness zones appreciate a nice cover of leaves to protect them, however there are a few that do not so you need to be aware of your specific plant needs.  If you mulch with unchopped leaves, you are also faced with the issue of cleanup in the spring because most leaves will not have decomposed by that time.  If you trees have fine leaves you can probably leave them be in the spring and the appearance will not suffer unduly.  However, many of us are blessed with fine old trees like oaks, maples and sycamores, etc. that have large leaves and for a groomed appearance in your beds in spring you are going to have to remove them.  [I find myself hard at work every spring removing leaves, chopping, and then returning them back into the beds as mulch.  I never said that gardening doesn't have its chores.]

You can also add your leaves to your compost pile. No matter how small your yard there is always room for a small one tucked away in some out of the way place. The leaves will decompose more quickly if you chop them with your lawn mower as recommended above. Then gather them up (it’s amazing how a large pile of leaves reduces in size) and add them to the pile. If your pile is composed only of chopped leaves, you can make leaf mold for use at a later time. If you have green debris from your garden you can mix the two in layers and let it sit over the winter. Turn the pile when the weather permits and you will eventually have the Black Gold of the garden world – compost.

I tend to use a combination of all these methods.  When it is not too late (or cold) I happily run my lawn mower over piles of leaves that have fallen on the lawn and that I have removed from the beds.  Since raking afterwards is not 100% perfect, some is left on the lawn after I have either blown or raked the chopped product into the beds or put in the compost pile.  However, as the season winds down and I find myself beset with end of the year chores, one of the final acts of the season is that last pass with the lawnmower where I leave the leaves in place.  The yard is then as neat as I can get it before I retreat from the garden and await the first snow.

So I encourage you to avail yourselves of the multifold benefits of leaf hoarding.  Your yard will thank you for it.

by Joanne Mullowney, dedicated leaf hoarder.

Upcoming Events You Shouldn’t Miss!

Special Events Planned for Next Week

The last week of October is a busy week.  Check out these local events to help you on your path to a more sustainable life.  From plastic pollution to organic waste practices in our county, and bike advocacy in town, there is something for everyone.

BAG IT – Is Your Life Too Plastic?

Film and Discussion  BagIT

Date: Monday, October 27, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The College of New Jersey Library Auditorium (Basement)
Parking:  See Parking Map.
Cost: Only 2 hours or so of your time

Join the Ewing Green Team for an award winning film and discussion about plastic pollution from single use plastic bags and our disposable lifestyles.  Moderated by Noemi de la Puente, founder and organizer of the grass roots organization, njthinkoutsidethebag.

This screening is part of an ongoing effort to educate Mercer County residents about how they can be part of the solution before they vote on November 4^th on a nonbinding referendum to support a 5¢ fee on single use plastic bags.

An Environmental Insights offering, a series of films, discussions and speakers brought to you by the  Ewing Green Team, designed to engage Ewing residents in a public conversation about critical environmental issues and to spark new ideas concerning sustainability.


If It Grows, It Goes…

All you need to know about organic waste recycling

Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014  foodwaste-istock
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Location:  Dempster Fire Academy Auditorium, 350 Lawrence Station Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Cost: Free and open to the public
Pre-registration requested

Organic waste is a part of our everyday lives.  We can’t help but encounter it every time we eat, tend to our yards, or many other daily chores.

That’s why we’re breaking it down for you.  County Executive Brian Hughes will offer opening remarks and a panel of experts will explain what organic waste is, where it goes and what happens in the recycling process. Panelists will present local success stories and how you can bring this program to your town.

The Curbside Organics Program is already in place in Princeton and is currently under contract in Lawrence and Hopewell. Other municipalities in Mercer are looking to join in the near future.

Organic waste recycling is an easy way to make a HUGE impact through small actions.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about it, while networking with other like-minded individuals from throughout the region.

Hosted by Sustainable Jersey, sustainability organizations from Princeton, Lawrence, Hopewell, Ewing, West Windsor and The Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability.

For more info or to register, click here    |    Download the flier   | Driving directions

*Light refreshments will be served.  Doors open at 6:30 pm.*


Bike Ewing!

Join Our New Bike Advocacy Group

Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014  bikeewing
Time: 7 pm
Location: The College of New Jersey, Social Sciences Building Room 241
Parking:  See Parking Map.

The Ewing Green Team announces the launch of a NEW Ewing Bike Advocacy Group and invites you to join with us to promote a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.  The 2nd meeting will be held on Thursday, October 30th.

Monthly meetings, goal setting, and other startup activities are in the planning stages.

For more information call Mark at 609- 802- 6798.

Recycling Events in Ewing on Saturday, Sept 27th

Two unrelated recycling events will be occurring in Ewing this coming Saturday, September 27th, mobile document shredding and a drug disposal day.  Please be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to dispose of your confidential materials or unwanted prescriptions safely.  Read on for more information.

Document Shredding

SONY DSCSaturday will be Ewing’s final Shred Day of 2014.  It will run from 9am – 1pm and will be held at the Municipal Building at 2 Jake Garzio Drive.   The Township will provide document shredding on site for Township residents only, no businesses. Proof of residency is required. This is a free shredding event for confidential materials only; other recyclables will not be not accepted.   The Ewing Green Team will be on hand to offer assistance.

Shred Day Information

Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Location: in front of the Ewing Municipal Building, 2 Jake Garzio Drive

National Take Back Day

drugsThe Ewing Police Department will be participating in the DEA’s biannual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day  from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.    This is a great opportunity for those who missed the previous events, or who have subsequently accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs, to safely dispose of them.  Just go to the Ewing Police Department at 2 Jake Garzio Drive.  Enter the main door and make a left to go down the hallway to the Police Department.  The Ewing Police will have an officer available between 10 and 2 to take the items. All medications are accepted, prescription and over-the-counter, as well as liquids.

All medications are accepted, prescription and over-the-counter, as well as liquids.  Hypodermic needles are not accepted.  The disposal is handled completely securely; all accepted medications with any labels that you leave on the containers are placed in a large cardboard box, lined with plastic.  At the end of the day the contents are taken to the prosecutor’s office.  The DEA will pick up and incinerate.

Guidelines for Drug Disposal

If you are unable to participate on the day the FDA’s guidelines for proper drug disposal follow:

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • If no instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter — to make the medication less appealing and unrecognizable — then put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • You should also remove any identifying information on the label to protect your identity and privacy.

Despite the safety reasons for flushing drugs, some people are questioning the practice because of concerns about trace levels of drug residues found in surface water, such as rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies. However, the main way drug residues enter water systems is by people taking medications and then naturally passing them through their bodies.  That said, the FDA does not want to add drug residues into water systems unnecessarily. The agency reviewed its drug labels to identify products with disposal directions recommending flushing or disposal down the sink. This continuously revised listing can be found at FDA’s Web page on Disposal of Unused Medicines.

National Take Back Day Information

Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Ewing Police Department, 2 Jake Garzio Drive

Build a Scarecrow This Fall and Win Cash!

scarecrow3The Ewing Green Team Promotes Recycling With its First Annual Scarecrow Building Contest

Demonstrate your recycling smarts and creative skills this fall to win ca$h!   Make a one-of-a-kind scarecrow and enter  the Ewing Green Team’s first Annual Scarecrow Contest this October.  The contest is open to all Ewing individuals, school groups, families, youth groups, service clubs and business groups. Winners will be judged on originality, artistry and the creative use of recycled materials. All scarecrows must be constructed of at least 80% recycled, reclaimed, and/or reused materials.  Materials like glue, nails, string, or other means of attaching items will count toward the allowable 20%new materials.  They must be named to help describe/identify the creative theme and must also be 4-5 feet tall (without stake) and 2-4 feet wide.  The Township will provide frames for the first 15 registrants who request one.  Please call Lisa at 609-620-0722 for information about pick up.

There will be Prizes!

Mayor Bert Steinmann will judge (schedule permitting), along with the Ewing Arts Commission. There will be prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd of $100, $50 and $25 gift cards.

Judging will be on Saturday, October 25th at 2:00 at the Ewing Community Gardens at Whitehead Extension Road.   So, please join us for hot apple cider and refreshments as we gather together to see who can make recycling into art whiling have fun and celebrating the fall season.

For registration and details check out our contest page at www.ewinggreenteam.org/scarecrow-contest/ or if you have any questions, please call Lisa at 609-620-0722. The deadline for registration is October 20, 2014.

Reminder – MCIA Hazardous Waste Disposal Day Today

recycleimageThe MCIA will be running a Household Waste and Electronics Disposal Day today, Sept 20th from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. It will be held at John T. Dempster Fire School, Lawrence Station Rd in Lawrence Twp.

Accepted for recycling are the following:

Aerosol Cans | Used Motor Oil |Propane Gas Tanks | Pesticides & Herbicides | Car Batteries | Paint Thinner | Oil Based Paint | Stains & Varnishes | Gasoline | Anti-Freeze | Driveway Sealer | Insect Repellents | Mercury | Fluorescent & CFL Bulbs | Computers | Printers | Copiers | Fax Machines | Stereos | Televisions | Microwaves

Materials Not Accepted:

NO LATEX PAINT | NO Heating Oil | NO Infectious Waste| NO Radioactive Materials NO Explosives or Munitions | NO Railroad Ties | NO Asbestos | NO Tires | NO Wood NO Fencing | NO Air Conditioners | NO Helium or Oxygen Tanks | NO Unknowns

For Mercer County Residents Only. Only Residential Waste will be accepted, i.e. no Commercial Business waste. Proof of Residency will be required (Driver’s License). For more information call 609-278-8086 or visit WWW.MCIANJ.ORG.

Sweet Jersey Corn

grilledcorn2By Jo Ann Povia of GardenStateOnAPlate.com

It’s been a glorious year for fresh New Jersey sweet corn. Here are some tips for making the most of the final weeks of the season.

  • The best place to purchase corn is at a local farm selling its own crop. Visit http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov for a list of farm stands and farmers markets throughout the county. Our favorites include Kerr’s Kornstand, in Pennington, and Sansone’s Farm in Hopewell. But we recommend you try farms from across the county, they are all deserving of our support.
  • Corn is sensitive to heat. Corn stands should provide shelter from the sun and if you will be transporting the corn for any length of time, or keeping it in your car, make sure you pack it in a cooler.
  • Choose corn that has fresh green husks and moist silk. Pull back the husk to check for plump kernels. If you are buying in a store, do not shuck the corn (no matter how convenient the garbage bin next to the display may appear). The husks protect flavor.
  • Corn is best eaten the day it is purchased. If not, store it tightly wrapped in an air-tight container. Corn freezes well. Blanch whole ears for five minutes, before storing in heavy freezer bags.
  • Corn can be cooked several ways, with or without the husks. Our favorite grill method is to simply pull back the husks and tie them to create handles, remove the silk, and lay them on a hot grill. Turn the ears frequently until the ears develop a nice char.
  • If cooking indoors, corn can be steamed. Bring a pot with about 2 inches of water in the bottom to a brisk boil, place corn in a steam basket and steam for 4-6 minutes.

Corn is extremely versatile. For something different from the standard corn-on-the-cob method of eating corn, try adding corn to salsas or summer soups, mix grilled corn to quinoa and squash, or use it as a topping for salad. Below are two recipes that benefit from the use of fresh corn.

Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

Adapted by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, founder of seriouseats.com

I don’t know how I spent decades consuming fresh corn before being introduced to the wonders of Mexican Street corn. I have to admit, that I prefer to eat the best corn, at the height of the season, without even the usual additions of butter and salt. So when I first heard about this dish I was not enthused. But if you’re a purist like me, don’t let the ingredients dissuade you. This is a delicious summer indulgence.

One of the keys to this dish is to use corn cooked directly on a hot grill. The caramelized kernels proved by the char is an essential part of the final blend of sweet and savory flavors. If you can’t find cotija cheese, Italian ricotta salada or Greek feta are excellent substitutes.

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
  • 1/2 cup finely crumbled cotija cheese or ricotta salada (our preference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 4 ears grilled corn
  • 1 -2 limes, cut into wedges (for diners to add a squeeze of lime juice just prior to eating)

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, chili powder, garlic and cilantro in medium bowl.
Place grilled corn on a platter and smother with the mixture. Serve with lime wedges.

Corn Cakes

Adapted from David Lebovitz Davidlebovitz.com, who had adapted original recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

I like my corn cakes on the sweet side, served with butter and real Vermont maple syrup. If you prefer a more savory version, reduce the honey and add fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme or cilantro. These cakes pair well with sausage or bacon for breakfast, served with sour cream or alongside a summer salad of Jersey tomatoes and mixed greens.

They also make a great, gluten free alternative to pancakes. (Make sure that your corn flour is certified as manufactured in a gluten free environment.)

Makes 12- 16 corn cakes

  • 1 1/2 cups corn flour (available in large markets, specialty stores and health food stores)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (plus more for frying)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 -3 large ears of fresh corn, enough for 2 ½ cups of corn
  • 3 large eggs, separated (you will have one extra yoke)
  1. Heat the butter, milk and honey, in a small sauce pan until butter is melted. Set aside until tepid.
  2. Combine the corn flour, baking powder, salt and chili powder in a large bowl. Create a well in the center, and stir in the melted butter and milk mixture, stir in the milk mixture, 2 egg yolks and the corn.
  3. Beat the 3 egg whites in a mixer until stiff, and then fold into the corn mixture.
  4. Heat some butter in a skillet. Use a large spoon, ladle or scoop to place mounds of batter carefully into the pan. Space appropriately. They will spread slightly depending on the thickness of your batter. Press slightly with spatula if necessary.
  5. The cakes should cook on one side until they brown on the bottom and edges bubble. Flip and cook on the other side until lightly browned – about a minute.
  6. Serve immediately, or place cooked corn cakes in a sheet pan kept in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
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