Unhusked corn can be roasted on a bed of coals in just a few minutes. A little butter and a dash of salt turns a simple grass into gourmet fare (yes, corn is a grass).
The worst of summer is poison ivy. I have a long and unpleasant personal history with poison ivy. When I was in elementary school I often stayed home in late spring because the rash actually swelled my eyes shut. My worst memories of little league baseball are playing games while my arms and legs were covered with an intense itchy rash.
Unlike many plants, poison ivy is a chameleon. It grows as a vine, a shrub, or even a small tree. Its leaflets come in threes (hence the adage, "Leaflets three, let it be."), and they come in all shapes and sizes. Finally, the surface of the leaves is shiny, evidence of the oil (urushiol) that causes the rash. This irritating oil is present in all plant parts all year long, and it can remain active on dead plant parts for up to five years.
The best treatment for poison ivy is prevention. Anytime you suspect you may have encountered it, wash the exposed skin with soap and water within two hours of exposure so the urushiol won't have time to bond to the skin. Once it has bonded, however, you can only treat the symptoms until the rash runs its course in about 10 days.
Fortunately for many people, including me, sensitivity to poison ivy often subsides with age. I rarely get a rash anymore, though I often encounter it.
Stinging nettles are another plant that often invades my flowerbeds. It grows inconspicuously among the vegetation that I weed by hand. That's why I wear leather gloves to weed. Tiny stinging hairs cover nettle stems and leaves. When they puncture the skin, they break and release a toxin that causes a rash and a stinging sensation that persists for hours.
So enjoy the fruits of summer, but beware the edges of the backyard. It's a jungle out there.
Contact Shalaway via email at sshala...@aol.com or at 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.