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Chance plants spice up tuna dish

I was polishing off some seared tuna Friday night, absently pinching spent flowers from pots of white impatiens that live on Dirt Porch when I noticed that one of the pots had a bunch of tightly packed somethings growing next to one of the plants that was supposed to be there.

Hmmm, said the part of my brain that never bothered to grow up since the middle school science fair and popped out the word “dicotyledon.” A squirrel must have hidden some seeds. Sunflower seeds, from under the bird feeders.

“Wonder what they taste like,” thought the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer inside all of us, and promptly bit off a couple of tender seed leaves, before the modern brain could say, “Gee, what if those are poisonous?”

How all of those brain things happen within seconds is anyone’s guess.

Luckily, those bits of green were tender, slightly peppery and went perfectly with slightly caramelized tuna. I know now that they are definitely not poisonous because you’re seeing this column today. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

Seriously, if I owned a restaurant, that combo was so good I would serve seared tuna on a bed of fresh squirrel sunflower sprouts. With a dramatic dash of balsamic vinegar or something equally sophisticated on the plate to make it look like a piece of art.

This is one of the many reasons I love gardening. You take something simple, like a sunflower seed that sprouted in the wrong place, add a dash of serendipity and suddenly you have idea for a dish that you would feel brave enough to serve a very picky mother-in-law who prefers to eat at the country club.

I’ve had sprouts before, but mostly bean sprouts, and certainly never thought of plating them creatively.

My Friday snack was nothing more than the tops of seed plants that had sprouted in soil but hadn’t yet formed true leaves, just a set of seed leaves.

Plants, if you didn’t do the same science fair project, either produce two seed leaves, aka dicots, or one, the monocotyledons, such as corn, before they produce regular leaves. End of science lesson.

I love to garden, but sometimes it feels stale. Last year’s dreadful heat did that to a lot of us.

This year, everything at Dirt Cottage is lush, except for a few plants that were crushed by falling limbs during the 2012 derecho or stressed beyond their limits by being too hot and too dry for too long.

One of the Oak Sisters is now on her last legs, and I’m getting estimates to send her to Tree Heaven.

Anne Gregory is a garden putterer, not a gardening expert, and Journal writer and editor. Garden photos (JPEGs, please) and tips may be sent to (please put “The Dirt” in the subject line) or 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.