Wednesday, July 13, 2016

CAMP Season: Georgia DEA Declares War on Gumbo


Ah, here's to the joys of the dog days of summer, as we head into CAMP-ing season replete with those pesky DEA helicopters hovering over our bucolic West Sonoma County vineyards, like overgrown gnats on steroids.

What I like to do during CAMP season (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting), is to set out a lawnchair, pop open a cool one, and watch federal agents risk life and limb as they practice their rope ladder acrobatics mid-air over the orchards. It's like having my own private high-wire circus. Emphasis on high, here.

A chance reading of a news headline from The Washington Post gave me both comic pause and a serious meandering of the mind:
Georgia police raided a retired Atlanta man's garden last Wednesday after a helicopter crew with the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppression spotted suspicious-looking plants on the man's property. A heavily-armed K9 unit arrived and discovered that the plants were, in fact, okra bushes."
OK, so I'm a tad behind on my reading, that article dates back to 2014. But CAMP is still the largest law enforcement task force in the United States, I guess they have to justify that ginormous budget. Now, I can't say I especially like okra, I like the idea of okra, aka ladies' fingers, but this illicit war on drugs thing is going a bit too far. Doncha think?

Not only is CAMP a colossal waste of taxpayer money, it's devolved into a war on the Southern national dish, gumbo. I mean, really. Ya all don't find that funny? As one cannibal said to the other cannabis eater, does this clown taste funny to you? Hold the Häagen-Dazs. I respect the farmer's right to grow okra. Who knew that in Georgia, it's Give me gumbo filé, or give me death? Or at least a death sentence for cultivating okra.

I admit I like the idea of eating Malvaceae flower buds, aka mallow (origin of mauve—and purple prose). The Malvaceae family includes hollyhocks, hibiscus, cotton, and cacao—especially cacao—but noshing on gooey mucilaginous vegetables doesn't float my boat. Or slime my throat.

How the DEA mistook okra for cannabis suggests they've been smoking some of their own confiscated booty. Or they need to take a botany class. And hold the brew with the gumbo stew. 

The West African word okra, or okro is from the Igbo ọ́kụ̀rụ̀. One source suggest that the origin of gumbo is from the Bantu, ki ngombo, another suggests that it's the Choctaw word for filé, kombo. Medieval Moors called it bamya, from the Arabic. First written account of okra was in 1216, from a Spanish Moor in Egypt who described an herb the locals relished for their tender pods. It was not mistaken for ganja.

Flowering okra and seed pod—does this even remotely look like pot to you? —Wiki

Okra arrived to the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade. By 1800, okra—synonymous with gumbo,  was grown throughout the southern United States—Georgia included. It also became synonymous with southern cooking—especially in Louisiana. In fact, gumbo is the official state dish of Louisiana. You'd think the Georgia DEA would know the difference between pot and okra by now. What a fine kettle of fish calling the pot back.

This is a hibiscus, it is related to hollyhocks, cacao, cotton, and okra gumbo, not grass

Reading up on this curious matter, I discovered that 98% of all DEA helicopter busts are for ditchweed, aka feral hemp, from the pre-plastic WWII day. Not pot. Or okra.
"... of the estimated 223 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement in 2005, approximately 219 million were classified as "ditchweed.... Unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.  —98 Percent Of All Domestically Eradicated Marijuana Is "Ditchweed," DEA Admits

This is a hollyhock, related to hibiscus, okra & cotton, it is not grass.

For the record, most ditchweed, ferus cannabis, or hemp, has no THC whatsoever. I guess the DEA's other 1-percent track record on the war on drugs is for okra busts. Everybody let's not get stoned. Gumbo munchies? Last I heard, no one in their right mind has ever attempted to smoke okra, but ya never know. Ditchweed, yeah, but I heard it's like smoking rope. Harsh. 

Ditchweed is a growing concern throughout the Midwest as well. But it's no longer under close DEA surveillance in South Bend, Indiana. Said a police spokesman, “It looks like you’re in Colombia when you’re down there. You can eradicate ditch weed as well as you can eradicate dandelion” —Wild pot grows unhindered in farmland

 Love that dandelion. No report on the progress of massive dandelion busts in Indiana but I hear the dandelion wine is just fine.

The article went on to say: "Police said people commonly flocked to the area from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York to pick the low-grade reefer. “It’s a terrible quality, so whoever is harvesting it probably thinks they’ve hit a gold mine." —ibid

Hemp was used for rope fiber, weaving, paper money, oil, human and animal feed. Paint, varnish, soap and linoleum were made from hempseed oil. (Think I'll go nosh on some of my grannie's linoleum floor. Yum. I'd rather eat linoleum than okra.)
"According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop." —ibid

A French hemp maze. France leads the world's production in hemp. Sacre bleu! —Wiki

The Greek term kánnabis may have been borrowed from an older Scythian or Thracian word. With the first Germanic sound shift (Grimm's Law), the "k" morphed into an "h" sound, and was possibly adapted into Old English as hænep. Another possible word origin is from the Assyrian qunnabu, a fiber, medicine, and oil used in the 1st millennium B.C.

 
The Yamnaya were one of the prehistoric cultures to found Western civilization—
with new languages, and metal tools—not to mention really good pot.


And the word canvas, as in canvas sails, was derived from cannabis. Yeah, Columbus arrived to the New World using cannabis sails. Smokin' the sails at sunset means you can never go home again.


Biodiesel fuel is the next big thing. Not to mention biodegradable plastics. Only in the USA are people busted for growing okra, and a feral plant legal in the rest of the world, is routinely busted by the DEA for growing in a ditch while under the influence....

Even cooler yet, hemp can be used as a filter to remove impurities from wastewater, sewage effluent, phosphorus from manure, and industrial chemicals; it was also used to clean nuclear contaminants at Chernobyl. Maybe it should be used to clean sewage effluent that's loaded with Prozac, cocaine, etc., and all those happy bay shrimp will have to get their street drugs elsewhere. No! Don't swim towards the light! (Shrimp hopped up on dissolved Prozac.) No more gender bender fish because of all the birth control hormones in the water. Bliss out, baby
More on cannabis nomenclature at the THE POISON GARDEN website including this gem: in Mexico, cannabis was available in the brothels and was nicknamed marijuana. Yeah, Dick goes to see Mary and Jane in the brothel and apparently a good time was had by all. Must've been really, really good okra.

And of course, you do know that hemp is closely related to hops.
And you wonder why you get the munchies when drinking beer. Before Prohibition, Sonoma County led the nation in hop production. "From 1915 until 1922 California was the leading hop-producing state in the Union." (Tinged with Gold: Hop Culture in the United States, Michael A. Tomlan).

Hop production survived Prohibition, but languished, shall we say, tanked? during the post-WWIII economy. My first boyfriend's mother used to earn her pocket money harvesting hops every summer. During hop-time, she waxed on poetically how families would camp out under stars all summer long. 


Hop-picking at Healdsburg, Cal. photo: MD Silverstein  —Healdsburg Shed

Remnants from that era survive as placenames, Hop Kiln winery, Walters' Hop Kiln Ranch (Healdsburg), Hopyard Road (Livermore), and Hopland just across the Sonoma County border.  Wohler Ranch was the county’s largest hop ranch, with eight hop kilns, alas, the kilns burned to the ground in 1945, the ranch is now part of the ambiance of the Raford B&B Inn.

In its heyday, the hop industry of Sonoma County was world famous. Hop kilns dotted the horizon along the middle reach of the Russian River and the flat plain between Santa Rosa and the Laguna de Santa Rosa.   — Windsor Times

Hildegard of Bingen first documented the use of hops, a resinous preservative and a sedative (it is related to pot), in beer in the 9th century. Before that, brewers used gruit: borage, burdock root, mugwort, and dandelions to embitter their brew.

And with all those boutique beer breweries popping up all over the left coast, it's become a poetic purple prose minefield for naming brews. There's the Russian River Brewing Co.s seriously swell swill, the immortal Pliny the Elder and Hoptime, Lagunitas Brewery features lupulin-laced  Born Again Yesterday, and Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid Ale (yeah, yeah, it's in Petaluma, they got kicked out of Lagunitas, my hometown—but the name stuck).

Add Death and Taxes, Lunatic Lager, and Reality Czech, from Moonlight Brewing in the old chicken processing plant in Fulton. 

I have a special fondness for
Hop Rod Rye, Big Bear Black Stout and award-winning Red Rocket Ale from Healdsburg's Bear Republic Brewing Company, in that I taught their daughter poetry at Alexander Valley School, where I've been teaching the kids poetry through California Poets in the Schools for 25 years. Bear Republic was named after Sonoma County's infamous short-lived Bear Flag Revolt and the inspiration for our state flag.


Thanks to the proliferation of micro-breweries, once again Sonoma County is producing heritage gardens of the finest quality hops on the Pacific Coast. Carneros Brewing Co. in Sonoma, is unique in that it grows four different varieties of estate-grown hops.

Hop along now, and don't spill your tall cool one, and you'd better hope and pray that CAMP and the DEA don't get the urge to bust the heritage hop growers next.

Herbaceous hop flowers (aka seed cones or strobiles) Humulus lupulus Wiki


Warning: some substances may or may not have been imbibed during the construction of this article. I'm pleading for a fool fifth as soon as the clock strikes five. See, there's a 3rd Street Puddle Jumper  languishing in my fridge.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!





SOME LINKS I visited, in no particular order

Heavily armed drug cops raid retiree’s garden, seize okra plants

 Wild pot grows unhindered in farmland

98 Percent Of All Domestically Eradicated Marijuana Is "Ditchweed," DEA Admits

Getting Hopped Up—Again The craft beer boom brings a quiet but triumphant return to hop growing in Sonoma County

Get Into the Gruit

County’s hop history, historic ranch celebrated with plaque

(With thanks to a Facebook post by Penelope la Montagne for inspiring this ridiculous blog post. Here's to you, Miz. Penny, the bottom's in danger....)  

First draft: my original post. Reading up on this further, 98% of all DEA helicopter busts are for ditchweed, aka escaped hemp, from the pre-plastic WWII days. No THC whatsoever. Hemp was used for rope fiber, weaving, paper money, oil, human and animal feed. Paint, varnish, soap and linoleum was made from hempseed oil. (Think I'll go eat some of my grannie's linoleum floor.)

And the word canvas, as in canvas sails, was derived from cannabis. Yeah, Columbus arrived to the New World using cannabis sails. Smokin' sails at sunset. The Greek term kánnabis may have been borrowed from an older Scythian or Thracian word. With the first Germanic sound shift (Grimm's Law), the "k" morphed into an "h" sound, and was possibly adapted into Old English as hænep. Another possible word origin is from the Assyrian qunnabu, a fiber, medicine, and oil of the 1st millennium B.C.


Even cooler yet, hemp can be used as a filter to remove impurities from wastewater, sewage effluent, phosphorus from manure, and industrial chemicals; it was also used to clean nuclear contaminants at Chernobyl. Biodiesel fuel is the next big thing. Not to mention biodegradable plastics, Maybe it should be used to clean sewage effluent that's loaded with Prozac, cocaine, etc., and all those happy bay shrimp will have to get their street drugs elsewhere.
 

More on nomenclature here. In Mexico, cannabis was available in the brothels and was nicknamed marijuana. Dick goes to see Mary and Jane.
And of course, hemp is closely related to hops. Hop along now, and don't spill your tall cool one.

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