“Okay, this dkMommy stuff has gone too far. She wants us to eat weeds now??? Good gravy. Next it’ll be the earthworms or those darned Japanese Beetles.” No need to worry! I promise not to start posting Japanese Beetle Salad recipes. But I would love to take you on an exotic trip – to your backyard. One of the great things I’ve gained through studying herbalism is finding many of the more sought-after herbs for medicinal purposes are right in my backyard! I can’t tell you how many times I studied an herb, learned what it looked like and all its wonderful uses, only to find it’s there growing along my fence, and that it was there all along.
I’ve been learning about edible plants lately; between the Peterson Field Guide giveaway and today’s Bringing Nature Home giveaway, the point has been driven home for me that what is right at our doorstep can potentially be the most important herbs and foods I can find. Since we don’t fertilize or use chemicals on our property, what used to be a slight embarrassment for me (with all the yellow dandelions and purple ground ivy blossoms) is now something I actually look upon with pride. What a thing of beauty, this lawn that supports abundant wildlife – butterflies, songbirds, even deer manage to find their way to our yard. Not only can the wildlife enjoy the feast that is our lawn, we can too! We planted the vegetable garden yesterday; if dandelions sprout there as they are wont to do, I’ll leave them. Why? The greens will be the healthiest vegetable of the bunch! 75 minerals are known to be in those greens. A taproot that can reach up to 12 feet deep, getting nutrients no tomato plant can offer! The ground ivy covering one side of my house? A wonderful mint we can dry for tea. Chickweed? More salad, baby! Even the wild sweet violets have their place, and a beautiful one at that. I’m also very proud of our broad-leafed plantain, the wild strawberries, and a raspberry bush that showed up this year, thanks to a bird and his fly-over seed bomb.
So maybe my dad was suspicious of the salad we brought to his house yesterday. And perhaps our neighbors wonder why we don’t spray but tend to hang out in the yard simply picking things and exclaiming with glee over an especially large dandelion. But that’s okay – the world is made up of different and unexpected things, like learning you can eat your lawn and that plants are medicine and that bugs (except for Japanese beetles) are good things to have.
If you’re interested in learning about what grows in your yard and if you can eat it, make sure you positively identify anything before it makes its way to your table. Have someone in the know walk you through your yard and point things out. If you fertilize or use any pesticides or chemicals whatsoever, wait a year before eating the above-the-ground plant portions. Wait three years before eating any roots. The effort is worth it! Money saved, kids who think you are way too cool, and the knowledge that you’re a happy weed eater with an entire ecosystem as a backyard. What could be better than that?