Didn’t get around to planting a kitchen garden this year? Don’t despair! There are still several treats you can harvest right out of your landscape before the season ends. There are two important caveats, however…please do not harvest anything from your landscape that has been sprayed with pesticides, and never eat anything without positive identification.
Finding edible plants in your yard is easier than you think
Edible plants are all around us, from weeds to garden flowers to shrubs and trees, Many of these have traditional uses in soups, salads, teas, jellies and beverages. Old enough to remember Euell Gibbons, the man who ate cattail pollen? Yeah, it’s kind of like that! Tasty treasures lurk everywhere so grab your pruners, scissors, garden knife and a basket and follow us on a culinary adventure waiting in your own back yard.
Let’s start out there behind the garage or along the fence lines with the “weeds: – you may well change that description after you’ve tried a few of these gems:
Sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes
They look like small sunflowers or tall daisies. Prolific in Colorado, they will spring up almost anywhere there is undisturbed soil and sunshine. Their tubers can be eaten raw or steamed and make a yummy addition to salads or as a substitute for potatoes. Best harvested after the first frost.
All parts of the lowly dandelion can be eaten – and are highly nutritious. Young leaves are excellent as salad greens, older leaves are good steamed as a green, the flower heads can be dipped in batter and fried like fritters (or fermented into wine), and the root makes a traditional liver tonic when boiled as tea.
Purslane or pigweed
Purslane is also very common in our area. Frequently eaten as a leafy vegetable in Europe, it has a sour/salty taste that goes very well in salads. It can also be cooked like spinach and contains more Omega 3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable! It is high in vitamins A, C and some B vitamins as well. The Greeks like to fry it in olive oil with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic and oregano.
The domesticated part of your landscape hides surprises as well. Again, be sure only to harvest plants that have not been sprayed with chemicals. Check with reliable online sources to make sure you’ve got the right plant.
Serviceberry or amelanchier
This large, common landscape shrub offers prolific clusters of blueberry-like fruits that can be eaten raw or made into pies or jams. You have to beat the birds and squirrels to them, however, or protect them with a net until they are ripe.
They may be too tart to eat alone, but crabapples make delicious jellies. Sweeten them just a bit and add a few thin slices of jalapeno to each jar for a jelly that is perfect on tortilla chips or salty crackers.
Separating your lilies this fall? Many varieties have delicious bulbs that are prized in Chinese Day Lily cuisine! Lilium brownii and tigrinum are two that are fairly common. Day lilies are not true lilies, but their blossoms can be stuffed with a mild cheese, battered and fried.
Juniper berries and rose hips
They are prolific in Colorado and both can be boiled as a tea that is high in vitamin C. Rose hips also make a pleasant, light, sweet and sour soup when juiced or pureed and mixed with honey and lemon.
It’s fun to explore your yard with children and discover what you can add to dinner! Just be sure they understand not all plants are safe to eat, and teach them how to recognize and prepare the ones that are. Remind them never to eat a plant that may have been sprayed. Check out the internet together for even more ideas and recipes.
Eat really local! Let Boulder Landscape and Design design and install an edible landscape for you.