Edible Backyard Flora

Well it's nice to be able to spend some time outside - now that the weather has turned for the good. I spent much of the morning and afternoon in the backyard - first off I roamed about the backyard with my camera searching for edible flora.

Now, you wouldn't normally figure there would be a lot of plants to eat in a backyard, unless you had a vegetable garden. And I don't - but what I was interested in finding was edible plants within a very small and newly growing lawn. I figure that if I can find them here, then tomorrow when I make it down to the valley, I'll be able to find 10 times the variety down there.

To begin with, this is - I think - wild carrot. Now, I have to be careful.

My Peterson's Guide to Edible Plants in Central/Eastern North America is a great guide. I sat and read it in the sunshine, and tried to memorize as many plants as possible - much more study required though. Regarding the photograph of what I think to be a wild carrot above - there are many phenotypically similar plants that are a) tasty and good for you and b) tasty and tend to cause your liver/kidneys/nervous system/ etc... shut down, and kill you.

The poisonous Fools-Parsley and Poison Hemlock look a lot like Wild Carrot (also known as Queen Anne's Lace). The various growth stages can fool experts. I think I found a wild carrot. Can someone confirm this for me? The white root smells like carrot. I'd rather find a full grown Queen's Anne's Lace - I can make a positive identification from this for sure.

I am better at identifying wild plants than identifying simple backyard herbs. Pathetic. At least I know that this is a herb. It smells nice. I diced some up and added it to a potato/green pepper stirfry I made later that day. My kidneys, my liver, my cerebrospinal fluid and other vital bits of my biological machinery did not shut down, curdle, break apart or melt - this is a safe herb.

The peach tree is beginning to bud, and evidence of last year's crop lays about in the soil. I like the look of peach pits. In a way they remind me of skulls - there is an animal look about them.

Now I am a fan of dandelions. I haven't harvested a bucket full of dandelion roots or made an elaborate salad of young dandelion leaves. But I do pick them when I find them and nibble away on them. They are so young right now, there is hardly any bitterness to them - they taste so fresh and if anything all you need to do is swish them about in a bit of water to get any grit off of them.

Try a couple handfuls of young washed dandelion leaves in your next salad - you'll be surprised how good they are. We think of them as only virulent weeds. But you could be thinking of them as lunch. You can grind and dry the roots and make a flour. You can batter and fry the young flower heads. You can eat the leaves of course, or boil them up to make some cooked greens. You can even roast up the roots to make a chicory/coffee like drink. Mmmm - Starbucks Dandelion Brew.

You can eat violets - the flowers can be tossed on salads - or you can add sugar syrup to them for a fragrant dessert. Sounds kinda weak, I know. But I do like the look of them. I could sit and eat a Mars bar while watching violets. That would be rather nice.

Last year I planted potatoes. I don't know if they are perennial - I am kind of hoping that I'll get a crop without having to plant a new crop. I am so new to having a garden - remember, this is my first spring with a new garden. The condominium only had a large galvanized steel bin full of soil planted with some very green lawn grass. I am thinking that the crack in the ground in the picture above is evidence of a potato expanding beneath the soil and engaging in an active social life - dances, parties, drinking contests, twister, country-dancing - with a whole clique of other potatoes a few inches beneath the surface - all waiting for that day when I heel up the earth with a spade and a fork and discover a bounty of plump potatoes.

Well - hope you enjoyed your day.



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