Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yard Eats

We finally got around to doing yard work on Saturday!  It was long overdue thanks to our unseasonable March temperatures.  Our March was crazy busy so the yard work went undone until we finally had a free Saturday.

I have learned things about my yard the last two springs.  So before we started chopping grass (and weeds, flowers, and whatever else was in the yard), I went on a hunting expedition.

A couple of springs ago, my friend Stephanie asked for some of my violets (or Johnny Jump-Ups as she called them). Puzzled, I asked why she wanted them to which she replied, "You can eat them!"  Now, my dad had taught me how to nibble on the end of Timothy grass and my mom had shown me how to pluck and nibble clover, but we had never eaten violets.   This was new to me.  But since my yard produces an ABUNDANCE of them, I thought I should pay attention and learn more about them.  Turns out violets are a fun, colorful salad addition.  Earlier this week I used leftover salad on my daughter's sub sandwich and the purple peaking out was quite attractive.

Inspired by my friend Heidi, I even tried Violet Jelly last spring.  It didn't turn out as pretty as the pictures I had seen on the internet, and one batch didn't set up right.  Furthermore, my family doesn't eat a lot of jelly.  So, I decided not to try jelly again this year.  But for those interested, Violet Jelly could be a fun project with pretty and tasty results.

If you choose to gather violets for salad or jelly, look for the nicest bunches.  We have them all over our yard so I stand back and look for the best spots.  I don't want to take the time to try to gather them all!  They're small and it's a little tedious.  But hey, it's free!

Dandelion Greens
Next, I gathered some dandelion greens.  So far I've only been brave enough to add these to a scrambled egg and bacon dish.  I seriously considered adding them to our weekend salad, but since my family doesn't enjoy salad too much to begin with, I decided I'd better not make it worse by adding dandelion greens.  In the egg dish though, there isn't much difference between arugula, spinach or dandelion greens, so it's an easy switch.  I have bookmarked Dandelion Jelly recipes, but I won't be trying them this year as again we don't eat enough jelly to be worth the work.  The book The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman has a lengthy list of conditions dandelion can help treat and hey, it's free!

Next I gathered oregano.  Several years ago I planted an herb garden, but I didn't know what I was doing.  I planted long rows like a traditional vegetable garden.  I couldn't keep up with that many herbs!  I didn't think through what I would use most, I didn't keep up with what was what.  It was a mess.  I finally gave up and began mowing over the herb garden.  Last year I noticed a plant that kept coming back.  I asked my friend Stephanie to help me identify it.  She bravely pulled off a leaf and tasted it.  We finally decided it was oregano.  There is one main "bush" that I keep, but it has smaller growths all over  - those are what I harvested prior to mowing.  This can be added fresh to pastas, sauces or salads.  It can also be dried and frozen for use through the winter.  Oregano helps immunity in several ways, so I've been adding last fall's harvest to meals all winter long.  Oregano oil can help congestion, but as we learned in a winter time experiment - the dried leaves mixed with honey are hard to swallow and thus not recommended by my daughter for cold symptoms  :-)  Because I paid for the seeds probably about seven years ago, and because I do nothing to help it grow, I consider my oregano another yard freebie!

With the harvesting done, we began mowing.  My daughter and I took turns mowing.  During one of my times mowing, I smelled an oniony smell.  After I finished, I went back to the spot and investigated.  Sure enough I had some volunteer onions growing.  I pulled them up and put them in water to replant later.
Onions (volunteer)

Look around and see what freebies your yard has to offer.  Of course, follow standard precautions:  don't eat anything you're not sure about, beware of chemical treatments, use special care if you are pregnant and have stray cats that poop in your yard, etc.  With those cautions in mind, I can tell you I ate everything pictured and lived to write about it :-)  Happy Hunting!

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