Who knew that by neglecting my lawn, all sorts of really pretty things would start to take over? And, who knew they were all edible? Now, I'm not saying that it looks like a complete weedfest out there, but I refuse to water my lawn and am really bad at dethatching and fertilizing and all that.
So, it got a little patchy and other things decided to take root. But I keep the dandelions under control otherwise they'll completely take over. I call it my "eco-lawn" but it looks more like a very trim meadow.
Mixed in with the grass are lots of interesting little flowering plants that I keep trim with a weekly mow job. As the kids and I were sitting out on the "lawn" last Sunday, we watched the huge amount of bug and critter activity going on. You see, since my lawn hasn't been sprayed and isn't just a vast expanse of grass, I've created quite a little habitat out there for spiders, ladybugs, bumblebees and all sorts of other things I'm sure I can't see.
The most exciting is watching all the bees. I figure I get some sort of karmic bee pollination action for giving them all those flowers. In fact, the local nurseries around here sell a mix of lawn seed that includes much of what I already have growing. So, I didn't really need to bother with reseeding the lawn this year with a purchased mix.*
What do I have growing, you ask? And how are they edible?
Well, after doing a bit of research online, the lawn is sporting the following:
Oxalis, aka sourgrass - All parts of this plants are edible and are sour due to high levels of oxalic acid (hence, the name, sourgrass). The leaves and flowers can be used in a salad or can be used as a garnish for any dish such as fish or fruit salads.
The leaves can be eaten year round and stay tender and tart when cooked. Just don't eat too much of this plant as it will give some people a stomach ache if eaten in large quantities.
White clover - Besides making an excellent forage crop for livestock, clovers are a valuable survival food since they are high in protein, widespread, and abundant. White clover is not easy to digest raw, but this can be easily fixed by boiling them for 5 - 10 minutes. Dried flowerheads and seedpods can also be ground up into a nutritious flour and mixed with other foods, or can be steeped in hot water for a healthy, tasty tea-like infusion.
Purple clover - Purple (or red) clover can be used in salads, soups, as a cooked green, ground to flour, or made into tea. This clover is also high in protein. The most common things to eat on the clover are the flowerheads and the leaves, but are easier to eat if soaked for about an hour or boiled. The sprouted seeds are edible in salads and have a crisp texture and robust flavor.
Common Vetch - This legume has pretty purple flowers and little pea-like pods that grow from its far reaching stems. The seeds from this plants are not very palatable nor very digestible but they are very nutritious. The seeds can be dried, ground into a powder and mixed with cereal flour to make bread, biscuits, and cakes. The beans compliment the protein in the cereal making it more complete.
The leaves, young shoots and young pods can be cooked and the leaves can be in used tea. There is some evidence that the seed may be toxic but this has only been shown under laboratory conditions, there are no recorded cases of poisoning by this plant.
Common Vetch has been part of the human diet, as attested by carbonised remains found at early Neolithic sites in Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia. It has also been reported from predynastic sites of ancient Egypt, and several Bronze age sites in Turkmenia and Slovakia
Dandelion - Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably already know by now that dandelions, in all their prolific glory, are edible. In fact, all parts of this plant are edible. Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
You can eat the leaves raw or cooked. You can boil the roots as you would a vegetable or roast and grind them for use as a coffee substitute. The flowers can be used to make jam and if you want to go real crazy you can use the flowers to make dandelion wine!
As with all food plants make sure if you decide to go grazing, that your greens haven't been sprayed or sprinkled with something you would want to ingest.
Since I was doing all this reading on edible weeds I have a list of quite a few other ones that are found in my yard that I'll cover in another post.
Anyway, what do you all do with your lawns, if you have one? Do you maintain it with water during the summer and weed n' feed, or do you let it go a little more natural? If you keep it natural, would you or have you eaten the "weeds" that grow there?
*For those of you interested in a no-mow lawn or an eco-turf mix you can check into these different products: Nichols' Ecology Lawn Mix or Hobbs & Hopkins' Fleur de Lawn. Or you can just let nature take its course and come up with its own mix.