Backyards in the City

The backyard next door was once a beautiful (in the eyes of some) green slope of perfectly trimmed grass with exactly two well shaped trees on it. The back fence was covered with Virginia Creeper. The neighbor hired a lawn service to come each week and do its thing. Flowers lined up along the sidewalk and a beautiful crabapple tree was sprayed each spring so it wouldn't set fruit.

Then he sold the house and the people there didn't do anything. As in nothing. The grass died back, trees sent up sprouts all over the place. Well, they did do one thing - they tore out the Virginia Creeper. I have some that is hardly under control, but theirs never tried to come back.

The neighbor on the other side waters her lawn sometimes 7 days a week. It's green and that's about all I can say about it.

Mine? Well, it's a little different from either of those yards. If you've read this blog or much of my other material, you know that I enjoy wild foods. There are several reasons, one being that they're free. Another reason is that they grow with little to no work on my part. If you've ever grown a garden, you can appreciate that.

The third point is that, as a rule, they're more nutritious than those plants we've changed to make bigger or prettier or easier to harvest and now use for food. What you see isn't always what you get when it comes to food.

I wrote a piece for Lehman's Country Life blog a few years back called Wild in the City. My backyard is still the same way as it was then: A lot of wild food growing all over the place.


Free Vegetables and Beverages

If someone offered you free vegetables and beverages for the taking all summer long, would you accept them? Most of us would. Free vegetables would help tremendously with ever rising grocery bills and with hot weather, free cold beverages would be quite welcome!

Now I'll give you a clue. If you have used chemical fertilizers or weed killer on your lawn, you can't have them. They might still be there, but they're not safe to use.

I'm talking, of course, about wild foods. As in, those weeds you fight every summer. Dandelions, amaranth, salsify, lambsquarters, purslane and mallow are some of the most common back yard "weeds" that are not only edible, they often surpass their garden cousins in nutrition. Some of them are the ancestors of vegetables we enjoy today. Some of them are considered delicacies or at the least, unusual, and come at a high price at uptown grocery stores.

Cold beverages can be made from the leaves of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and mint of any kind just like you would make tea.

They're free; they're good and they're good for you. What more can you want?


Wild and Domestic Sunflowers Crossed?

It rained, finally! The garden and the lawn soaked it up. The air is humid, the temperature is on the cool side - of 90 anyway!

And the sunflowers are blooming. They don't usually bloom here until the last of July, but like almost everything else, they're ahead of time. Last year, I grew big, beautiful and colorful sunflowers and the squirrels bit off each head as it matured so I thought that I'd just stick with wild sunflowers.

I guess the sunflowers had a different idea. They must have crossed with the wild ones because they're small, have several flower stalks and grew without any care at all, yet they're not the sunny, cheerful yellow of wild sunflowers I had expected.

I'm going to try to save seeds from them. IF I can beat the squirrels to them!

The picture doesn't do them justice, but I was shooting into the sun so I couldn't see what I was doing. I felt lucky to get a picture of the sunflowers instead of just the fence.