April 2013
The Herb Farm

Eat Your Yard

You know what really gets me going? It’s reading about and hearing folks talk about some heavy-handed municipality slapping folks and actually fining good citizens for growing their own food in their own yards!

Besides that, some of the people who are complaining to these city officials about seeing a tomato plant next door are poisoning us with all that mess they put on their grass to kill bugs and weeds to make their lawns look a certain shade of green!

Those are the same yahoos who cause water crises by watering their lawns when Mother Nature doesn’t do it for them. If Mother Nature doesn’t keep your lawn alive then, Hey! Maybe you’re not supposed to have a lawn.

For the record, I’m on a rant! It’s no secret I don’t particularly care for turf grass. Most of you know this. Oh, there is a huge demand for those little squares of green. Some communities even require you to have it, mow it, water it and even put chemicals on it to keep it green and to keep certain other plants from growing in it. I guess, if you want to live, then you have to live somewhere. That is not for me.

If I am going to have to maintain something by keeping undesirable plants and bugs out, keeping it well hydrated and keeping it looking attractive, then I want something in return. I want to eat my efforts, or cut them and put them in a vase on my kitchen table, or take a bouquet of flowers and a bag of kale to my neighbor down the road.

Sure, grasses are pretty. I grow lots of ornamental grasses here. I also grow grasses to eat, like corn and lemongrass. The benefits of a turf grass lawn are limited. You can’t let the dogs and cats or human children play on it, if you keep putting chemicals on it. Some people I know don’t even want you to walk on their grass. If it has to be in full sun to flourish, then why not grow food to share with your family and friends?

Last fall, I went into a gated community up near Birmingham to visit an old friend who had moved there from out of state. I could smell the lawn chemicals almost immediately after I passed the guard house. When I got to his street, there were sprinklers going on most of those well-manicured green lawns. It was a hot October afternoon, but that’s not even the right time of day to be watering. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and I noticed on the sidewalks in front of most of the homes, literally hundreds of dead earthworms that had crawled from their homes in the poisoned soil, seeking refuge on the hot sidewalks. There is no excuse for this! Worms are an important factor in having healthy soil for even grass to grow on.

While I’m on the subject of turf grass, let me tell you that I am no fan of golf courses and cemeteries either. I realize they are both high-dollar businesses that attract a lot of people … though some of them are dead.

I don’t play golf, I grow food for fun. I’m not going to be buried on purpose, I want cremation after usable parts are properly distributed. Personally, I think golf courses and cemeteries are gross misuses of earth. Perhaps they should be combined. Does anybody know an avid golfer who would not want to be buried on a golf course? I think not. I have been talking with several friends over the years about developing one as a prototype. Call it "Cemetery Golf – Where the Players Rest." No headstones, just ground level plaques to mark the graves.

But back to what I started with on this rant ….

Last spring, a friend of mine and I were talking about a bush in his front yard he said he was going to dig up. The bush was a quince (Cydonia oblonga). He said it didn’t do anything but flower and make hard, green fruits that he didn’t know were edible. He said he tried to bite one, but it was too hard. He then cut it with a knife, bit into it, and said his whole mouth puckered up. I convinced him to leave it for at least one more season. I taught him how to make jelly out of the ripe fruit and he learned a whole new appreciation for the quince and the shrub will remain a part of his landscape.

 




Left, showy quince blossoms provide color to a landscape in the late winter to early spring then give way to some yummy fruit. Above, elaeagnus blooms in early autumn and produces fruits in mid-winter.

There are lots of plants that are planted as ornamentals and produce a tasty fruit. Apples, pears, cherries, peaches and citrus trees are in the yards of many homeowners. Elaeagnus, when properly trimmed, will produce fragrant flowers and a tasty fruit.

Wildflowers such as dandelion, henbit and chickweed, when not poisoned, make excellent salad greens to go with your spinach and lettuce. However, some municipalities frown on gardening food.

A few years ago, in the town of Homewood, up near Birmingham, there was a young lady who owned a progressive-type store. She sold locally made clothing, reclaimed vintage dresses and things, candles and locally grown organic produce. It was a popular store in that town. Some of the things she sold were herbs she grew at her home. Well, somebody complained, she got a letter to stop growing food in her yard. She fought it and lost. She was fined, she appealed and lost to the heavy-handed city government. Finally, she was so disgusted with the city she closed her shop and moved to another part of the state.

I read more and more of these sad stories all the time and it makes me angry. I don’t need to be angry. The sun is shining and it’s warm outside. I need to be in the garden. So, in the words of the late Rev. Dr. Eugene Scott, "Play the music!"

 


Jar on left is quince jelly. Jar on right is rhubarb and Elaeagnus jelly.

Quince Jelly recipe made simple: Use your favorite fruit jelly recipe, only substitute about 4 pounds of fresh, ripe quince (washed, cored, and quartered). It’s worth making.

If you don’t have a favorite fruit jelly recipe and want mine, please email me.

See you in May.

Until then watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe!

Thanks for reading!

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As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.