The manicured lawn is an American classic. It evokes images of Dad with his backyard grill and Mom wearing pearls and a crisp apron. It’s an idyllic scene, but a bit outdated. These days, eating your lawn is the new trend, and for good reason.
For one thing, the manicured lawn is only possible with copious amounts of pesticides, weed killers, and synthetic fertilizers. The neat, green, square lawn is, essentially, artificial. An edible lawn will boost your family’s health, save you time and money, and look beautiful and natural. Gas-powered mowers and other lawn equipment are another environmental concern.
I am sure that most of you have heard of Elizabeth Gilbert – she is the author of the famous book now made into a famous movie, Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things. As luck would have it, she is added on my list of Facebook contacts. This time last year, she wrote a post about loving her new yard, because she had done something with it that she had always wanted to do. She dug up her manicured lawn, and planted wildflower seeds instead. She wrote of how much she loved looking out her window at the flowers, and how lovely the sounds of bees and birds were outside of her window.
This simple post by this wonderful author inspired me to do some further research into the subject of changing our lawns over.
Here are some ideas of how to turn your lawn into a salad:
Leave It Alone.
If you simply stop coddling your lawn – no more fertilizer or pesticide and minimal mowing – weeds will begin to grow. Many of these weeds are valuable foods. This will be a tough one, I know. My hubby has an incredible distaste for dandelions… but I cut him some slack on this, since he is from Ireland, where green is the thing. I keep reminding him though, that dandelions are incredibly good medicine for the liver. Here are some examples of common weeds that are healthful to humans.
Violets (various Violas) – These pretty purple blooms add color and peppery flavor to salads and sandwiches. They can be candied (brush blooms with egg white, coat with fine sugar and dry on a wax paper-covered tray) and used to decorate cakes and confections.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album) – This widely-spread weed is very nutritious when cooked and eaten like spinach.
Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) – Another green that is cooked and eaten as a green, pigweed is sometimes combined with Lamb’s Quarters for a very nutritious dish.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – This annual is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Its succulent leaves are crisp and fresh-tasting and are good in salads.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Americans waste a ridiculous amount of time and effort on eradicating the beautiful, sunny, and edible plant. The flowers can be used in making wine, or fried as fritters. The young greens are good to eat steamed or boiled, and the root can be dried and ground as a coffee substitute. Dandelion is a high-potassium food that acts as a natural diuretic.
White Clover (Trifolium repens) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) – Honeybees and beekeepers will love you for letting clover flourish! Red clover is hailed as an aid in cancer prevention and treatment. You can eat the young leaves and shoots of both types. Gather the seeds and use them to make healthful sprouts indoors all winter.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) – This ever-present little white-to-green flowering plant is nutritious and is reported to have some health benefits. It is said to aid in weight loss.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) – This healthful plant takes a great deal of work to eradicate. So you will save yourself a lot of labor by letting it flourish. Its root is very healthful, being used traditionally in Japanese cooking.
More obvious wild foods may make an appearance, such as “brambles” which actually turn out to be wild blackberries or raspberries.
There are many, many more edibles that nature provides.
While you are busy doing nothing to your lawn, you can plant some edibles as well. Try some vegetables and herbs. It really does not take that much space to grow tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, or cucumbers. Greens such as kale, chard and spinach are lush and healthful. It just takes a bit of planning to fit it all together in a small space.
Basil, oregano, and lemon balm will freely cover your lawn and provide a tasty base for sauces and lovely additions to salads and sandwiches.
Our summers here are incredibly short, so we start as soon as our long weekend in May passes by with planting our sprouts and seedlings. One of my very favorite things to do, the one thing that really lets me know that summer is around the corner, is to line my kitchen windowsill with small terracotta pots of fresh herbs. I then use these in my cooking, and in fresh iced drinks.