Last year I came up with a wondrous idea of a food garden. Seems like an odd notion for a person who has been around vegetable gardens all her life, and is even in business selling fruits and vegetables to others.
There was this spot in the garden that became inaccessible to the tractor tiller. An odd ‘l’ shape space between permanent plantings of blackberries, rhubarb and asparagus.
Whatever planted would have to be self-surviving; that meant perennial or something that readily reseeds. The plan was a food plot where herbs, vegetables that are perpetual and flowers thrived. Not just any flowers, rather those that are edible or medicinal.
Since my memory can never remember which flowers are safe and which cause hallucinations the flowers in my gardens have just been for the beauty they provide. But if I had a spot for those tasty little blossoms, we could be adding nasturtiums to our salads. Doubtful, we just aren’t that adventurous.
Then there are the vegetables that kindly reseed themselves. One is called miner’s lettuce or Claytonia. It has been coming back each spring in the high tunnels. Its green heart shaped leaves are rather pretty and tasty. Cilantro does the same.
Marigolds, calendulas and borage were planted last year. Borage, if correctly identified, looks to be the new weed. It grew well last year and its blue star shaped flowers were certainly beautiful. But everyone was too chicken to see if the leaves really did taste like cucumbers.
That is one of the risks involved in my gardening ventures. If it grows well, it is liable to be the next noxious weed. Can you imagine introducing a new plant only to have it be so prolific, that it shows up in all the neighbors fields? Soon there is this persistent weed bearing your name.
Poor Jenny has never been able to live down the fact that she liked a fast-growing, carpet forming creeping plant that gets pretty white flowers.
We came close one year, when I decided it was high time to learn how to make mustard. Studying the catalogs and recipes, it was determined that brown mustard seed was the variety to go with. To my delight it came up bountifully producing plenty of seed.
The harvested dry seed filled an ice cream bucket. Winter came and my intentions to make mustard never came to fruition. Somewhere along the line in a cupboard cleaning frenzy, most of the seed was thrown out. Saving only enough seed for a future planting.
Early that spring we noticed a new weed sprouting up everywhere. Mustard gone wild, it was plain to see that it was easy to grow. We took a break from digging up dandelions in the lawn to pull out the mustard plants. Those pesky dandelions are they just another example of a pretty edible plant gone awry?
The food garden is still a work in progress. These last snow/rains will hopefully germinate the broom corn, tritacle, purple cone flowers, bread poppies, parsley, fennel, claytonia, cilantro seeds. To fill space several of those free packets of seed of wildflowers were sown, thus invading my food plot with pretty inedible blossoms.
If it is like last year, the many species of bees, insects and butterflies will spend the hot summer afternoons buzzing and humming around the flower blossoms, making it a food plot afterall.
Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf
Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa, and authored a book titled "A Place Of Refuge".
To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected].