Forget fancy bags, boxes, cans, and cartons, the best food is everywhere! I can take a quick walk through my neighborhood and see clover, dandelions, sunflowers, begonias, garlic, and marigolds. All are edible. Even the tiny blooms appearing on the arugula in my garden can add a unique zing to a fall salad.
Because I live in a small southern city, I don’t forage for food. Too many lawns are maintained with chemicals and I don’t want to inadvertently find out how many neighbors are armed. But I grew up in a different environment. We ate wild strawberries from the yard, honey from bees that lived under our front porch, poke that appeared by the fence, persimmons from a tree by the red barn, wild blackberries on the Whitaker Forty, and huckleberries from Gaither Mountain.
Every blueberry I eat reminds me that I prefer smaller, darker huckleberries. We picked buckets full and ate them by the handful or in cobbler, jelly, and jam. Okay, now I want a biscuit. Yet, I digress.
There are also gems on my back porch I can safely consume. After I harvest the last of the season’s basil for pesto, the flowers will make a great garnish for pasta! Mint flowers make will make the iced tea and mojitos I serve alongside feel festive.
Speaking of pesto, garlic stems can serve as the base for pesto or be sautéed in butter as a side dish that enhances everything on the plate. If you let your garlic fully flower, the flowers have a mild garlic flavor perfect for salads.
Rosemary flowers can be mixed right in to a dish along with rosemary leaves. They don’t have as much oil in them, so you’ll need a greater ratio to get the equivalent level of flavor.
I would probably use cilantro flowers. I can’t say for sure because I seem to kill the plants every year before they get to that point. Every. Single. Year. But if you are a more skilled cilantro cultivator, you don’t have to let the blossoms go to waste.
My back yard holds other culinary treasures. If you can beat the bees to it, there is clover with its mild licorice-flavored heads and edible tender greens. Some days there are day lilies with their bright melony petals. And, of course, there are dandelions.
As summer wanes, I’ll enhance the back yard options by planting a fall garden. Swiss chard, mâché, spinach, and sugar snap pea seeds have already arrived, but I still need to harvest some carrots and green beans before I’m ready to make the switch.
Several years ago, I had a neighbor who taught at a neighborhood elementary school. He used to marvel that many of his students had never taken a walk through the woods or grown a plant. Many of them walked to school oblivious to the food growing all around them.
Of course, they aren’t the only ones. It’s easy to grab a bag of chips or cookies and forget there’s better food out there. In fact, the best food is everywhere!