Since moving here in '05, there have been several on-going but casual projects. For one, we try to reintroduce some natives into the woodland area. Next week I'm planning to start (since there is finally sufficient shade) a garden closer to the house where I can keep an eye on some, nurture them, and then put clumps into the woods.
Another project has been to include as many food and medicine plants into the gardens around the house as we can. This has been easy and fun. Hopefully in the next year I will put in a good asparagus patch. I'm not much into maintenance, so the plants need to be mostly able to care for themselves. So far, so good. Here's a little of what's going on right now...
Daylilies (sometimes called "ditch lilies") are very commonplace, but we like to eat the small flower buds. It helps to have them around in the gardens so that we can be more aware of just the right time to start harvesting them. They can be bullies in the garden, so be sure to give them their own space.
A couple years ago, we tackled the wild black raspberries that were growing next to the house. As you can see, that was not entirely (hah) successful. I think they are worse now than they were before!
Below, you can see part of the 50 foot row of raspberries I created from the roots salvaged from that little adventure. Last year we had so many berries that I just used the last frozen quart a week ago in a cobbler.
Black raspberries are sometimes called "black caps." Smaller and more rounded than blackberries, they are seedy - but very flavorful; a brief summer delicacy that normally requires a sojourn into brambles, ticks, and poison ivy. I very much like having them in such a convenient location.
This is how one section of the back is laid out. There are plants on both sides of the split-rail fence. To the right of the blueberries, there is a sour cherry tree. On the other side, we have Jerusalem artichokes, passionflower vine, and mountain mint - with some beautiful red clover showing up on its own. To the left is a culinary and medicinal herb garden on the closest side of the fence, with berries, tomatoes, and medicinals on the other side.
Three cornelian cherry bushes are fruiting for the first time this year. Cornelian cherries are a type of dogwood. The other well-known fruiting dogwood (edible), Kousa, is elsewhere on the property, and also across the street.
A small orchard was added last year, with a couple peach trees, a couple apples, a plum, and a pear. This is the only fruit so far, but the blossoms were magnificent! Next year...
Figs. I've had some great success growing figs without protection in our climate. Brown Turkey did very well for 6 years, but then a harsh winter made the bunnies strip the bark. It grew back from the roots, but they got it again this year. NOTE TO SELF... protect figs from rabbits and deer over the winter.
This particular fig is a Chicago Fig tree. It is even hardier than the Brown Turkey, so it is on the edge of the orchard, completely unprotected. Looks like it does okay there, but again, it was nibbled down pretty hard. I'll protect it this winter, but won't be surprised if I get an autumn fig or two.
Sour cherries. The birds are already staking them out, so this year I'll probably let them have most of them. They're small, and a slightly different variety should help with that when that tree gets big enough to blossom. Neighbors around me also have sour cherry trees, and I've seen birds flying with cherries in their mouths - it's hilarious.
The blueberries are having a spectacular year. It might be time to prune them after they're finished. I need to read up on that.
Asian persimmons - the tree is once again full of blossoms. The groundhog will be so happy. We planted it so that we can harvest right from the deck, and I believe that this year that will indeed be happening! The native persimmon doesn't seem to be blooming, but it may still come through. Otherwise, there's always next year.
The black currants are just going to town. It seems like they are getting picked by something wild. Maybe birds. But there are plenty for everyone.
Gooseberries are also loaded this year. There are 2 at the top right that are almost ripe. This bush ripens to burgandy, and another bush ripens to a pink blush.
So there are quite a few of the foods growing around the house. Great burdock has been introduced under one of the large conifers out back, and I think I'll let that continue to grow. Purslane and lambsquarters grow freely along with chickweed, plantain, and dandelion. We do little to control them. There are mulberry trees and ground cherries within an easy walk, and last year there was a lot of chicken of the woods mushroom that we dried and added to lots of meals over the winter.
Much of what grows in the woods is delicious.
Although most of these plants wouldn't really be considered "wild" since I've cultivated them and "rounded them up" to be close by, but in my opinion, wild food shouldn't be thought of as subsistence or survival food. Many of the weeds we eat were brought here with great forethought from across the sea because they were important and beloved plant sources.
If you have the space, grow some food. If you don't, learn about some wild ones. You'll be glad you did!