Bountiful Landscape

By Paul Nasri

February 15, 2008 6 min read

BOUNTIFUL LANDSCAPE

Do you think a bouquet is a banquet in the making?

By Paul Nasri

Copley News Service

You tend to your lawn religiously, your hedges are flawless and your flower beds impeccable. A certain joy washes over you when pulling into your driveway.

But does your yard make you hungry?

It's likely you already have edible plants scattered throughout your garden. Violets, marigolds and nasturtium jazz up a salad or make a great garnish. But did you know you could eat day lilies? They're a delicacy in Asian cuisine. Or how about lavender ice cream? How European!

Flowers aren't the only landscaping that can go from the garden to the table. Where is it written that veggies must be confined to the far corner of the backyard? Sure, tomatoes can become unsightly if left to fend for themselves. But with a fraction of the care you give to that lawn, edibles can stand leaf to leaf with the best ornamentals.

INFORMAL AND FORMAL

For those with established landscapes, there is no need to dig up your entire front yard, just work around what's already in place. If you have an informal style of landscaping, it's easy to add edibles among existing plants since the design is casual.

Formal gardens are trickier to work with because of their precise layouts, but still very possible. Instead of boxwood hedges try rosemary or lavender. They respond well to hedging and, unlike boxwood, these herbs bloom, are fragrant and are ready to help out in many recipes.

"Take some time in the winter to plan out locations for your new trees, shrubs and gardens before digging up the ground in spring," writes Charlie Nardozzi, the National Gardening Association's senior horticulturist, on the association's Web site. "It makes sense to take a little time to think about where plants will go and what role they will play in your landscape."

PLANTS TO PLANT

Consider planting eggplants and peppers in sunny spots. You just need a few feet of space. Plants like these grow upright and not too wide.

Try edging flower beds with rows of chive. This entire plant is edible, looks beautiful when in full bloom, is quite easy to grow and even repels insects. What more can you ask of a plant?

Greens like Swiss chard, mustard and collard make a striking display. Cherry tomatoes and certain varieties of Romas do very well in hanging baskets.

Dedicate a small area for a salsa garden, consisting of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, onion and cilantro. Add basils of various colors to your coleus collection for interesting color contrasts.

Plant fruit trees for their striking, sometimes-fragrant blooms, delicious harvest and cooling shade from the heat of summer. Dwarf citrus trees in terra-cotta planters create that regal, Mediterranean look and feel. The containers make it portable so they can be moved to frost-free areas in colder climates.

Instead of yews and spirea for foundation plants, try using edibles. Hazelnuts, bush cherries, gooseberries, natal plums and blueberries are all up to the task. Blueberries make wonderful compact bushes and what a great addition to that morning bowl of cereal. Plant more than one variety to ensure good cross-pollination and large crops.

"Just purchase the right varieties for your climatic zone and provide appropriate light and soil conditions for the plants to thrive," Nardozzi writes.

ORGANICS

Since dealing with plants that you will one day consume, think about organic gardening. Something as simple as a birdbath will have birds flocking. Our feathered friends consume a great quantity of insects. Use nontoxic botanical insecticides, derived from plants, which have insecticidal properties that are harmless to humans.

If you see spiders, worms and ladybugs, consider yourself lucky. These are all considered beneficial to the health of a garden. Organic compost builds soil and feeds plants. Most cities have free compost at the local landfills, just bring a few trash bags and a shovel - and take all you want.

Our grandparents grew "victory gardens," also called food gardens for defense. Nowadays, victory gardens aren't necessary, but you could still be the hero of the neighborhood when sharing your bountiful harvest.

LEMON AND LAVENDER ICE CREAM

Zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup fresh lavender or 1/4 cup dried lavender

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

8 egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

12 thin slices fresh lemon

12 small sprigs fresh lavender

Yields 1 quart.

In saucepan, combine lemon zest, lavender, milk and cream. Bring to a boil. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain.

Whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Whisk 1 cup of hot cream into egg mixture. Mix thoroughly. In steady stream, slowly add egg mixture to hot cream mixture. Continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool completely. Strain mixture. Add mixture to electric ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturer's directions.

Garnish with lemon slices and lavender sprigs.

- Recipe courtesy of Food Network

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