Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eating Your Lawn: Part I

When we were children my brother would complain tearfully to our parents that I was making him eat the lawn. He was telling the truth. Seriously, there are lots of lovely things to eat out of the lawn. Following are a few particular favorites.

Yarrow: On the lawn, it looks like a small green feather. If allowed to grow to maturity, it grows to a foot or more in length and sports an umbrella-like white or yellow blossom made up of smaller flowers. It has an ancient reputation for its medicinal power, specifically, as brewed in tea to prevent and cure illness.

Dandelion: Though usually viewed as a weed and pest to lawn-groomers, a dandelion in all its parts is delicious! Pick the young greens for vitamin-packed salads. Saute buds or mature flowers in olive oil for colorful and nutritious side dishes and garnishes. Yum. `

Chamomile: To my husband's chagrin, this herb stubbornly grows through the stones on the driveway. It is distinguished by its yellow, daisy-like flowers, and distinctive smell. When brewed in tea, it has a wonderful calming effect.

Clover: Delectable in a salad and delicious in a tea. And very, very good for us. 

This comes to mind as I spent the afternoon taking down the herbs I had hung to dry in the fall and crushing them into small glass containers for cooking use. As any northern gardener has discovered, beggars-- for a longer growing season, that is-- can't be choosers, and I will harvest and preserve whatever I can find. Lucky recipients of a pre-loved home, such as mine, might look for herbs that the previous lover has planted; for example, I am lucky to have inherited well-established sage and lavendar bushes. I love to use ground sage on any red meat as a rub before cooking. Lavendar works wonderfully in sachets to scent freshly laundered sheets, and to keep mice and moths out of sweaters.

Ancient coffee grinder qua herb smasher-- thanks garage sale!
And as proof that the oldest tools really are the best, the most effective ways I have found for grinding and crushing herbs is with an old-fashioned stone mortar and pestle, and a crusher originally meant for coffee beans that a friend picked up for me in a garage sale. Unlike in a food processor or blender, there is no residue or waste.

P.S. It occurs to me that the illustrated apparatus might be exceedingly easy to make; you'd need:
a widemouth mason jar
a widemouth ring and lid
a short metal skewer stick
a spring, like the one you'd get out of a legit ballpoint pen
a blade out of an old food processor
a wine cork
some craft wire

Directions:  Use the skewer to punch a hole in the middle of the mason jar lid. Superglue the mason jar lid and ring together; let set 24 hours. Slide the spring onto the skewer.  Top the skewer with the wine cork to protect your hands and keep the spring on. Thread the end of the skewer through the mason jar lid. Once through, Fit the end of the skewer into the hole in the middle of the food processor blade. Secure with super glue and also with tightly wrapped craft wire. Allow to dry 24 hours. Smash away at herbs!

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