Adding Some Yard to My Meal

When my kids were little and I’d serve some unfamiliar piece of food, they’d cock their heads, give the plate a squinty-eyed stare, and skeptically ask, “Is there yard in this?”

9 times out of 10, they’d caught me.

Plate of gluten free Rosemary Refrigerator cookies.
Warning: these Rosemary Refrigerator cookies contain bits of yard.

Deer-Resistant Homegrown Herbs

“Yard” meant any one of the herbs I’d planted as part of our deer-resistant landscaping. We lived in northwest Austin, which has deer like Georgia has kudzu. Everywhere. There was no escaping them, and they loved the organic, chemical free salad bar I’d provided.

Rosemary, oregano, garlic, Mexican mint marigold, thyme, sage, and Copper Canyon daisy substituted for the ornamental flowers I just couldn’t plant. The deer either munched those beautiful blooms or simply pulled whole plants up and tossed them aside (alas, my beautiful iris).

So when we moved to central Austin, my deer problem vanished. For the first time in almost 15 years, I was able to plant whatever I wanted. We’d even traded in porous limestone with a fine dusting of topsoil for clay-y Blackland Prairie loam. Gardener’s heaven.

Yellow Butterfly Vine growing on chainlink fence.
With the new house came some beautiful new plants, such as this Yellow Butterfly Plant. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

Old habits die hard, and my landscape is still filled with those same deer-resistant herbs. Now, however, I can incorporate vegetables and other plants for food, such as a Meyer lemon tree, Mexican plum, pomegranate, and the new addition that I’m just beside myself with excitement over—a passionflower vine.

Edible Flowers Dress Up a Meal

Cookbook from Hudson's on the Bend Cooking School with tag from Passionflower vine plant and handwritten notes.Years ago, I attended a Central Market cooking class with the chefs from Hudson’s on the Bend, a noted Austin-area restaurant that specializes in wild game. We watched them prepare a meal of Texas Bandera smoked quail egg rolls, Axis venison stuffed with smoked lobster, corn pudding, and Tina Turner mousse. Oh, the food was delicious but the thing that grabbed me (other than the nifty stove-top smoker) was a simple salad topped with citrus vinaigrette…and edible flowers. Marigolds, passionflower, begonias.

That salad was a revelation for someone who firmly believes that a dish should look as delectable as it tastes.

Back in ’99 when I took the class, I couldn’t have flowers, much less edible ones, in my yard. I’d tried marigolds but the deer munched them like candy. Flash forward to 2016: I have marigolds as often as I like and—as of this summer—passionflower.

The first blossom showed up yesterday.

Close-up photo of Passionflower vine blossom on fence.

Today, more blossoms have opened. They appear to only last about a day, as yesterday’s flower is spent and shriveled. I’ll need to harvest quickly if I plan to decorate a salad. That’s fine by me. Wandering out into my yard to clip a necessary fresh ingredient makes me happy.

Because my vine is just getting established and blossoms are few, I may wait until next season to nibble on them. In the meantime, I’ll just eat up those passionflowers with my eyes.

Two passionflower vine blossoms growing on a chainlink fence.

More Info

Wondering what other beautiful flowering things you can eat straight from your yard? Check out resources plus do’s and don’t in this wonderful blog post by Melissa Breyer from treehugger.com: “42 Flowers You Can Eat”

To make those yard cookies pictured at the beginning of this post, you’ll find the recipe in “Plants, Family Traditions, and Rosemary Refrigerator Cookies” (and yes, all my kids like them).

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