Monday, June 4, 2012

NATURALIZING EDIBLE PLANTS

A few weeks ago, I had numerous posts about the fields of dewberries we had growing wild.  Then I discovered (through the help of you all) the passion fruit/maypop vine that will produce fruit and there are quite a few of those around.  And of course we have lots of Mesquite trees whose pods can supposedly be dried and ground into mesquite flour.  I'm not sure about that just yet, but might just try that next Fall.  We've also seen in the past, a small wild hot pepper plant that springs up randomly.
So all this got me to wondering something;
Is it possible to create naturalized food plants on a piece of property?
Wild Dewberries on our farm
I'm not talking about fruit trees of course, I'm planting lots of those.  Or building gardens, yes we'll have those too.  I was thinking about the things that just grow wild in other places without intervention of watering, or fertilizing, and just do their thing.  For example, those dewberries.  They come back year after year in the same spots, and never get a drop of water other than what comes naturally in the form of rain (fruit was heavy this year even after the epic drought).  The passion vine fruit has just sprung up and seems to be doing fine as well, no extra watering for it.  Occasionally, I'll read on a blog where they were wandering around on a hike and found wild onion or garlic growing on the side of the road or by a fence, or maybe wild grapes growing under some old tree.  I even read a book recently that referenced wild rosemary and thyme growing on a hillside. 

So that's why I was wondering if there was any sort of perennial edible that I could perhaps throw down, maybe deliberately scatter some seeds, dig in some bulbs or maybe even small seedlings and cuttings?  I could of course water them a few times to get them started and then I'd like to ignore them and hope they come back year after year.  Almost like flower bulbs that just come back year after year with very little outside intervention.  I'd love to just have wild edibles growing in patches here and there.  I'm sure there are lots of things growing now that I don't even know are edible too.
Wild Onions, harvested.  Courtesy of: homegrown.org
I know you can naturalize plants of all kinds that are native and grow well in certain areas, so I wondered about native edibles.
Hey, we have several acres to play with, I'm willing to plant some test things and see what happens.  Hmm, could I plant some rosemary scattered around in different spots and just let it grow?  Put down onion seeds or chives and just let them grow?  Any edible food type bulbs I could plant that will just grow and divide and come back next year and the year after that?
Wild Rosemary
Any thoughts?  Anyone ever tried something like this?
I'm off to the farm today, by way of the storage unit first, so please feel free to leave suggestions, personal stories, etc and I'll check them when I get back.

14 comments:

  1. Well you can definitely do this with herbs like sage, rosemary and oregano - they'll keep coming back year after year. You can also do the same with garlic by planting first few seeds and let it grow over to the next year it will create 6 plants around old so you can pick few and keep them going in circles. Same goes for potatoes and tomatoes - leave some small potatoes in the ground after picking most of the bush and it will keep coming back. Tomatoes are good self-seeders (I have several dozen growing in one location where one ripe dropped last fall)

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    1. What a great suggestion, thank you! I'm going to plant some rosemary for sure, just randomly around and see what happens. I was hoping garlic might do that too. DIdn't know that thought about potatoes and tomatoes...but it makes sense. Thank you!

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  2. Jenny beat me to the perennial herbs... they will do very well on their own in your climate. Top-setting/walking/tree onions also would do well. Instead of a normal flower and setting seed, these onions set mini bulbs on top, then bend over till those bulbs reach soil and begin rooting. They might do very well in your region. Tomatoes and peppers will probably naturalize there too. Cane fruits and strawberries will naturalize pretty well on their own if you select varieties suited to your climate. Certain perennial vines like kiwi may do well also. The main thing to keep in mind is that modern food plants are very highly domesticated to improve flavor, size, and shelf life of their edible parts. Many aren't particularly sturdy plants though; older heirloom varieties are more likely to survive well without intervention.

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    1. Thank you for that. I have never heard of walking onions, I love that name. I'm going to definitely try the herbs. I just thought it would be nice to scatter some edibles around and see what happens. Valuable info about heirlooms, that's what I was hoping for. I'll check out some heirloom varieties of everything I want to try. I think they'd be the most hardy.

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  3. Add thyme to the perennials. Dill is another herb that readily volunteers. Shallots would perform similar to garlic and chives.

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    1. OMG, we love thyme and shallots. Awesome, thank you. Dill is not one of my faves, BUT, when I start to do some canning and making pickles, it might be nice to have some growing randomly outside somewhere, ha. Thanks for the info. :-)

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  4. Very interesting post! Now I am curious because I have wild onions, strawberries and thyme everywhere....

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    1. OK, now I'm jealous of the fact that you have wild onions strawberries and thyme! How cool is that? Do you ever harvest them and cook with them?? If you can ever share a pic on your blog, please do, I'd love to see! Maybe I can get some of that growing here!!

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  5. I have read that in medieval times peasants had no gardens. They scavenged in the forests and meadows gathering edible plants for themselves and the family pig. Eventually they realized it would be convenient to have the plants growing closer to home and began transplanting them, thus starting the first gardens. Seems you are on to a very old tradition.

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    1. Isn't that amazing? I love that story. It makes sense to have something close to home, and I'll definitely want the gardens nearby, but I think it's just neat to have them growing all over the place as well. It does somehow link us back to our roots (no pun intended, ha). I'll keep you posted!

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  6. Oooh, this is interesting indeed. My 2¢ worth is to also use heirloom seeds like was already mentioned. In case you are wanting to find some wild food, I recommend this site for our area: http://www.foragingtexas.com/ and on YouTube look for Eat the Weeds. That fellow is in Florida so most of the same plants will grown here too.

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    1. Yes, definitely heirlooms, I would bet they are the hardiest and stand the best chance. As for the foraging texas website, HOLY COW! Thank you for that link! I love it. I've been reading it for the last several hours. I'll have a post soon about it. Thanks again!!!

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  7. I forage for naturalized asparagus near railroad tracks. I took on a job this year so my vegetable gardening took a back-seat...but I have melons, squash, sunflowers, potatoes, tomatoes, shallots, leeks, lettuce, celery and chard all doing their own thing...they self-sowed! How lazy is that! I plan on letting them do it again this year. I have several tomato and squash plants in crazy places: the rose garden and the driveway...(not using the driveway for a bit).

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    1. OH MY. To have naturalized asparagus, what a wonder that would be!! I've heard they grow along fence lines often, and they are long lived perennials so maybe sometime I'll try that. Plenty of fence line to try that with, ha. I love that you have all those growing on their own. That's pretty cool. Hey, nature finds a way, right??

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