My yard has become my sanctuary. I moved into my current home in 2015, and it has taken some time to get to know it, including its array of edibles. For me, being able to gather edibles from my own yard, or as I like to call it, “yardsteading”, is ridiculously gratifying. There is something special about using your own fingers to pluck the fruit, nut, vegetable or herb from the branch or dirt, and then to create the time and space to turn it into something you can enjoy or give to others.
I recently read Anthony William’s book, Medical Medium. In it he claims there is a spiritual connection between the plants we eat and the energy of the person tending to them. He says the plant adjusts its chemistry and nutritional value to offer maximum healing and benefits customized for the person who raised it and cared for it. In other words, it’s most beneficial to the individual body, mind and spirit of that specific caretaker once consumed. The idea is that the energy of the caretaker or preparer of the food is then infused into the plant itself, so that even if someone else eats it, for better or worse, the energy designed for the original caretaker is being passed on to others.
This idea, which probably sounds completely crazy to many, is something I really dig.
Whether it’s true or not is honestly no concern of mine. I just can’t help but love the idea and the feelings that bubble up when I chew on it.
Give yourself a minute to consider: is there anything better than tasting a warm fig fresh off of a branch in the summer? Or taking a walk and handing a beautiful, freshly shelled, golden pecan to your child and seeing the novelty of “found food” reflected when she pops it into her mouth?
No doubt, humans were designed and have evolved with the urge to discover and create food from our surroundings. And there’s even all kinds of great evidence nowadays about how wonderful the small bits of dirt left on a fresh outdoor snack are for fostering a healthy gut microbiome! But whether a scientist or medium is offering me these juicy tidbits, it’s all just an added bonus for something I just really enjoy and get excited about doing. My guess is Richard Louv probably has some great research citations in his books about how gathering food outdoors calms the central nervous system (the fix that I, someone who is just a teensy bit high strung on a regular basis, crave from it).
We are so fortunate to have multiple edibles in our own yard. We have both native and grafted pecan trees (the native one being over 200 years old!), and this year alone we have harvested over 180 lbs of pecans from our yard. We also have Chile Pequins, a wild bush with extremely spicy and delicious red edible berries, Loquat, Texas Persimmon, Yaupon (can make highly caffeinated tea from its leaves), and beautiful fig trees which I’ve learned fathered many of the other figs in our neighborhood.
I can’t help but feel tremendous gratitude for the elderly couple who built and lived in our home for over 50 years. They truly nurtured the abundant plant life and yard treasures all around us. I hope to be able to steward their babies well as we continue to live and grow together.
I am beginning to look at my yard in terms of a rhythm of edibles for each season. Things like pecans in the fall, Loquats in the spring, and figs in the summer.
I also love learning about wild edibles, and in addition to our yard, we are fortunate to live along a creek, where we have identified black walnut trees, as well as wild onion widespread. I know we have stinging nettle, prickly pear and dandelion as well in our area. I’m sure there are many others that I still have to explore and find!
Here is a list of the items I either create from my yard / creek area (noted with *) in Central Texas or hope to do so. I’ve also included a list of other fun projects and ideas for fermenting that do not come from my yard, but embody the same spirit of making things together and “yardsteading”. For example, I began brewing our own fermented kombucha tea in 2016, and it is a really fun continuous project that my kids enjoy and I drink daily. On the times when we don’t have a yard edible, I plan to play with some of these other canning and fermenting projects – like sourdough bread for the first time!
My hope is to host some yardsteading gatherings with friends, doing things like canning, as well as possibly make a few of the novelty items like lip balm, fizzy bath salts, moisturizers and cleaners. (My kids took a class with Austin Tinkering School and made the lip balm and bath salts – I was a little jealous and am going to give it a try myself.)
This list is mostly for my brain, so that I don’t forget the things I want to do, but maybe they will inspire you too! I’ll try to upload links with specific recipes along the way as I go. In the meantime, send me a note if yardsteading is something that excites you or that you’d want to be included on if we host some gatherings.
Candles (I made beeswax candles in 2017 that turned out great!)
Fizzy Bath Salts
Wild Mustang Grape or Dewberry Jelly
Chile Pequin Hot Sauce*