Growing A "Yarden" Salad
We have most of our yard planted with flowers, shrubs, trees, herbs, tubers, and plants, many of which are edible. We also have an annual vegetable garden growing many of the traditional varieties. Our favorite lunch in Florida is a fresh home grown salad made from the perennial edibles from our yard plus garden vegetables. I call this a “Yarden” salad. We can have 15-20 different ingredients in our salad from our gardens. We are not vegetarians so we usually add a protein such as red salmon or chicken but if you are a vegetarian you can add your favorite protein. You can also jazz it up with additional foods such as nuts, raisins, small fruits and berries, and healthy homemade salad dressing.
So, what do we put in our “Yarden” salad? In addition to our usual garden favorites, we add the perennial vegetables listed below. A nice thing about perennial edibles is that once they’re established, they will grow prolifically in your yard. The first ones listed are all called spinaches but none are truly like the spinach we are used to. We have trouble getting spinach to grow, probably because of the heat and humidity so we have substituted these perennials instead.
Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) is an edible plant that spreads prolifically. It can lower blood sugar and blood pressure and thus is a great plant for diabetics. Okinawa spinach (Gynura bicolor) is a relative that you can also grow. Waterleaf or Ceylon Spinach (Talinum fruticosum) as the name implies is a leafy succulent vegetable rich in vitamins. Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) is an attractive vine that loves heat and humidity. The leaves can be used in salads or stir fries. It comes in red or green stemmed varieties. Ours has moved on from where it was originally planted and is now growing in two different spots in our yard. Katuk (Sauropus androgynus) is a small shrub with tons of nutty tasting leaves that can easily be stripped to add to salads. Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is one of the world’s most nutritious plants. It is an extremely fast growing tree (10+ feet a year) with many edible or useful parts. We mainly use the small leaves for salads and also dry them to make a powder which we sprinkle on our food. If you grow this you will need some space or be willing to cut it back several times a year. Cranberry Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) is a dark red leafed hibiscus which adds a tangy, lemony flavor to salads as well as color. It is hardy, and grows well in sunny locations and seeds itself around the yard. Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) is a beautiful succulent that is also known as pink baby’s breath with edible leaves. Tindora (Coccinia grandis) is a tropical vine that is a southern Indian favorite. The small fruits can be used as a substitute for cucumbers in your salad.
We also like to add herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano and garlic chives. Add edible flowers to the top of the salad to make a beautiful display. Favorites include Nasturtium whose leaves are edible and Blue Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea), a vine that has beautiful vivid blue flowers and is a striking addition to your yard. There are many more flowers such as violets, pansies, and porter weed that can be added as well.
The vegetables from our garden include various types of lettuce; arugula, Asian greens; tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots and beets. If you do not want to spend a lot of time growing an annual vegetable garden you can just grow a few pots of vegetables filled with some of your favorites. Or you can use vegetables you buy at the Farmer’s Market or store. Linda and I are snowbirds, so every fall there is a lag time when we replant our annual garden, however since we have our perennial edibles we can still have our salad.
You too can have a “Yarden” salad full of perennial edibles and garden vegetables. It’s totally up to you to choose which ingredients you wish to grow yourself. Perennial edibles have the advantage of being year round and low maintenance as well as giving you fresh, healthy food. Give them a try!
Greg and Linda Nelson are landscape designers who have transformed their Englewood yard using Permaculture techniques. They offer landscape consultations, design services, and free monthly tours through their business: Love Your Yard. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, 207-449-9012 or visit their website at https://weloveyouryard.wixsite.com/swfl.