It worked in Kansas, the sunflower state, just not with sunflowers. The Kansas sunflower is really a daisy. Not good. Ever eat daisy seeds?
Then we moved here. What a paradise we found, pecans, figs, satsumas, all within reach.
Some yards had tomatoes, once grown as ornamentals because it was thought tomatoes were poisonous.
Other places had potatoes, even though the Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diets (SPUD) tried to discourage their consumption. Only their acronym survives as a nickname for this remarkable vegetable. Had they succeeded, there would be no french fries.
There are only two kinds of plants in the yard to choose from, food and maybe poison. To help me decide, I got a copy of Elias and Dykeman's, "Edible Plants: A North American Field Guide." Then I looked up some of the plants growing in the yard to see if there were any worth putting on the dinner table.
One plant I could see in abundance was the daylily. "Edible Plants" identifies only hemerocallis fulva, the wild or common daylily, as "a garden plant that commonly grows wild in abandoned home sites, vacant lots, along roads."
What are the most common around here are the cultivars, not the wild ones. There are more than 60,000 cultivars, developed just within the last 100 years, countless colors, shapes and growing patterns. Few diploids, I read. Most seem to be tetraploid, whatever that means, except that not all of those are edible. Only eat the ones that are.
Sometimes called a roadside lily, a railroad lily, and even an outhouse lily because of where it was first planted, hemerocallis fulva was an early import from England in the 17th century. It is so easily grown that it has been considered a native wildflower by some and a noxious weed by Wisconsin. Too bad.
Most of this plant is not only edible, it even tastes good. Its root system has short, fingerlike tubers. Raw tubers give sweet, nutty flavor to salads, or can be boiled in salted water until tender, then seasoned. Excellent potato substitute. You can boil buds a few minutes, butter, and season. Dip buds or flowers in egg batter and fry in hot oil or add them to soups. Caution: they are a natural laxative.
I noticed a lot of tiny red fruit growing everywhere in my yard. Great, I thought, our own wild strawberries. Wrong. Now I call them weeds.
Everyone knows what a strawberry, fragaria virginiania, looks like, and probably tastes like, too. One surprise, botanically: what you are calling a fruit is actually a red, fleshy receptacle for the real fruit, the tiny, hard seeds called achenes. Achenes are what can get caught in your teeth.
Of course you can eat them. They're good fresh, or in preserves. Strawberry recipes abound. But strawberry flavoring for soft drinks has has been chemically duplicated. It's never been anywhere near a real strawberry plant.
The leaves are also edible, and make a tea high in Vitamin C. Use about half a cup of dried leaves per quart of boiling water, let steep for 5 minutes. Dried leaves can be saved for later use.
But are the strawberries growing in my yard really strawberries? Probably. There are "related edible species." They are "widely distributed, basically alike, and easy to identify." There are NO poisonous look-alikes. The catch? Those from my yard have absolutely no flavor. I ate one. I didn't try making tea from the leaves. The good news, judging from my own yard, is that there are plenty of them. That is, unless you try to harvest them in large enough quantities to photograph. That took almost an hour.