As a former resident of Northern Virginia, I used to shock and awe my neighbors and coworkers by grabbing a hand full of plants from the lawn and gobbling them down without saying a word. The most typical reaction was dismay and disbelief, often followed by laughter, as if this officially confirmed their inclination that I am crazy. They had never heard or seen anything like this and many expected that I would soon die.
Despite doing their very best to scours the lawn of all life except for Fescue and Rye Grass, a plethora of edible weeds managed to survive the wrath of the homeowner in nearly every Northern Virginia lawn. You could count on there being a crop of Broadleaf Plantain in the summer and Chickweed in the winter. The hated and ubiquitous dandelion, which is edible from top to bottom, is frequently available for harvesting.
Just for good measure, I would often take down a Kousa Dogwood Fruit and tempt a neighbor to taste it. The few who dared could not get past the spiny, lizard like texture of the exterior and never experienced the refreshing liquid on the inside. There were also Persimmons, Mulberries and Crabapples in many of the lawns, planted there by previous generations. The birds and wildlife took full advantage, but the humans were mostly missing out.
The truth is that if the food supply were to fail, your first and best source of nutrition would exist in your own yard. You can eat a salad of Plantain and Dandelion Greens, with Viola flowers for the sake of plating and grated wild ramp for flavor. Don’t forget to add Plantain seeds for protein. The young leaves of Lambs Quarter taste like Spinach, but they are a lot better for you. You might chase it all down with a glass of Dandelion Wine and have roasted Cattail root and Mulberry jam for desert.
The American Lawn in its current incantation could be considered an arrogant and wasteful creation. Despite a passionate life-long love of weed-eating, I would be happy to see the size of the average lawn reduced and more area allowed to go wild. However, I must admit that lawns do serve a key purpose. Despite their painful lack of biodiversity, they are a source of fresh, nutrient and antioxidant rich food. I think I will go out for a snack.