Don’t yuck ‘is yum

Published 1:39 pm Sunday, March 6, 2022

By Felder Rushing

Critics, back off! To the consternation of hardcore foodies, some folks grow edible plants that we don’t particularly choose to eat. We sometimes plant veggies, herbs, and fruits just because they’re pretty.

Heard a relatable phrase last month in a pub in England that, once interpreted to this curious linguist, resonated immediately. Someone had verbally dismissed my preference for dark stout ales, and quickly was rebuked by the pub owner. Apparently, “Don’t yuck ‘is yum” means don’t criticize something another person finds delightful.

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And I get this from folks who press for details about my personal garden likes and dislikes. Which is why I rarely give garden tours, lest a few judgmental people, particularly those who lack a strong sense of the absurd, misunderstand and judge me.

Yeah, I have glass bottle trees, a stack of tires painted like a zaftig evergreen shrub, and a concrete chicken from my grandmother’s garden. And recycled pots of all descriptions, and even a few artificial flowers. And it’s okay, at least to my garden sensibilities.

And when it comes to growing stuff, I don’t really care if something is native or not, old fashioned, or a bit weedy (which can be planned around). I just plant what makes me smile and can survive my disinterest in unnecessary watering, pruning, spraying or other busy work.

So I’m not bothered when something edible goes to waste; lots of plants are worth growing regardless of their potential nutrition, though I do reserve the right to eat them when I tire of just admiring them.

Burgundy okra has striking dark red foliage, exotic hibiscus flowers, and long, tapered maroon seed pods that I use later in dried flower arrangements. Who cares if I never cut any to cook with? Same with African Blue basil, too strong for my culinary taste but more attractive to butterflies than any other plant in my garden. And I overlook cooking the pithy, pear-like fruit from quince, my brilliant red hot peppers, daylily flowers, and leaf pads of prickly pear cactus sold in Latino food stores as nopales. All edible, but…nope.

So it goes with my mesclun salad plots. Mesclun means “mixed” which is how I sow lettuces, swiss chard, kale, and other leafy greens – all mixed together.

They grow very well in the fall and spring, and some actually survives the hard freezes of winter. And they sure are colorful in pots, flower beds, in corners of my raised bed, even in a hanging basket dangling well out of reach of hungry snails.

I just started some more this week.

Worked up some dirt and sowed a home-mixed blend of red, green, frilly, smooth, and other lettuces and kale. Lightly moistened the seeds every day for a week, and they’re already starting to come up. Soon I’ll be able to snip off some of the outer leaves for a nutritious, home-grown salad. 

Trouble is, to me even home-grown lettuce is about as tasty as a glass of water, so when I do eat any I mix in all sorts of stuff including almond chips, plump tart cranberries, sliced cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, and lots of oil-and-vinegar based dressing. I basically hide the good stuff in the trimmings.

Besides, how much salad can a grown man eat, anyway? Answer: Nowhere near as much as I grow in even my tiny plots. So over the years I’ve started planting it like I would pansies and violas, as colorful winter foliage.

Thank goodness for Granny’s chicken, which makes mesclun look purposeful, for more than just food. Wasteful? maybe. Just don’t yuck me yum!