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Edible Landscaping--Edibles on Memory Lane

Category: Gardening for Food | Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:55 am

I lived on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA) for most of my life. The flora is a bit different than most of the rest of Massachusetts (MA). Some alpine type plants are there: short, low, hardy. The Cape is a sandy place so soil is poor in many places. The pines and oaks are mostly scrub-type, and some places are not very green at all. Amidst this landscape of sand and scrub you will find beautiful pink Lady Slipper orchids growing under the rough and rugged looking trees.

I used to take walks with my older sister when I was a pre-teen child. We would walk through the woods and find "Checkerberry" (Gaulthera procumbens), and taste the minty leaves and comment on how it tasted just like a gum that was out at the time: Teaberry. You could also buy Checkerberry Popcorn at an ice-cream stand at the beach. The popped corn had a glaze over it with that delightful sweetly mint (not "hot" at all) flavor on it. That was my grandmothers (Ma) favorite. We would go there when my grandparents came and stayed for a few days every other weekend.

My sister and I would walk in the scrub woods near our home, and along the edges and in clearings were patches of blueberries. We picked what was ripe and returned home to give them to my mother who would put them in pancakes and muffins for my Grandfather (Papa). There were also a few raspberry/blackberry plants around. They were prostrate & trailing an were themselves rather rough with their spines and imperfect fruit. Papa still loved them. I loved picking them, the smell of the woods while I was there, and the smile on Papa's face when we brought them home.

I believe Papa really enjoyed the idea of us going out and gathering in such a way. That is a lost art around here now. Housing developments have replaced many of these places, and others have been paved over with highways. Papa used to tell us stories of growing things when he was younger. We were 2 generations farther away from the dirt, but this brought things back. My Grandfather and an elderly neighbor taught me how to garden starting when I was 8. When I harvested, Ma would snap the peas or beans for dinner while she sat on a chez lounge in the sun.

One of the great things about life on Cape Cod was abundant seafood. When I was 12 I used to go fishing by myself and sometimes with a friend at the bay. I brought home at various times squid, snapper blues, crabs, and clams. Although not landscaping, edible nonetheless.

I miss those days. Recently, while trying to pass on the joy of a ramble through the woods to my kids, the harsh reality of its dangers hit us. In 2006, my daughter and I got Lyme Disease--it was awful. Luckily, we caught it quick, and after treatment are both recovered. The thing is we caught it on the edge of our own property! Certainly the woods would have more ticks! I have ventured out around here when things are colder (October for "Autumn Olive" picking), but I have picked up a tick on a February walk. We are no longer on the Cape, and this location is closer to the epicenter of Lyme disease.

I think this Spring (early) I will go back to the Cape for some walks in the dunes on the beach. Maybe we can spot some whales while we are there. I hope my kids get as much out of walking and browsing the landscape for food as I did.


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Droopy wrote on Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:07 am:

Such a lovely, little reminisce. Thank you for sharing that. I'm sorry to hear about all the ticks with disease around you. We've got them too, but smear ourselves with mosquito oil and venture outside anyway. I'd love to see those dunes. Please bring your camera.

Robin282 wrote on Wed Feb 13, 2008 6:09 pm:

I think I shall! I can hardly wait to go. I usually go when it is still fairly cold; however, the beach areas appearance is virtually unchanged over the seasons. Several things stay a very dark green and are low. Some things that loose their leaves are in thickets and the brush is so dense it merely looks as if the color has changed--rather than that there is something missing.

Cape Cod is a tourist destination, so I go in early spring and late fall usually.

diene wrote on Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:27 pm:

Hello Robin;
I am in Maine and we have similar scenery but our soil is somewhat better where there are no rocks! I empathize with you on the Lyme's it has made its way up here as well. Not sure about the Checkerberry but I will look at the latin name and check to see if we have that here. I can walk to the ocean so if you need a picture, let me know. diene

Robin282 wrote on Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:00 am:

Whereabouts in Maine are you located? We were looking at some land in Cherryville. We hope to head up that way in 10 years or so.

1bohica wrote on Wed Sep 03, 2008 1:46 pm:

Checerberry popcorn is still available, but act fast it's at a seasonal snack shack in Onset, MA (Ken's) by the Onset public beach. $5 a bag

Robin282 wrote on Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:06 pm:

Thanks! I have gotten it there before (many moons ago). I will go Friday!

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