My dad is an excellent gardener – of flowers. To my knowledge, he has never grown a single thing that one can actually eat, but I learned a heap about plants while taking care of those childhood flower gardens. Dad’s a designer, of interior spaces and exterior gardens. He’s also a product of a 200-year-old lawn culture. So he couldn’t help himself when, in an otherwise sweet and charming email, he reacted thus to my statement that I was thinking of putting buckwheat in the front lawn:
Buckwheat in front lawn? If I was a neighbor, I’d burn down your house!!
What dear ol’ Dad hasn’t been around for – the bum retired to Mexico 20 years ago – is the parade of neighbors who stop to look at our garden, guessing what’s coming up this year or asking us about it if we’re out there working. We’ve made mistakes, most of them in the front yard, yet nary a word of complaint, much less threats of violence, when, for instance, we planted beets and cabbages and then a pile of messy-looking rosa rugosa in the front yard. They’re all gone now – the veggies prefer more sun, the thorny rosa is no longer needed to protect the veggies from … who was I kidding? Nobody wants to actually do the work of stealing beets!
So the front yard is desolate again, and we want our garden to attract beneficial insects – pollinators, butterflies, and those that attack pest insects – and we need to amend the soil. I’m dying to find out if we can grow our own gluten-free pancake flour, and I want to lower my blood sugar and cholesterol. Getting some fat-free complete protein into me would be nice, too. What to plant that will do all this?
Buckwheat, which is not a grain at all, but rather a fruit related to rhubarb. It contains the full spectrum of essential amino acids, which means its proteins are complete and a great choice for vegetarians. There’s a reason those Adirondack loggers could fell trees fourteen hours a day in the freezing cold: they were full of buckwheat pancakes.
Of course buckwheat won’t be the only thing in the front yard. I’ll probably finally put in some impatiens, but also some echinacea for their beauty, pollinator-attracting ability and medicinal attributes. They’ll all go into raised beds, so there will still be a tiny bit of lawn around the beds to mow, but I’m guessing our neighbors won’t mind the buckwheat at all.