(birds chirping) (bright music) - [John] Today we're making an heirloom salad with everything that was available from my gardens.
Every leaf, flower, seed, and fruit.
(bright music continues) My name's John Forti.
I am a garden historian and an ethnobotanist.
We're here at Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire, where I'm the director.
It's been opening in the past three years as a new public garden for the state.
I got into gardening and cooking probably as a child.
I think as the last child of six, my mother was pretty done cooking, although she was a great cook.
I was able to learn a lot.
And I also had grandparents that had amazing food gardens, and so from them, I learned gardening and cooking and the idea that it was better to pay the grocer than the doctor.
To me, it's important to grow your own food because it nourishes the soul.
You know, when you know something from the size of a seed that then germinates to become something that's on your plate, it just nourishes you in a different way.
It's medicine for you and it's fresh, but it also, to me, reconnects you with the air and the soil quality and the water quality where you live.
To me, it's very important in an age when so much is shipped in and grown in ways that are beyond our control.
As a gardener, I think of what is available in my yard instead of what I have to go out and buy, like a head of iceberg lettuce which had to be shipped thousands of miles and was a water hog and a fertilizer hog.
I think that when we make a salad of less traditional ingredients, we are also building on more sustainable ideas of how you feed a family using perennials in our yard, things that grow in our lawn as well as our garden.
And this one is sweet cicely or Myrrhis odorata.
Picked a little shiso or perilla.
And some chives.
Picked the tender leaves of some beets.
These are the leaves of sorrel, which is a very wonderful lemony flavored perennial green.
And also some salad burnet or Sanguisorba.
I wanted to share an heirloom salad today because I'm not really a recipe kind of guy.
I don't think of things in terms of recipes that I have to go out and buy the ingredients.
I like the idea of using whatever your garden offers up on a particular day, and an heirloom salad like the one that we're making gives you a chance to utilize every last edible thing that you've grown.
I can use fresh flowers that the old herbalists would say are the sweetest essence of the plant.
They wouldn't last in a grocery store.
And to maybe thin out some seedlings that needed thinning in the garden, to cut back something that grew too large, and bring beauty and flavor to a dish that you couldn't buy in the finest restaurant because those ingredients really are best just coming from your backyard.
Sometimes you can't always buy the best things in life.
You can grow them though.
As a garden historian, I think it's important to recognize the need for biodiversity in our gardens because over just the last hundred years, we've lost over 90% of the biodiversity among the food crops that fed the world.
So when I make an heirloom salad, instead of relying on a head of iceberg lettuce that had to be shipped across country a few thousand miles, I'll have 10 or 20 plants that represent the biodiversity in my backyard.
Instead of something that came from a form of agriculture that I don't like to support, I get to make this a salad that is as rich in biodiversity as it is in flavor.
To me, that's a way more digestible meal.
(bright music continues)