Newsflash: edibles are already growing on Canberra footpaths, especially if you happen to be a goat, a kangaroo or one of the urban-fringe wombats that householders are very, very discreet about when they see tell-tale scratchings near drainage pipes or dung markers left on potted geraniums.
There's even bounty if you're human. While Canberra's red-leafed footpath plums were chosen to be non-fruiting, some haven't understood that their destiny is to be sterile and stubbornly insist on fruiting, unless sprayed to prevent progeny. Ditto crab apples, good for jelly, and hawthorns – Canberra has a stunning cultivar with extra large berries, though be stingy if you make hawthorn and apple jelly with them, as hawthorns are used in herbal medicine, the kind an amateur shouldn't meddle with. Stick to a small smear spread on your toast.
Then there are weeds, like dandelion, sow thistle, rib wort … on the other hand, these are termed "weeds" for a good reason – no one, even the goats, will eat them if there is better tucker to be found. "Edible weeds" are starvation food.
Basically, with footpath tucker, you have two choices: grow something you want to share with the neighbourhood, like silver beet and cut and come again broccoli, or something so esoteric that only canny gardeners will know how to use it, like edible wattle seed (do not eat any others), kei apples, finger limes, Japanese raison tree, or white mulberries. Hopefully those canny gardeners will also be growing their own wattle seed and finger limes already or will leave an offering of a jar of mulberry jam on your doorsteps as a thank you.
There are two major drawbacks to growing edibles on the footpath. OK, there are potentially hundreds of drawbacks to growing food on the footpath, just as there are several million potential drawbacks to having kids, but by and large, both are still a good idea.
Excluding potential visitors who'll park on your tomato seedlings, next door neighbours' goats, geese, chooks, kids on skateboards, aliens in fling saucers who fancy some zucchini and the 389 other possibilities that spring to mind, you still have the gradual build up of lead on footpaths that occurred while there was still lead in petrol. Lead in the soil is also a problem, even in the backyard, but footpaths are closer to cars, and so potentially higher in lead residue.
Importing mulch and compost or even new soil for above ground gardens is a way out of this, but even then roots can go way down. Stick to crops where you won't eat lots, i.e. not silverbeet or broccoli, unless you live in a new suburb, or a newish one, built in, say, the last 20 years.
If I had a footpath, which I don't, nor ever had for more than a few months at a time, I think I'd grow golden marjoram. First of all, it grows almost like a weed i.e. not quite vigorously enough to invade next door or plot to conquer the lawns of parliament. Golden marjoram is also sturdy enough to survive the odd vehicle parking on it, as long as the driver doesn't intend burnouts or leave the car there more than 24 hours straight or have an oil leak. Best of all, it doesn't need mowing.
Or possibly best of all is its appearance, a mat of small gold leaves in sunny spots tending to a drabber grey green in dappled shade. In mid summer it is truly golden, and gloriously bright. It is also drought resistant, and will give you heads of quite pretty summer blooms,
The observant reader may notice that I didn't include "taste" as the "best thing". Golden marjoram tastes OK. It is not, however, as flavour filled or pungent as Greek marjoram. But it's far better than no marjoram at all, and decidedly better than grass, even if you are a goat, though the roos will turn up their noses at it.
You can also feel gloriously generous. The entire neighbourhood can help themselves to a footpath of golden. There will be plenty for all.
Which brings me to the drawback I haven't yet mentioned. Dogs own the footpath too. Whenever you harvest anything at dog leg level, wash it well first.
This week I'm:
* delighted to announce proof that Santa visited here on Christmas Eve. Who but flying reindeer could have nibbled the top of the Jonathon apple tree? (No correspondence will be entered into.)
* eating tomatoes. Real tomatoes. Sun-ripened, red cherries and yellow pear tomatoes. And cucumbers – every year I forget the delight of a fresh cucumber.
* not eating zucchinis. Already. Which means I must stir fry them, or make sweet and sour zucchini pickles. You could make sweet and sour doormat that would taste good, even if the texture left a bit to be desired.
* doing the biannual hacking back of the kiwifruit on the pergola. This year they have decided to invade the front door, strangling anyone who tries to enter after dark.
* letting the weeds grow through the paving. Though I did remove the spider's web from the front door, though not the spider, who is hiding under the door knocker.
* watching the wallabies eat the first apples of the season, newly fallen from the tree. Not a lot of windfalls. Just enough for a wallaby treat.