At the Plate 

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We eat bark and rocks and lots and lots of Nightshades, and all of it is tasty.

That's the lesson of "Delicious Dining: Flavorful Plants from Around the World," the latest addition to the Memphis Botanic Garden's "My Big Backyard."

According to Mary Helen Butler, the garden's director of education, the initial focus of "My Big Backyard" was on fun. Digging, jumping, exploring, and splashing are all encouraged at this horticultural exhibit/playground. But, with "Delicious Dining," a little education is being sneaked in.

Those rocks are salt, the barks make spices, and the Nightshades are potatoes for French fries as well as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants for any number of dishes. At "Delicious Dining," signs are set up at various points to explain how this became that: lemons next to lemonade, peanuts next to a jar of peanut butter, etc.

The timing of adding "Delicious Dining" to "My Big Backyard," Butler says, was just about perfect. "We wanted to expand our dining room, make more room for plants," she says. "Then TruGreen approached us." The lawn-care maintenance company was creating an educational horticultural website and wanted the Botanic Garden's input. The result: TruGreen is the sponsor of "Delicious Dining," and the Botanic Garden and TruGreen collaborated on the website, mybotanicplanet.com.

Mybotanicplanet.com includes six lessons on flavors, flowers, and pollination. In addition, Inspector Nectar and Flavor Flores, two characters the garden uses in its educational programs, are on the site, with Nectar taking kids through a flower mystery and Flores leading a "sensational sap safari."

"Delicious Dining: Flavorful Plants from Around the World," part of "My Big Backyard" at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Ongoing.

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