always say the gardener’s best revenge is to eat the weeds. I’ve been
doing it for thirty years and can testify that my health and the health
of my garden has never been better. Here are a few hints for gardeners
who’d rather eat their weeds than hate them (and for non-gardeners who
are adventurous enough to try out nature’s bounty).
View your weeds as cultivated plants; give them the same care and
you’ll reap a tremendous harvest. Harvest frequently and do it when the
weeds are young and tender. Thin your weeds and pinch back the annuals
so your weeds become lushly leafy. Use weeds as rotation crops; they
bring up subsoil minerals and protect against many insects.
“Interplant” (by not weeding out) selected weeds; try purslane, lamb’s
quarters, or amaranth with your corn, chickweed with peas/beans, and
yellow dock, sheep sorrel, or dandelion with tomatoes). And, most
importantly, harvest your weeds frequently, regularly, and generously.
Overgrown radishes, lettuces, and beans are tough and bitter. So are
weeds that aren’t harvested frequently enough. Give your chickweed a
haircut (yes! with scissors) every 4-7 days and it will stay tender all
spring, ready to be added to any salad. If you forget a patch for two
weeks, it may get stringy and tough and full of seed capsules. (All is
not lost at this stage. The seeds are easy to collect put the entire
plant in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and use the
seeds that fall to the bottom of the bag and highly nutritious, with
exceptional amounts of protein and minerals.
Unthinned carrots and lettuces grow thin and spindly, so do
unthinned lamb’s quarters, amaranth, and other edible weeds. Wherever
you decide to let the weeds grow, keep them thinned as you would any
plant you expect to eat. Here’s how I do it: In early spring I lightly
top-dress a raised bed with my cool-method compost (which is loaded
with the seeds of edible weeds). Over this I strew a heavy coating of
the seeds of lettuces and cresses and brassicas (cultivated salad
greens), then another light covering of shifted compost.
Naturally, weed seeds germinate right along with my salad greens.
When the plant are about two inches high, I go through the bed and thin
the salad greens, pull out all grasses, smartweeds, cronewort, clear
weed, and quick weed (though the last three are edible, I don’t find
them particularly palatable). And, I thin back the chickweed, mallows, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, and garlic mustard and other edible wild greens.
Keep those annuals pinched back. You wouldn’t let your basil go
straight up and go to flower, don’t let your lamb’s quarter either. One
cultivated lamb’s quarter plant in my garden grew five feet high and
four feet across, providing greens for salads and cooking all summer
and a generous harvest of seeds for winter use.
When a crop of greens has bolted or gone to seed in your garden, you
pull it all out and replant with another crop. Do the same with your
weeds. We eat the greens of garlic mustard all spring, then pull it out
just before it bolts (making a horseradishy vinegar from the choicest
roots) — often revealing a generous crop of chickweed lurking
Some of my favorite garden weeds:
Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) Young
leaves, old leaves, even non-woody stalks are delicious as a cooked
green; chop and boil for 30-40 minutes. Serve in their own broth;
freeze leftovers for winter use. Use instead of spinach in quiche (you
may never to grow spinach again). Collect seeds throughout the autumn
by shaking seed heads over a lipped cookie sheet; or by harvest and dry
the entire seed head. Winnowing out the chaff is tedious but soothing.
There is a special thrill that comes when you toss the chaffy seed in
the air, and the breeze catches it just-so, and the seeds fall back
into your tray, while the prickly chaff scatters “to the four winds.”
Chickweed (Stellaria media) Young leaves and stalks,
even flowers, in salads. Blend with virgin olive oil and organic garlic
for an unforgettable pesto. Add seeds to porridge.
Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium alba and related species, e.g. Chenopodium quinoa).
Young leaves in salads. Older leaves and tender stalks cooked. Leaves
dried and ground into flour (replaces up to half the flour in any
recipe). Seeds dried and cooked in soups, porridge.
Mallows (Malva neglecta and related species) Leaves of any age and flowers (the closely related Hibiscus flowers too!) are delicious in salads. Roots are used medicinally.
Purslane (Portulacca oleracea) The fleshy leaves and
stalks of this plant are incredibly delicious in salads and not bad at
all preserved in vinegar for winter use.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) Roots of
non-flowering plants harvested after frost make a vinegar that is deep,
and richly flavorful as well as a world-renowned tonic. Petioles of the
leaves and the flowering stalk are also edible; for recipes see my book
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis) Year-round
salad green. Leaves used in any season, even winter. Roots are
harvested before plant flowers. Seeds are a spicy condiment.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) Leaves finely
chopped in salads. Flowers are beautiful edible decorations. Roots of
non-flowering plants, harvested in the fall, and cooked.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) Leaves
eaten at any time, raw or cooked, but especially tasty in the fall
not spring! Roots harvested any time; pickle in apple cider vinegar for
winter use. Dandelion flower wine is justly famous.
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) Leaves add a sour spark to salads. Cooked with wild leeks or cultivated onion and potato they become a soup called “schav.”
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) Young leaves cooked for 40-45 minutes and served in their broth are one of my favorite dishes. Seeds can be used in baked goods, porridge.
Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) Roots pickled in apple
cider vinegar are tasty and a boon for enriching the blood. Leaves,
especially young ones, are eaten raw or cooked.
|About the Author:
Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a
joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs
and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds,
simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish
health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine
of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed’s four herbal medicine
books focus on women’s health topics including: menopause, childbearing,
and breast health. Visit her site www.susunweed.com for information on her
workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Browse the
publishing site www.ashtreepublishing.com to learn more about her
alternative health books. Venture into the Menopause site
www.menopause-metamorphosis.com to learn all about the Menopausal Years the
Wise Woman Way. This article is an excerpt from Healing Wise.
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