Today I’d like to talk to you about weeds. Actually, it’s not so much about weeds as it is plant literacy. Once upon a time, really not that long ago, people went out and gathered plants. They knew which plants were expected to grow in their areas at certain times of year, and they picked them for food, medicine, and to use in their homes for various purposes. Children went with the adults and were taught how to identify the plants they could eat or use to treat illnesses, and this knowledge was passed down through the generations…
Until recently. Now, we go to stores and we buy what has been deemed most profitable by food producers, and we plant certain fruits and vegetables we would like to grow in our gardens. And most everything else that grows is considered a weed– a useless plant encroaching on our territory.
But what if we knew the names of these plants, and how to use them? Would we still consider them weeds?
|Dandelions and wild onions from my yard.|
I loved this talk given by Tama Matsuoka Wong– she articulates so well so much of what I want to say about this. Please watch!
(If the player doesn’t appear below, you can just click this link to see it.
What do you think? I know that many of my friends who have grown up in rural Europe or less developed countries still know their plants, and have memories of gathering them for food and medicine. I am still learning about the plants around me, and it is such an exciting revelation to realize that something I have seen in my yard is really useful, or good eating. This year, I took a different approach with my dandelions than simply clipping all the heads off before they went to seed, and trying to pull up and destroy as many of the plants as I could. I actually used them instead, which gave me a whole new appreciation for them. I can hardly believe I’m saying it, but I look forward to dandelion season next year.
These are dandies from my garden– I used the young leaves in salads, I pickled the tight little buds to use like capers, I sprinkled the yellow petals in salads or turned them into fritters with Amelia, and then I made a really good medicinal tincture with the roots. We actually went in search of more dandelions as a family, which we turned into a nice dandelion wine that is sitting in my basement right now. I have also picked and dried cleavers (aka sticky weed,) lemon balm and nettles to make tea with later in the year. We have found elderberries growing at the end of the yard, which we will use in an elderberry winter tonic this autumn, and the ground elder that threatens to take over my whole garden has been thrown into many of our soups and salads this year– eating is such sweet revenge over the especially invasive plants!
Learning about the plants around us is really interesting, and fun. There are so many books out there right now to help you get started, and you can join local foraging groups in many areas. I think the best place to start is in your back yard. Look at the plants there. Do you know what they are called? If not, see if you can find out. Google is your best friend here! I do a google image search using a few descriptive terms to find out so much about the plants I see around me. Check to see if there are similar-looking toxic plants that you will need to distinguish between, and read how to tell the differences. There are a lot of really great books that can hlep you get started, as well. Here are some of my favorites:
I will write a post soon on getting started with wild foraging– but go look in your back yard or garden now, and try to see some of the weeds with new eyes. What is the plant called? Which parts are edible, and when? What are its uses? Nature gives us so many gifts, yet we have become blind to most of them!
Have you eaten any of your weeds lately?