Thursday, May 20, 2010

King Weed

I love weeds. They are wild and untamed tough little buggers. I feel a certain kinship with the scrappy little plant forcing apart the cracks in the sidewalk. There's great inspiration value there, but many of those weeds are darn useful.

Take the humble dandelion. We've been told they much be banished from our lawns as if they are some sort of toxic pest. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, I think they are pretty. There's value in that alone, but the plant offers so much more. The young leaves can be plopped right in a salad. More mature leaves need to be boiled in a change a water to make them edible. Still, huge food value there. Even tried making a dandelion wine. It was pretty bad. Same came be said for roasting the root as a coffee substitute. One would have to be pretty desperate to call it coffee. However, I have heard rumor of dry roasted dandelion root having anti-cancer properties. Don't know about that, but it wouldn't surprise me.

There's a lot of scrubby looking trees growing around my house. Some of those have actually been encouraged to grow as their fruits and nuts have food value: wild raisin, pin cherry, choke cherry, hazel nuts, beech nuts, and a few others. Most of those trees like like giant weeds to the average person. They aren't growing in nice straight rows like in an orchard. They have a wild look. In fact, the average person won't recognize them as being foot producing. That's fine with me.

During our walks, my lovely wife and I have been known to take home the occasional useful wild plant and encourage it to grow on our property. One of my goals is to have plants, food and medicinal, that don't look like a garden. Those hardy weeds need very little to make them happy. Once established, many pretty much take care of themselves. That's fine with me, as I've got other things to do.

My wife has quite the collection of plant guides. Occasionally, we do get something that looks interesting, but is hard to identify. Often the only way to get good positive identification is to study the flowers or fruit. Sometimes that involves keeping the plant around long enough for it to mature.

A couple of unusual plants sprouted in our garden. We think the seed came from a load of compost that was given to us. My wife transplanted them off by themselves, but they didn't do very much but survive. This year she moved them to the end of our yard near the woods. They liked that environment and were really taking off. My wife thought she was finally going to be able to identify them.

Then a bear ate them. At that point I proclaimed them "bear food." Oh well. Guess we'll never know what they really were. You might be able to food a person into thinking weeds aren't food, but animals know better.

Plenty of homesteaders plant food plants, not for themselves, but for wild game. I've heard it called "planting venison." Works for me.

Doesn't hurt to have plenty of weeds who's main value is in attracting bees. Bees have it tough enough. Letting untidy weeds flourish gives them some much needed pollen. While they are in the neighborhood, maybe they'll do something about my squash plants.

Yes, I sure do love my weeds. Nice cultivated gardens are nice, but if you can those wild weeds working for you, then you've really got something.



  1. Back in the day, we learned to make "tea" from a whole bunch of different plants.

    Most of the time it tasted exactly like hot water.