Got weeds? If there is one thing I want you to get from this post it’s this, so I’ll say it first. DON’T SPRAY YOUR LAWN WITH HERBICIDES! There’s a gold mine out there — a feast of delicious, accessible superfoods and powerful healing agents. I realize that picking things to eat out of the grass is a strange notion, especially since there are things there you should definitely NOT be consuming, but here are three that you can easily identify and probably already know. Consider this a primer in very basic foraging.
1) Dandelion (Taraxacum)
Everybody knows this one. From our childhood delight in blowing the fairy- like seeds into the wind, to the gardener’s disdain at their seemingly endless proliferation, the dandelion is an icon of our experience with the outdoors. But little do we know how much it deserves our respect and protection! The entire plant is completely edible. One serving of raw dandelion greens provides more than the daily requirement of vitamins A and K. It’s also high in calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc. All you have to do is pick a few, rinse, and toss them in your salad. They can also be sautéed, roasted, or baked. The roots are fantastic for a tea or coffee substitute and a tincture that has long been used to detoxify the liver and kidneys, reduce swelling and fevers, and prevent diabetes. The flowers can be used for making things like syrup, jams, and a delicious wine, traditionally consumed as a health tonic. This list is just a beginning. Here’s a great link with many other ideas for using the dandelion.
2) Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
This is the low growing ivy that you see running rampant through your lawns and flower beds, NOT the house plant by the same name. Now you don’t have to worry about how to get rid of it. Loaded with vitamin C, the greens can be eaten raw, steamed, cooked or steeped into a tea. It’s also a beautiful ground cover. Let it grow!
3) Plantain (Plantago Major)
It grows almost everywhere and has an amazing number of uses. Not only is the leaf tasty and extremely nutritious, but it can be used as an anti-inflammatory, a poultice to treat bee stings, dermatitis, insect bites and sunburn. It can stop the bleeding and accelerate the healing of wounds. It’s truly like an entire medicine kit in a leaf, and the amazing thing is you can almost always find it when needed. Once you identified this gem of a plant, you’ll realize how familiar it is and can start using it.
This is just a glimpse into the world of wild and wonderful plants that are beneficial, plentiful and free! Here’s a great website that gives you even more information and images. Remember, DO NOT consume anything that a) you can’t positively identify or b) has been treated with any herbicides or fertilizers.
In Part 2, I’ll talk about Garlic Mustard, Purple Deadnettle and Mallow, all things that are in currently in my yard and very likely yours as well. Until then, go pick your dandelion greens and have a salad!