is commonly defined as a plant in the wrong place, usually in competition with purposely-grown vegetables and flowers.
Weeds are incredible opportunists that we have actually encouraged. They take advantage of disturbed bare ground in our gardens, germinating and growing rapidly to protect it, and then reproducing prolifically. Perennial weeds establish even more strongly by sending out runners or offsets, forming dense patches.
The word ‘weed’ is used in a derogatory way so most of us automatically see them as negative and without value.
Yet one person’s weed is another person’s garden plant; galinsoga might be a ‘weed’ in NZ, but in Colombia it’s a popular vegetable.
Weeds can be very useful. They arrive without our assistance, grow without help, are abundant and free. Many are edible in salads, smoothies, pestos, or as a vegetable, and many have health-giving healing properties. Using your weeds as food or medicine, or composting them, is far more sustainable than disposing of them by spraying. It transforms them into allies rather than enemies, which makes gardening more enjoyable.
Tauranga Julia has a passion for all plants, especiall y ‘wild weeds’. She is a keen forager, photographer,
health researcher and sustainable food grower. She loves to share her knowledge through workshops, her books ( Julia’s Guide to Edible Weeds and Wild Green Smoothies),
and her website.
OTHER NAMES: redroot, pinkroot, pigweed DISTRIBUTION: found all over NZ in waste places and cultivated ground ABOUT: a native annual of tropical parts of America, in use since 4000BC. All parts of the plant are edible, but the seeds are especially rich in protein and minerals. USES: although considered a weed, people around the world value and use amaranth as a leafy vegetable, a cereal, and as an ornamental. Amaranth leaves contain high levels of calcium and niacin (vitamin B3), three times more than spinach leaves. It also contains seven times more iron than lettuce. Amaranth leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of antioxidant carotenoids, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
I like to add young leaves to smoothies, salads, soups, and pesto.
Galium aparine parine
OTHER NAMES: biddy bid, sticky willy, goose grass rass DISTRIBUTION: very common all over NZ, growing in winter and spring ABOUT: scrambling annual plant with rough leaves and stems that stick to things, has small seed-heads with hooks that catch on animal coats and your clothes. USES: one of the best cleansing tonics for the blood and lymphatic system. Herbalists use it for infections like tonsillitis, glandular fever, ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), benign breast tumours, eczema and psoriasis. It is also good for sheep, cows, horses and geese.
The ripe seeds can be lightly roasted and then boiled to make a drink I like very much which is surprisingly richlyflavoured. It is related to coffee but lacks caffeine.
It’s high in Vitamin C and minerals, especially silica which is needed for nails, teeth and hair, so I put young shoots in smoothies. The leaves, fresh or dried, can be used as a refreshing tea, or cut them up finely and add to soups.
DISTRIBUTION: common throughout NZ in pasture, cultivated land and gardens ABOUT: this is an annual rosette-forming plant in the Brassica family. It has deeplylobed, dull green leaves, often with purplish stems which smell of mustard when crushed. Around October it sends up flower stalks (up to 1m) which form orm a tangled, wiry mass. USES: used in n Europe in sauces, salads and stews. Infusions ns were used to cure coughs, wheezing and loss of voice and gained the name the ‘singers’ ers’ plant’.
Mustard greens ens have a reputation as the healthiest, full of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, calciumm and other minerals. Eat during the cool months when the leaves are lessess spicy and avoid foraging from paddocks where artificial nitrogen gen has been used as it can take ake up and retain nitrates.
ABOUT: Fathen is a common weed in