Tending your weed garden- if you can't kill ‘em, eat ‘em!
What makes a weed a weed?
If you’re into the trendy garden crazes, you may have heard about foraging. It has become one of the hottest trends for gardeners, the eco-conscious public, and even chefs.
According to Mirriam-Webster, foraging means to “search for provisions.” In this case, we are talking about food. One would think people search for fresh produce in their gardens, at local farmers’ markets and even at their good old local grocery store.
But, no! Today, the trend is more Survivorman than shopping man (or woman). If you haven’t seen Survivorman, host Les Stroud purposefully gets stranded in the wilderness for a period of time to show how one can survive on what the land provides. I have seen him eat things that no one should ever have to eat, but then the show is about survival, so you go, Les! Eat the base of that cattail if you need to for survival. I’ll just eat my celery.
The foraging trend's intent is that people eat the weeds and other plants from the environment around them for fulfillment. Foragers claim we should eat these plants because they are there, they are free, and they are a food source. It’s a hug Mother Earth craze, and it is catching on.
There are hundreds of books, blogs, and articles
detailing which native plants (a.k.a. weeds) humans can eat. These articles not only help you identify your new food sources, they tell you what parts of the plant to eat and how you can eat them. But, what’s wrong with a little stick identifying your crops at the end of each row? Why can’t we just eat the foods we recognize to be safe because we put them there?
Foraging for food in the wild is not based on new knowledge; it has been around for centuries. Indigenous people and early settlers made these discoveries long ago, and at that time it might have been nice to know what you could eat in the wild since there weren’t any Safeways or Superstores around. Some settlers even brought some of these pesky weeds here as a source of food, but that is a story for another time.
If your pragmatic, it is true that we put a lot of time and effort into killing, and eradicating, many of these natural food sources from our garden. Instead of wasting our time ridding ourselves of them, we might as well let them be, harvest them and enjoy them like the rest of the edible plants in the garden.
Let’s all eat our weeds
WAIT! Before we start randomly munching away on any plant growing in our yard, we need to find a reliable source to determine what is truly edible and what may make us seriously ill. Using the most reliable source I know, I GOOGLED it.
Weed foraging brought up pages upon pages of books, videos, blogs and more on the subject. Even Martha Stewart has the topic on her website, In the Weeds: A Beginner's Guide to Foraging, although, sorry dear, I did not find it very informative.
With new laws on pesticide and herbicide use weeds may one day take over. Maybe it’s best we get on the bandwagon now.
Me, I’ve already started! For the last few years, I have been growing an experimental dandelion farm with success! It has spread over several acres. Now, I just need to start harvesting and selling the plants; and watch the money flow in.
What makes it a weed not a vegetable
Weeds are opportunistic; they are resilient, they will take burning and tilling, hoeing and pulling. Perhaps that’s why some of us can’t wrap our heads around the idea that these plants, the weeds, we have been trying to eradicate for years, the ones that best us at every turn, may actually be good for us. They may even taste good. And they’re free and in abundance. I’d bet that most of our neighbours would be willing to let us pull them out of their yards too!
The problem with foraging is that it isn’t like walking into a supermarket where everything is a known entity, you know how to cook or eat it, you know if it interacts with any illness or medication you may be on. But when you begin foraging you need to do serious research. Many of these plants have been used not just for food, but for medicinal purposes for years. Some interact with chronic conditions and/or medications you may currently be taking. Also, some parts of the plant may be edible while others are not, or in some cases plants can only be eaten at certain times or must be cooked and not eaten raw. So if you do decide to embark on your own foraging escapade this summer, please do your reading first.
Why resist people?
People have never been quick to change or try new things unless it’s the latest tech gadget. We’re afraid of the new. How many of us can say that we have been invited over for a cup of dandelion tea, purslane salad or stinging nettle hummus? My point exactly!
With climate change and weeds growing out of control, we may soon be incorporating them as part of our regular diet. Heck, I just saw dandelion leaves for sale in the supermarket. I’ve decided that I am going to embrace this new food source wholeheartedly and vow to spread the weed, uh word. By the way, is anyone looking for organic farm fresh dandelions?
If you take a closer look at your yard, you'll be surprised at how many different kinds of plants actually make it you lawn.
The entire marsh marigold plant can be eaten but should be boiled prior to consumption.
Dandelion leaves can be found in the grocery store now.