Tend­ing your weed gar­denif you can't kill 'em, eat 'em

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Ta­nia Mof­fat

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?

What makes a weed a weed?

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.

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