This is a guest post by Joe over at Preppingtosurvive.com.
We agreed to swap posts to switch it up a little bit and he’s holding up his end of the bargain. Read on!
We called him the Yard Nazi. It was a title that he coined himself. He embraced it, relished it even. His evenings and weekends were spent meticulously manicuring his lawn in hopes of further improving it. To him, a dense, green, lush lawn was the mark of success. This was our neighbor across the street many years ago when we lived a suburb of a medium-sized city. He literally spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year taking care of his lawn. Although he may be a bit on the extreme side, there are a lot of others across America who do the same. Millions of dollar each year are spent eliminating unsightly weeds and teasing each blade of grass to reach its fullest potential. We don’t do that. Yet we don’t have a weed in our yard. How is that? It’s all a matter of perspective.
That’s Not a Weed
The yard of our little homestead is not thick with green grass. Far from it. But when I walk across our lawn, I don’t see weeds, instead I see a wealth of potentially nutritious and filling edibles that are only minutes away from being a meal. Chickweed, violets, dandelions, wood sorrel, and plantain garnish our yard as well as our dinner table.
Chickweed is commonly found in many lawns across the U.S. and other parts of the world. It’s loaded with vitamins such as A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals. In short, chickweed is more nutritious than many things we intentionally grow in our garden. You can eat chickweed raw on a salad or you can cook it like you would spinach. You can eat the stems, leaves, and even flowers. Chickweed is also known to have some medicinal purposes. It can be applied topically by chopping it into fine pieces and putting it directly on skin irritations or minor cuts and burns. You can also make a tea out of it that is reported good for your urinary tract.
As with chickweed, violet leaves may be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. The raw flowers can added to a salad to enhance its presentation and flower. They can also be made into a very tasty jelly. I’ll have Laura post her recipe sometime. Violets are also purported to have some medicinal properties as well; you can make use of the roots and flowers for tinctures or infusions to help with a number of respiratory and digestive tract illnesses.
Who hasn’t seen a yard full of dandelions? They are common throughout much of North America and other parts of the world. And while Americans go to great lengths to rid their lawns of these plants, peoples in other parts of the world seek them out as delicious edibles. Dandelion leaves and roots are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The best time to harvest dandelions is in the spring when they are young. You can eat them on a salad or use in place of lettuce on a sandwich. Older dandelion leaves can be bitter but that can be helped by blanching them in water before eating them. You can also saute or steam the leaves. The dandelion root can be dried, ground, and used as a substitute for coffee, I’m told. I must admit that I like coffee too much and haven’t tried this. Like the other edibles, dandelions are purported to have medicinal properties as well. They are supposed to be good for your liver and can be used for digestive disorders.
Yellow wood sorrel is delicious, easy to identify, and found around the globe. Wood sorrel looks a lot like three-leafed white clover except the leaves are heart-shaped. Wood sorrel has a delicious lemony taste, yet it’s not really sour. The plant can be eaten raw straight from the ground (which is very refreshing on a hot summer’s day), or it can be added to salads. You can also use it to flavor soups or sauces, adding a lemony flavor to the dish. Wood sorrel is full of vitamin C and has some medicinal uses. It’s said to be an astringent, which constricts blood vessels. It may also help with indigestion and vomiting. Be careful though. Wood sorrel contains oxalic acid. People with kidney disease, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout should probably steer clear of it.
Plantain is another wonderful plant that is commonly found in American yards and fields. It’s a cousin of spinach and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K as well as iron. Although it can be eaten raw, it’s generally considered better when cooked like spinach, boiling the leaves until tender. You can add other spices to enhance the flavor. Young leaves are more tender and tasty than the older, more fibrous leaves. You can also saute the leaves. Plantain is said to help with digestive issues as well as respiratory problems. We’ve used crushed plantain topically on wasp stings. It works very well to reduce the swelling and pain.
Know Your Weeds
This little introduction isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Instead it’s designed to help you see your yard differently. In the good times, you can augment your meals with free and nutritious plants. In times of scarcity or in survival situations, they may actually help keep you going. Before you begin, I’d encourage you to do your own research by consulting the web, reading books such as the Peterson Field Guides to Wild Edible Plants, and best yet talking with a wild edibles expert in your area. Make sure you can identify the plants before eating them. Misidentification can be discomforting and sometimes even deadly. Also, be picky about where you harvest your edibles. Avoid areas where poisons may have been applied. Also, I’d stay away from road side plants since a lot of pollution is present there. So, as spring approaches and you begin making plans for your lawn care, how about trying something new this year? How about eating those “weeds” rather than poisoning or pulling them? You may just find a new source of food for you and your family.