Guest Post–That’s Not a Weed!

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!

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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

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.

Violets

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.

Dandelions

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.

Wood Sorrel

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

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.

  • Jason February 6, 2013, 9:10 am

    Excellent article Joe!

    My yard is full of a weed called cannabis sativa, which I can use for medicinal purposes to numb my brain from current events.

    When times get tough, I can sell it for far more than gold per ounce and or barter it for most anything.

    If only that were true ….. :-)

    Reply
    • Joe (PreppingToSurvive) February 6, 2013, 9:12 am

      Ha! I’ve actually read there is legislation pending (but won’t pass) that would put a legalize it and put a 50% tax on it. The bill’s sponsors expect to make $20 Billion annually from it and figure that no one will really care.

      Reply
    • smokechecktim February 6, 2013, 3:48 pm

      sorry jason if you use your front yard herbs you’ll end up eating a lot more of your food faster!!,

      Reply
  • Joe (PreppingToSurvive) February 6, 2013, 9:11 am

    Another great resource for learning wild edibles is EatTheWeeds.com. Laura attended one of Green Deane’s classes in person as while back. She learned a lot.

    Joe

    Reply
  • Charles,,,, February 6, 2013, 11:33 am

    Weed’s indeed do feed, restores/stops the bleed and…ok, nuff of the rythmes, tis true, jewelweed which is usually found growing near poison ivy, guess what it’s good for? Poison ivy is the correct answer, yarrow as well is an often forgotten weed of epic healing property’s, so along with your veggie and herb garden this spring, I challenge you to see what local “weed’s” of legal tender (jason,lol). can be found in your neighborhood and potted for future use.. most can be made into tea’s, think of all the alternative drinks you can refresh your friends and family with… don’t forget verbane or wolfbane for creatures of the night, buahhaaaaaaaaa!!! One man’s rant.

    Reply
  • smokechecktim February 6, 2013, 11:37 am

    I know a man who lives in our mountains (I’m pretty sure he make his living off of cash crops similar to what jason dreams about), who told me about pine needle tea. I cut some fresh needles, chopped them up and steeped them for about 1/2 hour. Its not the best tea I ever had, but it was acceptable and rich in a few vitamins.
    This is an area that I wished I knew more about. You read a lot about this plant or that plant, but few give you a good pic of the plant.

    Reply
  • Charles,,,, February 6, 2013, 3:10 pm

    Ouch JH, two thing’s here, herbal knowledge is tough, takes alot of time to learn and doesn’t go bang so the interest is low, point two, herbal remedy’s usually take more time to act/react versus the prescription bottle…. so kudo’s to any and all who keep this art alive, knowing alternatives is a good thing, so I encourage all to dabble, don’t take it so serious, just learn what you can where you can…

    Reply
    • Jason February 6, 2013, 5:06 pm

      …. about the difficulty of learning the correct plants to live on or die from – watch the movie “Into the Wild”.

      Reply
      • Joe (PreppingToSurvive) February 6, 2013, 5:09 pm

        Absolutely, Jason. You’ve got to know what you’re picking and eating. That’s why I recommended talking with an expert in your area. Books can help. The web is ok. But there’s nothing like having someone explain it to you when you touch it, taste it, see it, etc.

        Thanks for the stark reminder.

        Joe

        Reply
        • Jason February 6, 2013, 7:01 pm

          I just watched that movie a couple of weeks ago & thought the guy was pretty careless to begin with but he did make a pretty go.

          When he ate what eventually killed him, he should have triple checked because he was all alone & too far away to get help if something went array as it did.

          Many years a couple of friends of mine ate, what they thought were hallucinogenic mushrooms on Central America. They said they looked exactly the same as what they ingested before EXCEPT they were in a different region. They passed out for 12 hours & felt like a bull had run them over for the next 3 days. They said their burps would rival any outhouse on a sweltering day.

          Needless to say, they were cured from having magic mushrooms ever again!

          Reply
          • Jason February 6, 2013, 7:03 pm

            Sorry for the typos – smart phones are only as smart as the user!

      • D'ja'c February 6, 2013, 9:42 pm

        I’ve been on some wild edible walks w/ the Maine Primitive Living School. One thing that Mike and his staff taught me is to learn the 5 – 10 poisonous plants in your area cold. Then you don’t have to worry about hurting yourself or others. Another thing is to familiarize yourself with the local plants. Every time you are out notice 5 plants and their benefits. I stay away from anything questionable until it is positively ID’ed. Mushrooms I don’t mess with right now. Some of my favorite “weeds” along with what Joe mentioned are: goldenrod and lambs quarter. Boneset and comfrey are good ones too.

        Reply
        • Jason February 6, 2013, 10:49 pm

          That is excellent advice to concentrate on just a few at a time – especially the poisonous ones. Get them wired & expand your knowledge base.

          Reply
        • Jarhead Survivor February 7, 2013, 11:19 am

          Hey D’ja’c – I’ve been wanting to get up there and take one of their nature course classes. Are they pretty good?

          Reply
  • JL February 6, 2013, 7:37 pm

    LOL! I love the yard Nazi thing! We are the misfits of the neighborhood. I am not going to spend a bunch of money on my lawn. Some of my neighbors walk around with a notebook to make sure their lawn people are making everything perfect. Our pine tree needles are high in vitamin C. Learning just the basics is very important.

    Reply
  • Ray February 6, 2013, 7:45 pm

    You left out chickory for a hot drink, or to make coffee go further, Lambs quarter To eat, golden seal for burns, Tiger lily, wild strawberry. I have allways been amazed that people go hungry in the summer. I don’t think I’v been anyplace east of the mississippi that did’nt have SOMETHING to eat growing wild.

    Reply
    • Joe (PreppingToSurvive) February 7, 2013, 10:00 am

      Absolutely right, Ray. Lambs quarter grows in our yard too. Good call. I haven’t had chickory tho. I’ve heard good things about it.

      Reply
  • javelin February 6, 2013, 9:02 pm

    not to mention that the amount of toxins and fertilizer dumped on urban lawns and golf courses rivals the amounts used in row crop agriculture. And its often put on in insane concentrations by people homeowners and “profesionals” who are not terribly skilled or trained in their usages. Ya know, if a little is good alot is better!

    Reply
  • des February 7, 2013, 8:07 am

    Hi all
    being from the uk we have all those weeds mentioned but what reliable weeds they are.
    Dandelion roots which become swollen in the winter can be roasted as you said and ground into coffee and yes it definatley tastes like coffee.
    Plantains all varieties useful for injuries food and the seeds can be made into an ash type biscuit.
    Another weed which is a good indicator of water near by is coltsfoot…i used this leaves chewed in mouth and placed onto my thumb area as i cut it with a saw….twat didnt have first aid kit when carrying knife saw etc wrapped a coltsfoot leaf to hold the mulch in place and it stopped bleeding and never scarred.

    Thanks Des

    Reply
  • sam February 7, 2013, 1:59 pm

    i always add dandelion and lambs quarter and purslane in salads.

    Reply