OK. Time to pull out the poison.
OK, let’s just pretend that I let the bindweed grow all over this corner of the garden so that I could demonstrate to my readers just how pernicious this plant is! Actually, what I said in the former post was true, I have successfully gotten bindweed under control in the peonies. I only had a few vines to poison this year, and there’s no sign of any more. But something else I said was also true – it spread! There are several semi-neglected sections of the garden that I have just not gotten around to cleaning up. This is one, because it pretty much takes care of itself, I don't need to do much there. The bindweed is climbing through ivy and phlox, and wasn't noticeable until a few weeks ago, but I just didn't get around to taking care of it. Now I’m going to be sorry. And if you need any other proof that you don’t want to let bindweed go…
Yep, it got into the house, finding its way through the old stone wall.
OK. Time to pull out the poison.
Post Script - A word of encouragement to the faint of heart: I just took care of this spot, and it wasn't as bad as it looked. I managed to loosen the vines and follow them to their sources, and there were only three major roots which generated all this! So it wasn't too time consuming. However, I don't know where the one inside the house came from...
This is bindweed. It doesn’t matter which of the many varieties it is, if you see it, KILL IT! And I don’t mean pull it up and compost it, either. It will love you for that. I mean kill it.
I did not take this plant seriously when it first appeared in my garden – after all, if you let it go long enough, it will give you beautiful white morning glory flowers. But by then you are in big trouble! After a couple years of my tolerating this plant and not aggressively eliminating it, it had taken over my peonies (and I have a dozen plants) and spread to other areas. So here’s what to do.
I hope you read this post soon enough to avoid an infestation in your yard, but if not, following these tips will get the enemy well under control. Yes, weeds are flowers, too. But I do draw the line somewhere!
Here’s another very healthful weed to add to your menu. Does it look familiar? If you’ve got a garden, you probably have summer purslane.
The technical name is portulaca oleracea, which means "eaten as a cultivated herb." And it was, too, for thousands of years. It grows all over the Mediterranean and has spread throughout the world. Greeks ground the seeds in with their flour, and Indians considered it a healing herb. It is a good source of quite a few nutrients, and is considered a very good source of vitamins A and C, iron, and magnesium, and is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, the cancer fighters. Here is a link to the Journal of American College of Nutrition study, which found purslane better than spinach in multiple categories. http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/11/4/374 Website suite101.com quoted dietician and leading nutrition consultant, Kate Geagan, who stated, "Purslane is one of the richest sources of ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which is a precursor to DHA. In other words, if you can't eat fish, purslane helps fight heart disease and stroke, too." OK, ready to try it yet? Purslane is a succulent: moist and crunchy and slightly lemony, it is refreshing in a salad. Its mucilaginous quality makes it a good thickener for soups. The stalks can even be pickled, or breaded and put in a casserole. If you have a whole bunch, put it in a paper bag for a few weeks. The seeds will ripen, and you can winnow them out and use them in your breads, or sprinkle them on top of dishes.
Here’s a recipe that sounds great: Purslane, pepper, and tomatoe salad with lemon and olive oil. All ingredients to taste. Purslane is a high source of iron, but iron has to be "bioavailable" in foods. Purslane’s iron is enhanced by the vitamin C in the pepper, tomato and lemon, making it more available to our bodies. So add purslane to you next salad, or stir-fry it up as a side dish. It should be your newest superfood!
There is a man in New York who makes his living as a scavenger! Although, it sounds nicer to call him a "professional forager." Steve Brill forages food from Central Park and other nearby locations, earning himself the nickname "Wildman." He is the nation’s most highly respected expert in wild edibles, and his book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, is an essential encyclopedia for anyone wishing to harvest wild food.
The book is uniquely arranged. Each chapter covers the edible foods of a particular season: Early Spring, Mid-Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Late Fall into Early Spring. Within each chapter he describes what edible flowers may be found at that season in different settings: fields, thickets, disturbed areas, woodlands, etc. Each plant is treated separately, giving an in depth description, some interesting history, health benefits and uses, and an explanation of what parts are edible and what parts are not! Very useful information! At the end of each of these sections, he provides several very helpful cross-references; since most plants grow throughout several seasons, he provides a list of what is growing during that time, even if it is not yet at its peak. He also lists plants just to observe, and plants with medicinal value. This format is repeated for each chapter, and at the end of the book he shares lots of recipes to get you eating! All is done with humor and an obvious love of the subject.
Only one thing would make this book better: color pictures! His drawings are great, but pictures would be better. Weeds of the Northeast is the best book I’ve found for this, as it gives color photos of plants at numerous stages of growth. If you own both books, it will help you identify a great many plants for eating. Here is Wildman Bill’s website, for further research.
This book has been a constant reference for me as I have experimented with different foods. It gives very clear guidelines, as well as important precautions. Buy it for your home library, and start enjoying all the good food God has given you, right in your backyard!
This should be one of the first wild foods that you should get to know and use, after dandelion, of course. But this plant is even more useful for food than dandelion, because it NEVER gets bitter and can be eaten from spring until frost – even in the winter, if you dry it.
The origin of this plant’s common name is shrouded in antiquity, but the best guess is that the shape of its leaf reminded people of a cut of meat. Its botanical name, chenopodium album, is easy to explain; it translates as "white goosefoot." Indeed, the leaf also looks like a goose’s foot, so it is sometimes called Goosefoot, and the undersides of the leaves are white with a powder (it’s supposed to be there – some kind of protective layer.) It is also called Pigweed – because pigs eat it. Pigs are smart.
Lamb’s quarters is extremely nutritious, in some nutrients moreso than its relatives, spinach and beets. The leaves are a superior source of beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron. It also contains trace minerals, B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. The seeds, available in the fall, contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and niacin. "Wildman" Steve Brill reports in his great book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, that Napoleon used the seeds to make bread for his army when grain was scarce. I even found this really cool website that lists the daily value of the nutrients in lamb’s quarters. It probably does other weeds as well, so I’m going to look at it more. Apparently, if a food has 20% or more of the daily value of some nutrient, it is considered high in that nutrient. Get this, lamb’s quarters has 281%DV of vitamin A, 111% vitamin C, and 1112% vitamin K! Honest! Check it out yourself! Now do you believe me?
Get a good field guide, like the one I just mentioned, or Weeds of the Northeast, before eating anything you are not familiar with, but do start using this wonderful plant. It has a very mild flavor, hardly noticeable, really. It’s delicious both raw or cooked. You can use both the tender young shoots and the leaves, especially the smaller, younger ones. I put it in my salads and add it to my soups. You can chop it, stems and leaves (preferably not the older, tougher stems, but they are still edible) and cook as you would spinach. However, it does lose about 2/3 of its volume, so collect a lot, or mix it with something else. Once I made a side dish of a bag of frozen spinach and Lamb’s Quarters. Somehow the kids noticed a difference, but ate it anyway, without complaint. It was still quite pleasant.
When collecting, check closely for aphids or tiny eggs on the undersides of leaves. I can only surmise that this plant is so darn good for you that even insects prefer it. Use only leaves with no chew marks or little red lines that look like a miner bug has been in it. Older plants are more likely to have these issues, but there are plenty healthy plants around!
I now include Lamb’s Quarters in my Edible Bouquets, in an effort to introduce this delicious and nutritious wild plant to more palettes. From now on, if you see it while weeding, don’t throw it out; run it right into the kitchen!
I love dandelions! It’s true. They make me sneeze terribly, but I love their cheery yellow faces sprinkled all over my lawn (can you guess I don’t use weed killer?) And who didn’t love blowing their beautiful seed pods as a child? Yes, it spreads more dandelions, but who cares. Let the kids enjoy it, just as we did.
Because of its deeply indented leaves this humble flower earned the French name "Dent de Lion" – Lion’s tooth. Now that fluffy dandelion head will look more like a lion’s mane next time you look at it!
But though humble, it is a powerful plant. Not only is it used medicinally, but it is highly nutritious as well. The leaves are more nutritious than anything we put on our table: more beta carotene than carrots, more iron and calcium than spinach, and large quantities of B vitamins and many other trace minerals. Wow! Even as I write this I am inspired to go out and pick a bunch for dinner! (My unsuspecting family won’t know what hit them! Waa-haa-haa!)
I hope to post several more times about this wonderful "weed", because there's too much to say in one entry. But for starters, here’s a fun link for a great "dandelion wine" recipe. http://compostbin.blogspot.com/2006/05/how-to-make-dandelion-wine.html Personally, I just drink White Zinfandel (which my brother calls wine for the non-alcohol drinker. Hmph) But let me know if you try it!
When foraging for wild flowers or wild food along roads or in woods or fields, certain precautions should be taken. FIRST: If you are not absolutely sure of an edible plant, DON'T eat it! I want to say that at the beginning. I will expand on it again at the end. Please read:
This is one of our most useful "weeds," steeped in history and legend.
Medieval Europe was a time of great faith, and the cycle of life revolved around the liturgical calendar. Blooming in late June, this plant was named after the nearest feast day, that of St. John the Baptist. ("Wort" is actually the old English word for "plant" – thus, St. John’s plant.) Its bright yellow flowers symbolized Christ –five petals represented His five wounds, yellow represented the sun, hence light, and Christ "the Light of the world." Further enhancing this plant’s attractiveness were its amazing properties: the flowers exude a red substance when rubbed, and when emersed in oil they turn it a deep red and imbue it with healing properties, clearly symbolizing the blood of Christ! Due to so many factors, many traditions grew up around this plant: it was gathered on St. John’s feast day and hung over the doors and windows to discourage evil; maidens wore the plant in their hair; farmers fed it to their animals in a sandwich to ensure health.
St. John’s Wort is easily identified. When you hold the small rounded leaves up to the light, you will see tiny little holes. When you rub the lovely yellow flowers, your fingers will turn red. This is a beautiful and wonderfully useful plant. We have used it for years for our very favorite herbal remedy,St. John’s Wort Oil. It heals wounds, burns, swollen glands, sore muscles, and more. It can also be used internally, although some doctors don’t suggest it since it can create a sensitivity to light. Taken internally as tincture or tea, it is supposed to be extremely helpful for mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and nervous disorders like bed-wetting and fitful sleep. Read more about this wonderful plant, and learn how you can use it for your health. If you are creating an herb garden, this plant’s healing properties and beauty earn it a prominent position!
(Important Foraging Precautions)
This remedy has become a family favorite and years ago earned its own toddler version of its name: "Johnjoil." It has proven to be one of the best and best-loved treatments in the house. St. John’s Wort Oil is exceedingly effective at soothing pain and healing wounds quickly. The kids always ask for "Johnjoil and a bandaid!" But it also is very effective for larger wounds, burns, swollen glands, and sore muscles. Apply it to a stubborn splinter and eventually it works the splinter out enough for you to get it!
"Johnjoil" is very easy to make, and the children will enjoy helping you.
(Important Foraging Precautions)
This is by FAR the best weed book I’ve found so far. Identification is almost FOOLPROOF with it! What makes it so good is, not only does it have almost all of the weeds in my garden, it has REAL, COLOR photos and shows the weeds as seedlings as well as mature, so you can identify them young and yank them (if you want). Close-ups on the flowers, roots and even the seeds themselves, as well as comparing look-alikes, all make identification a snap. It’s really thorough! These authors really wanted to help people identify their wild garden volunteers.
But this is not just a picturebook, although that’s what really sets it head and shoulders above its counterparts. Each plant includes the following: Common name and synonyms as well as botanical names, descriptions of seedlings, mature plants, roots, flowers and fruit, winter appearance, propagation, habitat, distribution, and similar species. There are even comparison tables in the back, comparing multiple species side by side. Oh, I just love it when I find thorough people who really love their work! This is a must in the library of anyone who wants to really know the plants in the world around them. After identifying your local plants, then go on to learning their uses: edible, medicinal, or otherwise. Our wild plants are wonderful. Start to get to know them, and start here! Now, if only there was a counterpart to this book for the rest of the country. I saw some titles, but I don't know if they have all the excellent features this book has. If anyone knows, please inform us in the comments!
Welcome to Growing Goodness! This website is dedicated to growing good things, both plants and children. It's a gardening blog with maternal overtones, as I discuss the goodness and value of plants, both wild and domestic. In the process I hope to help you pass a love of nature on to your children. Happy Gardening!