This week’s blog is from Deb Hart-Serafini, creator of PermaPaleo .
I know, I know, the HOA wants you to mow your lawn and you just have to get to it. Welcome to modern life where we cut down, poison and pull some of the good nutritious food that our great-grandparents considered a bounty.
Look, I’m not judging–I’m learning a lot too. I’m really re-learning what our ancestors already knew. In these hard economic times, more than ever, we need nutrition that is free, easy to harvest, and micro-nutrient dense.
Luckily, evolution has provided us with some tasty hardy “weeds” that we can rescue from our lawn with minimal effort.
There are a lot of useful weeds to be found throughout the seasons but I have picked these particular ones because recently I found them all at one time in my developing urban permaculture garden. We live in a food desert in SE Raleigh, NC and it is important for us to identify affordable healthy food sources for our hardworking neighbors.
Let’s start with dandelions, a lawn-lover’s nightmare, but an herbalist’s dream.
You can eat every part of the dandelion–roots, leaves and flowers. Just be sure that you or a close neighbor are not spraying! When I am not feeling too ambitious, I just pick all the yellow blooms, put them in a small teapot and cover with hot water and let steep. It’s quick and easy, add a little lemon or honey to taste and enjoy all that free vitamin C! If you have neighbors who are less appreciative of this healthy plant, at least it is less noticeable if you are picking the flowers!
…And what, you may ask, is this cute little purple-flowering mint-like garden guest?
Purple Dead Nettle
This totally invades my garden so I really had to justify it’s usefulness with a lot of research before weeding out all what I now discover is a ton of free goodness.
Traditionally, this herb was used for wounds, so if you cut yourself in the garden, just put some on the cut or scratch to speed healing.
This kind of nettle is not to be confused with it’s painful cousin, “stinging nettle” so you can saute or put it in your green smoothies for lots of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
Chickweed is a perennial green that is also high in Vitamin C and common in urban settings.
It is commonly fed to chickens as a yummy addition to their diets (chickens are no dummies when it comes to nutrition). But you can enjoy it too! I like it chopped fine in a salad with a vinaigrette dressing and some crumbled feta cheese.
Try out the yummy recipe on Wild Abundance. It’s easy!
Plantain is like your very own first aid kit!
I have used it for toothaches, on bug bites and any sort of scratch out in the garden.
If you are a little more ambitious, you can make it into a good salve by melting it’s juices in beeswax. You can then store the salve over the winter when it is scarce.
To use on a bug bite, just pick a leaf or two, chew it up a bit, and then place it on the bite. It will speed healing and has an analgesic effect.
Wild onion (sometimes called “wild garlic”) is a tasty and nutritious addition to your cooking.
Even my 10-year old granddaughter plucks it out of the lawn and eats it raw and she is the fussiest eater I know!
This tastes like chives and you can use it as a direct substitute for chives or spring onions.
I have lots of these and consider them a free herb garden that required no work on my part!
Luckily, there are really no poisonous lookalikes of these “weeds,” but be sure you can identify them before eating.
Chances are your lawn care expert knows what they are–but has probably been working hard to keep them out of your lawn.
Please consider how they might be a blessing rather than a curse.
For more details, check out the references below. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message at PermaPaleo .
Peace is green, Deb
PermaPaleo backyard weed video (as of 2/20/17 a pinned post)
Purple Dead Nettle
13 Essential Plants for Humans
13 Edible Medicinal Plants to Use Instead of Kill
Plantain Herb Profile
Dandelion Flower Tea Recipe
Learn more about Deb’s quest to bring Clean Water to Liberia here
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