Some Weeds That You Need!
If you've ever maintained a garden of your own, then you're very familiar with one of the gardener's worst nightmares: weeds. For centuries, mankind and garden weeds have waged an everlasting war against one another. The gardener spends hours of backbreaking labor in the garden, ridding it of the invasive pest - or so he thinks.
After even one slight rainfall, a new weed warrior rears its ugly head above ground, proclaiming defiantly to all who can hear, "I am the mighty weed, hear my cry! Pull me up if you dare!" By the end of the season, then, after we've sweated away all our hopes and dreams, our gardens have been conquered by the invaders, and we give in. Inevitably, we return the following Spring with hope renewed, resolved once more to win the war against the garden weed.
Okay, so maybe it isn't quite that dramatic - but sometimes it does seem like it. My garden has more than once been overtaken by weeds, and it can seem like you'll never get it back, despite what you try. Well, this week I write to you bearing good - albeit unexpected - news: Not all weeds are bad weeds.
See, typically what we gardeners call weeds are plants that randomly pop up in our gardens. We did not buy them, seed them, or have anything to do with them, they just appeared one morning. But we shouldn't be surprised to hear that Mother Nature has a few tricks up her sleeve. Just because we didn't plant it ourselves doesn't mean that the plant is an evil weed that has to be destroyed. Just like all other plants, garden weeds have attributes, and even virtues of their own.
In other words, some of the weeds we throw out on a daily basis are perfectly useful herbs! Let's take a look at a few weeds that we could be using to our benefit, instead of tossing out of the garden without a second glance.
North Carolina Summer makes me think of unforgiving heat and yellow dandelion flowers as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Dandelion is probably the most commonly recognized and irritating of the garden weeds, and for good reason. After all, from childhood, we are all taught to pick those fluffy, little dandelion bulbs and blow them away with a wish. And, of course, these floating little wisps (which are actually the seeds!) fly to their favorite resting spot: our gardens.
Don't complain yet, though; dandelions aren't as bad as we've made them out to be. Dandelion leaves are packed with nutrients and are an extremely healthy addition to any salad or supper table. Even more exciting, those cute yellow flowers are edible also, and just as good for you!
The root of the plant can be dug up and dried for its medicinal properties. It has been used for hundreds of years to purify the kidneys and detox the liver. It also acts as an effective diuretic to clean toxins from the body. People have even used dandelion as a treatment for eczema and acne. You might end up blowing on dandelions this summer and wishing for more!
Much like dandelion, chickweed somehow finds a way into nearly every garden. At least this weed is easier to pull up - but you might want to know how you can use it before you do that.
This weed grows and grows fast. It has a single root base (thankfully) and once it's set into the ground, it stretches its long, fuzzy arms as far as it can reach. It is decorated with small white flowers, and it is something that I have eradicated from my own garden many, many times. It always seems to find a way back, though.
It turns out that chickweed is actually rich in an alphabet of vitamins: A, B, C and D. People commonly describe chickweed as tasting like spinach when it is cooked, and like corn silk when eaten raw. Not only is it a delicious and nutritious treat, though. It also doubles as a medicinal herb!
Chickweed has properties that treat irritated, itchy, or dry skin. Whether used an infusion, oil, or poultice, chickweed is an unexpected solution to a common problem, and will come in handy if you keep it around.
This is a weed that might not have taken over your garden - but it could very well overtake your house!
Chickweed grows fast, but I can't think of another plant that grows faster than kudzu. If you've ever visited the South or even seen a picture of it, then you've seen this pervasive, sprawling, giant of a plant. It's an invasive species from Japan, and it's referred to as the "vine that ate the South." And it makes sense when you consider the fact that, in the summer heat, kudzu can grow up to a foot per day.
Don't get out your poison sprayer yet, though. Kudzu actually has a number of redeeming qualities. The leaves make a delicious addition to salads, and the ground and dried roots actually serve to thicken soups. More and more culinary and medicinal uses for kudzu are being discovered each year, but perhaps one of the funniest discoveries is that, when deep fried, the leaves can be eaten just like potato chips. See? Everything really is better when it's deep fried!
So, there is my little bit of good news for you this week. If nothing else, at least you can look at your weed-infested garden this year and think to yourself, "Hey - I grew that. And if I feel like it, I can use it."
Be sure to check out my new Etsy store where you can shop online for GTG solutions from now on. We'll be adding new solutions soon. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer and Stay Greene!
This link is where I learned most of the information for this week's post. A very interesting read!