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Why plant vegetables when weeds are more nutritious?

 
dan long
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As I was researching edible forage in the PNW and saw a joke about how people step on plantain on their way to the garden where they will cultivate less nutritious vegetables, I started to wonder: why would anyone ever want to grow lettuce, spinach or other leafy greens if the volunteer plants are so much better?

I get that some garden vegetables or fruits just don't have a "weedy" substitute. After all, where am I going to forage something remotely close to: tomatoes, carrots or staple beans in the PNW? But conventional salad greens sound like they can be pretty easily substituted with "weeds".

In almost all cases, the volunteers are easier to cultivate. In fact, we put in hours of hoeing or tons of mulch in order to prevent them. In many cases, they are more nutritious such as nettles or purslane. The only green I ever foraged and enjoyed was miners lettuce, but that is by far the finest damn lettuce green I have ever tasted! On that subject, I really wonder why Round Up resistant pigweed in corn fields is considered a problem when people pay more for amaranth than they do for corn.

So what am I missing here? What motivates you guys to cultivate salad greens when they volunteer so readily?
 
Charles Tarnard
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Because even though I am starting to come around to the flavor of dandelions and other leafy greens, my family still prefers the more gentrified flavors of romaine lettuce and the like. That is the whole reason.
 
dan long
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Charles Tarnard wrote:Because even though I am starting to come around to the flavor of dandelions and other leafy greens, my family still prefers the more gentrified flavors of romaine lettuce and the like. That is the whole reason.


Just flavor then? That's it? Not belittling your strategy, BTW. My wife is a very picky eater. I doubt I could feed her a salad with more than 5-10% dandelion or plantain in it.
 
Angelika Maier
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Weeds are great but you don't want to eat them every day. And you don't have time to forage every day and they are much more work in the kitchen.
It is far less work sowing some rows of lettuce and spinach than foraging and preparing small fiddly stuff in the kitchen.
And you will have domesticated veggies on a much longer period than many weeds, which are often past their edible stage soon.
And most edible weeds are greens.
 
Judith Browning
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The majority of our greens are 'weeds'. In order have enough for our needs I end up semi-cultivating them though. Lambsquarters, purslane, chickweed, plantain, dandelion, chickory, dock, poke, and more are staples at certain times of the year for us, but I can't depend on them to produce enough without some encouragement....I let certain ones go to seed and spread the seed in places where I want to encourage their growth...The more naturally growing 'weeds' that appear outside of our cultivated areas are pretty puny and I think lacking in the same nutrition that my garden 'weeds' seem to have.
and I agree with both responses so far.........sometimes it is good to have some milder flavors in the mix...wild greens are pretty potent. Finding enough wild forage to live on is a lifestyle, I think....as much fun as it can be, there is a lot of time involved gathering those daily greens from the wild.
 
Charles Tarnard
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dan long wrote:
Charles Tarnard wrote:Because even though I am starting to come around to the flavor of dandelions and other leafy greens, my family still prefers the more gentrified flavors of romaine lettuce and the like. That is the whole reason.


Just flavor then? That's it? Not belittling your strategy, BTW. My wife is a very picky eater. I doubt I could feed her a salad with more than 5-10% dandelion or plantain in it.


There is no other reason. If it's not nutrition and it's not ease of growing, flavor's all that is left.
 
dan long
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I guess I didn't express my idea very clearly. I was implying that one grow these "weeds" in their garden instead of lettuce and spinach and other greens. Seems a little silly to fight them in the garden if you can eat them instead.
 
Charles Tarnard
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I read into that an assumption that I'm not eating some of those weeds, which isn't the case. It's simply that none of the weeds in my yard has quite so mild a flavor as cultivated greens. I walk around munching on dandelion and cress all the time, but for formal meals my family prefers something smoother to the palette.

I weed for two reasons; aesthetics (I'm urban on a small lot) or to remove competition. The weeds that make good eating are rarely heavy competition to the other stuff I want to grow. If I had no neighbors, I would certainly not be fighting those weeds at all. I'm only really fighting them in places where I haven't given them a good cover in which to hide.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I agree with all that Judith said above.

I do love eating weeds, and have been on a jag of eating weeds this spring and summer. But!

1) They are mostly greens, and most of them I am cooking, not eating as salad. But you probably want to eat other stuff than greens in spring and early summer, and berries in late summer and fall.

2)They do tend to be more fiddly than most of the domesticated greens, and it takes more time to collect them and to pull the tender edible leaves off the tough stems, or whatever the case may be.

3) They like to grow in garden soil, ie tilled or turned soil that is rich in nutrients, like other domesticated vegetables. Most of them will not continue producing if you don't keep managing your garden. But many of them will not produce as much volume of stuff as your domesticated veg seeds will.

By all means, eat your weeds, but maybe don't turn to fully growing nothing but weeds quite yet.
 
William Bronson
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I am always put off by foraging instructions that specify very young leaves, without saying what will happen if you eat older leaves.
Poke for example is not welcome in my yard, the trouble it takes to harvest and eat it safely is not worth the risks.
I am pursuing easier greens by eating greens that are usually ignored.
My fodder radishes make greens, roots and seed pods, and hopefully will establish themselves as a weed.
I am still researching the eating of sunchoke leaves.
I do let edible plants spread and grow, I tear out grass un favor of Creeping Charlie.
But the taste/texture is the sticking point.
I was hoping grape leaves would be delicious fresh (I hate them cooked).
No such luck. Maybe in a smoothie?
 
Zach Muller
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I have used primarily 'wild' cultivated greens this season and it has been relatively easy to have enough. Although i get tired of the same tastes and textures. It is nice to go out to the garden and be able to choose between chard, kale, arugula, malabar or the plentiful naturally occurring weed greens. I think my arugula has switched orientation and turned into a weed, haha.

One of my goals is to create such a lush and fertile garden that veggies and everything are sprouting and growing like weeds (with little inputs).
 
William James
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I'm starting to plant weeds in the garden, and I'm letting certain weeds grow.

That said, I don't think I'm doing a very good job of eating them. Lambsquarters are excellent. Great in an omlette. Just like spinach. But I guess I'm lazy. We've been selling lambsquarters to our clients as well. We even have a cultivated variety we grow.

One issue is the oxalate content of Lambsquarters and other greens (wild and not wild) that might discourage voracious consumption.

I dreamed of going out and juicing a lot of wild and cultivated greens and get into that, but again, I'm lazy ( I have way too many other things to do). I have the juicer, but no juicing has been accomplished.

I'm also trying out poke for next year, but I look at it more for it's windbreaking and miniral accumulating potential as opposed to its nutrition potential, even if you can grow boil and can it.

Dandilon doesn't get weeded out. Often I'm "weeding the weed" as I try to enourage it's growth.

Plantain doesn't seem like it would be good to eat. It's pretty tough. Might be good boiled or as a young shoot. It doesn't get taken out and I spread the seeds. I actually bought a different variety seed for that, but it didn't go.

Rumex is another I don't eat but keep in the garden. I look at that as an comfrey-like chop plant. I seed it. Maybe a very young shoot in a salad in the spring, but that's about it.

Don't have pursulane. Tried to seed it and it didn't go.

We eat nettles in risotto and it's good, but summer is not really risotto season, so we haven't been eating much of that.

The fruit and fiddle factor are very important elements I think for a lot of people. Zucchini and tomato I imagine are not as nutritious as other things, but they are super versatile in the kitchen and easy to harvest and manage.

It might be helpful to see if there are any normally cultivated plants that you can "weedifiy", like potatoes or borage that grow well enough without much help but produce something you can forage and use in the kitchen much as you normally would their store-bought counterparts.

We're currently growing lots of sunchokes. There is a market for them and they sell for a high price. Plus we eat them. That certainly has 'weed' properties.

We also grow lots of mint and lemonbalm, but we don't use mint very much and people don't seem to want it.

As for our 'true' weeds...
Our number one enemy is the Cinquefoil, which has medical uses for the root and the leaf, but we don't eat or medicate ourselves with that. Bindweed is a relatively useless plant and I don't think you can eat it.

William
 
Su Ba
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There's very few plants that I would term useless.

I intentionally grow a number of plants people would call weeds. Some are eaten by us, some by our livestock, others are medicinal. Of the weeds that I don't intentionally cultivate, they are harvested for mulch, compost, or fertilizer teas. What I don't use in this fashion go into various garden projects - hugelkultur beds, pallet grow boxes, biotrash trenches that eventually become gardens. So on my own 20 + acres, I can say honestly, there are no useless plants.
 
Christian Wolff
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Thanks to the OP for posting this. I've often wondered the same thing and have hopes that when I finally own my little slice of homestead heaven I'll cultivate many weeds. I've spent a green season eating nothing but milkweed, stinging nettle, plantain, dandelion and basswood (not a weed but a delicious leaf). It was stunning and you never run out. I'm totally sold on the idea of putting my weeds in the pot and being thankful for it.
 
William Bronson
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Bindweed is worse than useless in my yarden.
It climbs everything and composting It I basically just propagating it.I would say that the soil receives a nitrogen boost when I snap the stems, but the roots never seem to die...
 
William James
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Su Ba wrote:There's very few plants that I would term useless.


I also think that no plants are useless. I believe however that the plant's usefulness is 'relative' to other plants that are more or less useful. Bindweed is not as useful to me as sunchoke or lambsquarters, which I find much more useful. For me bindweed gets tossed aside where it may or may not come up again. And i leave tons of bindweed in the yet-to-be-cultivated areas, so I'm getting the benefit of having those flowers and mineral accumulation in those areas. So, in those areas, bindweed is helping me out by just covering the land with something green. Next to trees and tomatoes and salad lettuce, bindweed is less than helpful. It has a lot to do with position.

For people who love plantain - how do you eat it? It's great for insect bites or nettle sting, but i can't imagine putting it into my mouth.

William
 
Zach Muller
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William James wrote:
For people who love plantain - how do you eat it? It's great for insect bites or nettle sting, but i can't imagine putting it into my mouth.

William


I love plantain for its ease of growth and multiple uses, eating it is a small perk compared to its other roles in the garden. I eat it mostly when the leaves are young and have not formed the strong fibers that run through the mature leaves. I will also pull some mature leaves when I am going to boil some very tough greens.

"All of the plantains contain a high level of tannin and the seeds have a high mucilage content. The astringent property of the leaves due to the tannin makes the leaves useful for all types of sores on the skin, cuts, bites and various inflammations. A tea brewed with the seeds is a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery and for bleeding in the mouth or other mucous membranes."


So making a tea with the seeds is another easy use of the mature plant.



Last season plantain was one of the main ground covers as I established my forest garden initially. What I did this season was eat a lot of the young plants and allow a number of them to become huge specimens for further seed gathering. Out in my meadow area I have a narrow leaf variety and in my garden area I have broadleaf. I have not experimented with the narrow much, just let it grow.
 
Angelika Maier
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Nothing against weeds, I use them plant them.
But it is not always true that domesticated vegetables are less nutritious. Tomatoes for example are super nutritious.
Or beans. Calendula (well not a vegetable) has less resin in its wild form than the domesticated.
And with many domesticated plants poisons or antinutrients are bred out of the vegetable. This is why gatherers had often
long winding preparing steps before cooking, because there are poisonous compounds in the wild plant.
Only wild or only domesticated food is just nonsense. I like the fat roots of my carrots but pick dandelions.
And if a herb/weed is important for me I'll grow it and often go to great lengths because it is not always simple to grow weeds!
 
dan long
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William James wrote:
I also think that no plants are useless. I believe however that the plant's usefulness is 'relative' to other plants that are more or less useful.



William


Funny, I had the same thought this morning as I was pulling the quack grass. The stuff seems to pop up out of the ground overnight and I come out in the morning to find 3-6inch shoots. Since the gravel/subsoil I have to work with appears to have zero organic matter in it I have been letting everything except for grass grow. Quack grass might be useful as a biomass producer but relative to anything that flowers or can be eaten, it isn't very useful. What i'm doing in my little patch is pulling up any and all grass shoots by hand while seeding any other kind of weed I come across for biomass.
 
Jacque Ence
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I have read, recently, that mint has some deworming properties, when fed to livestock. I imagine that is when it is routinely part of their feed, but, nevertheless, you may be able to market it to your customers as such.
 
Cj Sloane
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Jacque, do you remember where you read that? I'm curious how they got the livestock to eat the mint. It's one of the few plants my free ranging sheep wont touch.
 
Jacque Ence
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A friend's horse died of colic the week I brought my horse home. So I was on a hunt for colic cures. Mint came up several times as an anti-bloat, anti-parasitic, digestive aid to help prevent colic, or relieve the symptoms if caught early on.
http://www.brookbyherbs.co.nz/webapps/i/90632/232059/horses-with-colic
Then again here on permies.
http://www.permies.com/t/9650/critter-care/Grazing-plants-deworming-livestock
Sorry for the awkward links, I'm not terribly technically savvy. It is the menthol oil in peppermint that makes it antiparasitic, as I understand it. There are so many in the mint family, however, that your mint may be a less desirable plant. Do you know what type you have?
 
Cj Sloane
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Have you tried feeding it to your horses?

There are some plants that the sheep wont eat unless I pick it for them like comfrey. They will reluctantly eat stinging nettle if they are hungry or if I cut it and let it dry a day they will eat it. I'll try hand feeding mint to them and see if they take it.
 
Jacque Ence
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I'm afraid we're new to the farm this year, and are mostly observing. So no, no mint growing on the farm to harvest just yet. I know it's widely used to mask unsavory flavors in animal feed, and make it more palatable. Still, aside from training them to eat it, I don't see how else to go about it. Around here people have been convincing their cattle that sage brush is a good source of protein with rousing success, where they previously wouldn't touch it.
 
William Bronson
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It occures to me that wild and weed can apply to formally domesticated plants, like tomatoes or mints.
I have three huge.
tomatoe plants hung with ripening fruit, that I did not plant. They are volenteers from last year, in a bed I had given over to perennial vines. No one told them that so they popped up, I ddeclined to weed them, soon Iwill have tomatoes. Weed or domesticated?
I have planted mint in specially prepared beds and hoped for the rampant takeover people complain about, will poor results.
Gave up on them only to find a huge patch of them going to seed!
Meanwhile I leave every plaintin I find but they dont seem to spread.
I have a wild mimosa nursery i have been weeding other things out of but I dare not move them until I figure out why they havent survived transplant thus far.
My torpedo radishes have gone to seed, I expect them to be everywhere next year.Same with the buckwheat.
This year is the first time I have had a significant amount of lambsquarter, but my jungle of ground cover is an ornamental left over from the previous residents and I have a Rose of Sharon in almost every bed.

Like a colonial ruler I dont make the populations as much as I manipulate them and even then my influence is limited by my willingness to spend "blood and treasure".
I nurture plants I dont harvest and harvest plants I don't nurture-weed or vegetable, what is the difference?
 
Susan Doyon
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we let the pak choy go to seed and it pops up around the garden . but the radishes did not Not sure why .

I tried cooking green been leaves tonight , a bit furry . I will try cooking some longer and see if that helps , flavor was ok but the texture was off . could be the variety they were soldier beans and have a rather sturdy leaf .
another leaf I cook is the sweet potato leafs ( when I can keep the dear and woodchucks out ! )
 
John Saltveit
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I eat plantain and many other weeds regularly. I chew quick small frequent nibbles perpedicular to the "strings". I think it has a nice distinctive flavor. An important part of this discussion is vegies that self seed, like for me curly mallow, black salsify (scorzonera), chard, some mustards and turnip greens, shotweed (cress). Weeds or vegies? Yes.

The best book I ever read on this topic is Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas. He really gives you the ID pictures to make sure you know what it is. Now I eat false dandelion, sow thistle and spiny sow thistle. That way you're getting much more nutrition and a broader variety of gut bacteria to help you. Bitter dandelion in summer mellows out after 3 days at the top of my sauerkraut.

Many weeds give you exactly the nutrient that your soil lacks, which is why you keep getting bindweed and plantain. These are the dynamic accumulators. With bindweed, chop it and leave it. Now your soil has more bioavailable calcium and organic material , which will turn into humus. Dandelion and Plantain have lots of calcium that they also bring up from the subsoil. Eat them-you get calcium. Chop and toss- your soil gets calcium. Do a search engine for biodynamic accumulators. The Oregon Biodynamic group has a great chart. Comfrey is also way up there in terms of many minerals brought up from the subsoil with deep roots. Nature is trying to heal our soils, but we keep fighting her. She's smarter and tougher than we are.
John S
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Cj Sloane
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John Saltveit wrote: Do a search engine for biodynamic accumulators. The Oregon Biodynamic group has a great chart.


I like this chart because it's a spreadsheet and the headers are frozen which makes it easier to read.

Here's the pdf of the one John mentioned.
 
Jamie Wallace
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Excellent charts Cj...thank you for posting.
 
David Good
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It's funny how my thoughts seem to line up with the thinking of many of you here.

As soon as I have a good idea... I'll visit Permies and see that someone else had a better version of the same idea in a past thread.

I wrote an article on growing weeds instead of greens back in March for one of my clients:

http://theprepperproject.com/forget-growing-greens-forage-wild-greens-instead/

We eat a lot of weeds here, particularly Bidens alba. I have the greens every day with my scrambled eggs. I also eat the wild amaranth that pops up in my food forest... the wild grapes on the fenceline... the smilax shoots in spring... and plenty of half-bitter berries in empty lots around my neighborhood.

I've found that store-bought salad greens just aren't satisfying anymore. It's like eating unsalted rice cakes rather than savory fried rice. No comparison.

Eat those weeds!
 
Erica Wisner
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I tend to treat the more palatable weeds as a polycrop rotation. I never have enough time to weed everything, (and I'm helping with two people's gardens who are not into mulch,) so I start by targeting the nasties: thistles, rhizominous grasses, and non-edible or non-palatable plants like bindweed and nightshades.

I tend to harvest lamb's quarters for the freezer (makes great spanikopita) and as a cooked green. I don't always eat all of it, have taken it on trips in the cooler and it gives off an unappetizing brown juice as it thaws. But if you pull it when you're ready to cook with it it's not an issue.
Sorrel, mints, and other flavorful herbs get garden space whenever they care to show up. cooking sorrel in iron pans makes it turn brown, and while the flavor remains perky the color can put people off.

Chickweed I love in smoothies, but it is not edible for Ernie (causes gut problems, bloody stool). Not sure why - anyone can have a sensitivity to any plant, and he also can't eat pulses like lentils or split peas.

Plantain, yarrow, oregon grape I tend to regard as medicinals, will harvest a certain amount in season to put away against winter needs. Would like to find sheep-sorrel and a few others for various reasons.

The garden vegetables up here in my own plots tend heavily toward parsnips, horseradish, and other hardy things that are willing to grow in our climate without care. Recently learned that horseradish leaves are also edible as a cooked green, or young leaves raw (cooking diminishes that intense horseradish taste for the older leaves). Not as tender as other brassicas, but has some interesting possibilities if shredded and blanched for use with roasts, hamburger, mashed potatoes, etc.

With the in-laws, we do potatoes, beans, carrots, berries, tomatoes, and usually some lettuce. These are things that the people on the property with the most delicate taste buds and stomachs can tolerate, varieties that grow well at our altitude, and they are prolific enough to be worth canning. We often get corn for canning, and watermelon for summer eating, from off site. I enjoy a selection of organic vegetables from a local farm, too, as much based on the farmer's enthusiasm as from any lack in our diets otherwise.

The places we pull weeds with the most care are around the strawberries. Other varieties of strawberries grow wild here, but we don't see or get to harvest the fruit of the wild strawberries around here very often.
(I'm guessing they do fruit; they certainly flower, but something maybe eats the fruits before I notice them ripening? I can't remember ever seeing even a green fruit on our local wild woodland strawberries.)
We also pull invasive thistles around the berries and orchard trees, and everything around the peas and beans.

Pickled or canned beans are lovely, and wild ones aren't. Field peas are not very palatable even for me; for Ernie, they're gut torture.

For winter food, things that are still palatable after canning are pretty important.
Winter provisions include dried nettles (a swap from the west side), dried fruits including berries and tomatoes, sometimes dried squashes and the like, and a freezer full of various greens, nuts, fruits, tomatoes, and meats.
Ernie likes his potatoes and onions, and until we establish adequate root cellar storage those get purchased throughout the year.

So I guess to answer the OP's question::
- I do eat weeds, especially since they thrive better than vegetables under my intermittent care.
- I don't eat them exclusively, and can't feed them to certain family members due to physical sensitivities.
- We love some of the more palatable summer vegetables, and also grow some of the more prolific for canning. Short season here means proven producers are all the in-laws plant any more.
- We like to cook specific styles with specific foods, like garlic and tomato and herbs for Italian, or cilantro and mint and pepper for Thai, or imported ginger and spices and vegetables for Chinese. I guess I don't have recipes that call for plantain, though I've found some good ones for sorrel. I've also noticed that plantain tastes different in different places - ours is bland, but in Ontario it was almost vanilla-cinnamony.
- I continue to look for vegetables either native or imported that thrive in our climate without care, can out-compete less palatable weeds, and make good keeping or over-wintering vegetables either in the pantry or the garden.
- When vegetables are not in season, the dried or preserved ones tend to become a garnish; when in season they are more of a staple, with salads and smoothies throughout the summer.
- I don't know of wild plants that can take the place of a cucumber or melon in a salad, though we do eat a fair amount of wild berries, sand cherries, etc.

-Erica W
 
Heather Holm
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I've been making green smoothies almost daily using mostly "weeds". My picky, non-gardening, critter-phobic DH has come to depend on them. I use what's in season that I know to be edible and/or tonically medicinal, starting with dandelion leaves, plantain, borage, dock leaves, violets and violet leaves, mint, lambsquarters, etc., and will toss in intentionally-planted salad greens too, but not kale as I'm hypothyroid. I chop them up against the grain to make it easier on my old blender. First I blend with kefir (milk and/or water) to pulverize the greens. In summer, I make extra and pour some into a container to freeze for winter. Then I add 3 bananas, 3 eggs, and berries (frozen blueberries, or fresh black currants in season). Breakfast for 3.

And I know that if he eats a big lunch in the cafeteria and isn't hungry for supper, at least he started the day with the best that I can offer.

I've tried chewing up plantain to use as a poultice. It was weird at first, but our ancestors did it, so what the heck. My son swears that my repeated applications cured his infected ingrown toenail.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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William James wrote:
Su Ba wrote:There's very few plants that I would term useless.


I also think that no plants are useless. I believe however that the plant's usefulness is 'relative' to other plants that are more or less useful. Bindweed is not as useful to me as sunchoke or lambsquarters, which I find much more useful. For me bindweed gets tossed aside where it may or may not come up again. And i leave tons of bindweed in the yet-to-be-cultivated areas, so I'm getting the benefit of having those flowers and mineral accumulation in those areas. So, in those areas, bindweed is helping me out by just covering the land with something green. Next to trees and tomatoes and salad lettuce, bindweed is less than helpful. It has a lot to do with position.

For people who love plantain - how do you eat it? It's great for insect bites or nettle sting, but i can't imagine putting it into my mouth.

William


I used to HATE HATE HATE plantain but now I kinda like it. I guess it's cause it tastes like mushrooms, and I used to HATE HTATE HATE mushrooms but now I kinda like them. I dunno.

I love this thread, andI think the real question is what nutritinoal and other value do you get out of a) weeds vs. b) cultivated plants? if one grows bigger, longer, uncut and faster and also has more nurtitional desnsity (pigweed? can you freally eat that? I can't wait to google that! I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE pigweeddddddd!) then omg we've really been duped. Flavor is a factor, but honestly I think I could be fine with eating stuff that tastes "not exciting" for most my meals and then having good food for feast occasions. I say that not because I have the discipline to live that way but I think if I were forced to i'd actually feel better.

More nutriitional density also has these benefits:
you need prepare 1/3 or so as much as the cultivated in the kitchen
you need to harvest only 1/3 as much
you need to DIGEST only 1/3 as much
You get a whole salad without having to chew 3x as much

seems like worth keeping it in the mix as an option

also, some resources that jump to mind:

--Susan Weed : "don't eat the weeds, let them grow" (hm--Susan Weed--conflict of interest? very suspiciious) Haven't read her but she seems like a source of info

--Joahanna Paungger and Thomas Poppe--they say somewhere the weeds that you find growing naturally in your yard are the ones you need for your unique health conditions' support. In other words, if your soil and climate and sun/moisture bring you lots of dandelions then you shoudl be eating more dandelions, if it's burdock then burdock, etc. nature is automatically seeking a balance in ways that go far beyond conventional human understanding. This was where I first read that a weed has like 3x teh vitamin content of the salad green or whatever.

Variety is the spice of life, no?

Love this discussion!

 
Erica Wisner
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There's also an interesting assumption buried in the question concerning modern notions of nutrition.
Industrialized countries currently enjoy an excess abundance of refined staples - sugar, flour, starchy vegetables, fats. These "keeping" foods used to be critical nutrition when people had a calorie-limited diet, and our bodies are attuned to crave them based on millenia of starvation being a bigger threat than over-eating.
But now the more common forms of malnutrition are high-calorie, low-micronutrient.
So foods are being called "more nutritious" if they pack more of what people lack. Used to be (e.g. in the '30s) that everyone ate greens or skinny farm cockerels, and what was considered 'nutritious' was fats, proteins, carbs - what let your kid actually bulk up for winter, rather than being a rack of bones. An egg was added to lots of bread recipes, if all you're eating is PBJ, that little extra boost of lean protein is a big help.
Now that we have plenty of refined "junk food" calories, the big nutrition things are foods with more vitamins, minerals, enzymes. Micronutrients.

There's a parallel contrast between "nutritious" raw or fermented foods, and "safe" boiled or cooked foods.
Enzyme-rich foods are easier for many people to digest. But a bad batch of fermented foods, or raw food washed in dubious water, can be hell on the gut. If your nutrition goal is to lose weight, I guess a case of the runs is helping you in that direction. But for most people a round of food poisoning is definitely not a dietary goal.
Traditional food preparation - cooking, blanching, etc - reduces the risk of getting food poisoning, but also tends to diminish the enzyme content. Whether it diminishes, or increases, available mineral and vitamin nutrition depends on the food. Many vegetables (brassicas, many of the cooked-greens) are somewhat anti-nutritive if eaten raw, but a quick blanching takes out some of the oxalic acid and releases available minerals and so on. Pairing with acids, dairy, or specific oils can also increase nutrition uptake from various sources.

So in a modern context, if you have access to copious amounts of clean water, and plenty of fertilizer that's well-aged and relatively sterile of pathogens, then you can eat raw salads or sprouts and get a lot of enzyme-powered nutrition.
Sprouts are starting to show up as a salmonella and bacteria risk, however; our co-op just pulled them from its deli selection.
Given our medical and legal system, food poisoning just isn't that big a scare for most people (or at least, people don't seem to act like it is). You can get immediate, effective treatment for most cases, and the commodity suppliers are pretty careful about what they allow into the food chain if there are even questionable reports somewhere, things get pulled everywhere. So we are protected from the negative consequences of the raw-food diet for the most part.

In times and places where food choices were limited, and the options for treating illness (or even quarantining the victims) severely limited, getting as much high-calorie food as you could find, and boiling it to death, had survival benefits.
Knowing what foods can be eaten raw, and when and how to harvest and prepare them, has survival benefit too - but more so in the increasingly-rare situation of rural or wilderness survival. there's just a lot more of us in cities now, eating what's familiar, and it's familiar because it can be mass-produced and shipped to cities successfully. If you don't own land, you are limited to public rights-of-way, which are some of the most contaminated places you'd never care to eat.

That's the bigger-picture reason, I think, why more people don't recognize edible weeds, and may not trust them when they find them.

I've also heard of people who ate 'famine foods' in real need being turned off of them from then onward - for example seaweed and mussels and barnacles in the Irish potato famine, they are considered survival food but bring back bad memories and weren't considered choice if other foods were available. Ernie has an aversion to squash based on being fed raw squash for three meals a day at one point when his mother was short on funds. This is a pretty normal human response - and it too has survival value, because it keeps the population from harvesting those famine foods to death in ordinary times, so they're available again if you do have another famine. We don't have a lot of familiarity with the diseases of true deprivation - scurvy, ricketts, bloody flux - because we do have access to so much food, and to 'fortified' foods that stave off disease even if they can't compete with a diverse, fresh diet for overall nutrition.

We have instead the odd dietary problems of people on voluntarily limited diets - the corn-syrup diabetic, fast-food heart attack, vegan B-vitamin deficiencies, etc. And cancers, which have been correlated with a lot of different toxins. None of these are new, but they're taking center stage because the terrifying demons of the sweatshops and dustbowl are mostly laid to rest.

-Erica

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Also in Paunger/poppe book, I think it was Moon Time, they talked about the vaule in eating BITTERS--that you get health benefits from eating things that taste bitter, and if you only go for the sweet and non-bitter flavors in life you don't get a good balance. Well, I resonate wtih that, it just feels true to my body that I need to eat some things that taste bitter. It's kind of bracing, enlivening, wakes me up. So I think some plantain or dandelion is a nice thing to add in. And lettuce will just never have that kind of bitterness, or kale or chard or even mustard greens. There's a nice thick bitterness to the flavor.

Also, regarding digestion of wild platns, might it be a matter of acclimating to them, like in Paul's last reloaded podcast (the interview by Erica I'm blanking on her last name, homestading blogger)? I think it was Erica who was saying with Jerusalem artichokes if you eat a ltitle at a time your gut microbes acclimate to it. the worst thing to do is to eat a lot and then none for a while and then eat a lot--you'll get gas and maybe pain, btu if you do a little at a time , or if you ferment them, you'll be able to eat sunchokes just fine. so MAYBE (pure speculation) the same would apply to other wild plants? itw as the matter of the sunchoke being mostly inulin, which is a different form of sugar from what the body usually handles, so that the fungi can't digest it in your gut but the bacteria can, so the bacteria kill off a bit of the fungi (good if you are trying to get rid of candida, by the way, she said) but then there's some gas released that can be a pain. So, are any of those things that appear to be sensitivities perhaps other examples of high-inulin?? I'm too lazy to google that one at the moment cause I don't haev those plants around here.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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PIGWEED IS EDIBLE!!!


OMG gardening just got easier

I mean, really, you can eat pigweed?? it'd be harder NOT to grow food than to grow it. If you just sit there and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you are GROWING DINNER. these things are monstorous! They are HUGE!


from a site (may other comments also say it's edible):


What you guys called pigweed(amarathus), we Asian eat it all the time. Just use the tender leaves and tips and stir fry plain or with meats. Be warn tho, the liquid release from it will be reddish. There is one commonly cultivated variety commonly called Chinese spinach with big broad leaves that are excellent for stir frying or salad. We even eat plants in the night shade family that are known to be toxic such as the garden huckleberry of the wild and the cultivated species.

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/edible/msg0803342220861.html

and moer info on amaranths generally:

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/nexus/Amaranthus_spp_nex.html


I LOVE pigweed! it just fills me with such joy to see a big one grow. My first garden gets more and more successful retroactively the more time I spend on this forum!

wait a minute, now which one is pigweed; I always thought it was THIS:


but google thinks that's pokweed. But Wildman Steve Brill, who I think must know what ehs' talking about , told us specifically that pokeweed is the little guy that goes straight up and is all green with thinnish leaves. (can't get the link to work)

Which is it?

then there's pictures for "pigweed" that look a lot more like amaranth, and that's not what I've seen gorwing.

Is the big jumbo guy I did manage to post a picture of an amatanth or not??
 
Justin Koenig
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That photo is pokeweed and if I'm not mistaken its poisonous if not cooked properly, referring to young shoot and leaves. Berries are poisonous. I was told by many old timers who ate it to survive that they had to boil the leaves 3x changing water each time to remove toxins. One man told me if you scrape off the red outer skin on the young shoots and fry them they taste kinda of like fried okra. I don't know all the details. Just be safe and double or triple check before consuming questionable plants.
 
Zach Muller
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Joshua, that picture is of poke weed Scientific name: Phytolacca americana. It has it's uses, but is poisonous to humans. There are some medicinal preparations and some people eat the very young greens before the stem starts to turn red. I love the way these plants look and keep them around for the birds.


Pigweed Is a common name which refers to a few different plants depending on location. Around my specific neck of the woods most people use pigweed to refer to chenopodium album aka lambs quarters or white goosefoot. Others use it to refer to amaranth family or members of the portaluca species aka purslane family.

I love your enthusiasm! When I first started gardening I would struggle to grow anything and then these weeds would grow up over night, seemingly mocking my efforts, but then I learned to eat them!
 
William James
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Pokeweed used to be a canned vegetable on the plates of many people in the southern united states. Farms grew this in mass. Fell out of fashion after the 50's.
The Song "Polk Salad Annie" by Tony Joe White and popularized by Elvis is about Polkweed.

The trick is harvesting before they have the red in the stems. And you change the water. Slight fiddle-factor there.

Green Deane of EatTheWeeds explains it all (ps, you might want to check out his other edible weeds):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwT2ssiUJXU

I currently am growing lots of pokeweed. I don't plan to eat it just yet. It's just a mineral accumulator and a non-woody perennial that occupies space and keeps the grass away, and so it's useful to me for that.

I thought the seed wouldn't germinate without passing through the stomach of a bird, but I was wrong. I piled a bunch of seeds into a big pot, threw some potting soil on it, and now I have lots of polkweed to plant out.

William
 
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