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Edible Weed Garden "Free Food, Little Work"  RSS feed

 
Benton Lewis
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I love to forage and garden. I am relatively new at both having a little over one year experience in foraging and planted my first garden earlier this year. Currently, I am foraging "weeds" such as henbit, chickweed, hairy bittercress, wood sorrel, etc. These things thrive and reseed themselves with no effort on my part.

I don't read a lot about foraging from the permaculture group. Seems it would be ideal to garden those "weeds" already thriving in my area. I've noticed various edibles that grow in my area but not where I forage.

If I could get weed seeds of all the edible wild weeds that would grow in my area I think I would be able to harvest masses of food easily. They reseed themselves so no further purchase may be necessary, grow like a weed and are very nutritious.

Wouldn't growing masses of edible weeds be a major breakthrough in mainstream permaculture?
If you know where I can get these seeds, let me know.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I just assume people grow and eat "weeds" in their permaculture gardens! The main ones I eat are Canada Onion, Curly Dock, and Henbit. We have lots of Thistle but it's kind of a pain to prepare. I've tried to introduce Dandelion and Nettle but so far no luck.

JL Hudson has seeds of many plants considered weeds: http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/

 
Benton Lewis
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For example, I've read spurge nettle produces more starch per acre than potatoes. It grows wild and reseeds itself in the woods nearby and I enjoy foraging them; however, they are difficult to dig up and of course hurt if you get the spines in you haha. I have deep rich humus in my garden. I easily pull carrots up. I've eaten two since I got home from work today, leaves and all! I bet I could easily pull spurge nettle up too. Do dandelion and nettle grow wild near you? Chickweed grows under my kale. Bet if I had some seeds I could grow it like crazy!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've never found Dandelion and Nettle nearby. I just covet them because they are supposed to be so nutritious!

 
Matu Collins
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Foraging in my own garden is definitely part of what I do. I leave all the plants that aren't bothering me, with special preference given to delicious plants. Lamb's quarters, common mallow, dandelion, wild radish, winter cress, chicory, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, peppergrass, so many! I also let many garden plants go to seed and I gather them, scatter them or let.them fall where they may. I have kale, mesclun greens, dill and parsnips that are running wild now and I hope the daikon radish I grew this year does the same.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I just assume people grow and eat "weeds" in their permaculture gardens


I thought so too! Lamb's quarters, wood sorrel, dandelions, common violets, yellow dock, sow thistle, burdock, salsify and a new volunteer thistle I let go to seed will provide more food.
Also look here for seeds. http://www.sandmountainherbs.com/Catalog.html
 
Benton Lewis
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Hi Matu! Does your kale, or any other traditional garden crop, reseed itself and run wild without your intervention?

I'd like to know if anyone is focusing on wild edible weeds in their permaculture systems. Those could probably fit the definition of permaculture even if they are annual plants because they reseed themselves without intervention. These weeds seem largely ignored. Just as I can't find seeds for many edible weeds already in america such as Cnidoscolus stimulosus and I know its a perennial with tasty roots, I bet there are lots of amazing "weeds" all over the world that can be grown in my area but are over looked the world over.

Seems these weeds would be naturally in line with many permaculture principles. They have lived generations in your area and have adapted to your climate and don't need to be watered.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I bet there are lots of amazing "weeds" all over the world that can be grown in my area but are over looked the world over.


I think the truth is closer than you might think. Pretty much all of our common domestic veggies (lettuce, kale, carrots...) were weeds that lived in the disturbed areas that humans inhabited. Many of the plants that we call weeds were candidates for domestication but did not prove themselves easy to domesticate, or were domesticated and bred but did not go the full route like some others, like the mustard that became cauliflower. Dandelion is one that never really got fully domesticated, but was still (and is still) widely consumed by traditional cultures and modern permies. Many families and regions had developed their own strains, but there were always many wild cousins interbreeding. The reason that there is so much variety in how a dandelion's leaves are, and the taste and size of both the leaves and roots, is because these all came from different human family cultivars. Chicory is another. There are some varieties that are becoming more domesticated, and of course the Endives and a few others are derived from the wild chicory.

This is a really good thread. I really would like to see a comprehensive list of not just edible weeds that I might be able to grow Zone 3/Zone 4 , but also self seeding annual veggies, for my zone.

Dandelion and Lambs Quarters are the primary ones that I consume from my garden at this point, but I would love to have some of my garden area dedicated to specifically self seeding annuals and weedy plants. Some people near me have dill self seeded, but I haven't got that yet (I did leave massive seeding plants of dill, fennel, daikon, and Kale in my garden this year to see what happens. I will definitely try the ones that Matu has been successful with.
 
Matu Collins
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Benton Lewis wrote:Hi Matu! Does your kale, or any other traditional garden crop, reseed itself and run wild without your intervention?

I'd like to know if anyone is focusing on wild edible weeds in their permaculture systRaphanus Raphanus raphanistrumaphanistrumms. Those could probably fit the definition of permaculture even if they are annual plants because they reseed themselves without intervention. These weeds seem largely ignored. Just as I can't find seeds for many edible weeds already in america such as Cnidoscolus stimulosus and I know its a perennial with tasty roots, I bet there are lots of amazing "weeds" all over the world that can be grown in my area but are over looked the world over.

Seems these weeds would be naturally in line with many permaculture principles. They have lived generations in your area and have adapted to your climate and don't need to be watered.


Years ago we had a CSA and got our kale and chicory seeds from wild garden seed. I have had some hearty red Russian kale types stay alive for the years, growing thick stems like trunks. All the plants I've mentioned are self seeding without any intervention from me, although I do save seed and disperse it. I also have a spicy mustard green that I don't remember buying but has been coming up for years, self seeding. In fact, once I spilled some seed near the front steps and I've had it coming up there and self seeding ever since. It's so spicy, it tastes like the wasabi paste!

One tactic that works in my garden is to clear a small bed in spring if all vegetation, and wait. I watch what comes up carefully and there's always some good edibles in it. I'm really find of the flowers of the wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) so I end up letting it go to seed a lot and we always have plenty. I used to like the amarynth that folks call pigweed aside here, but I ate a lot of it and got tired of it. I tend to weed it out so the population has gone down. The past two springs I have been clearing this bed in the spring and planting my peas along the fence at the back and letting the yummy weeds act as ground cover and food. I just take out the annoying plants, like I said (bindweed!

Plant identification is a skill I have cultivated. I can identify nearly every plant that grows on my 4 acre farm in nearly every life stage. The grasses and sedges are tricky but I mostly have the hang of them too. Every year, it seems, a new plant arrives in my garden and I have to identify it and decide about it. I was so thrilled to meet common mallow! Les thrilled to meet tickweed.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Plant identification is a skill I have cultivated. I can identify nearly every plant that grows on my 4 acre farm in nearly every life stage. The grasses and sedges are tricky but I mostly have the hang of them too. Every year, it seems, a new plant arrives in my garden and I have to identify it and decide about it. I was so thrilled to meet common mallow! Les thrilled to meet tickweed


I have italicized part of your quote Matu. I hope to get to this point. Right now I have a few that I do not know, and my meadow is full of grasses and forbes that I do not know by name. Fescues, grasses, and flowering plants. I do know many, but I do not know 'nearly every' like you. I would love this to be the case for me, but I am relatively newly arrived here, transplanted from the North Coast. As it is, even the masterful gardeners in the local hippy community look at me weird when I ask them what a certain weed is. I often know more than they do in regards to weeds, and they have been living here since the late 60s and early 70s. I wish I had a few more people around who were as passionate at IDing and figuring out the weeds and wild plants as I am.

I guess I will have to get my tech skills up and post some pics and get some help on here.
 
Matu Collins
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"I guess I will have to get my tech skills up and post some pics and get some help on here. "

Please do! I am lucky enough to be in a community where I've found friends among the farmers and plant scientists at the local university who know a lot about plants. I invite all the smart people to my place and ask them questions. I consider the "friend" sector to be an important part of my permaculture systems!

And also, time spent out there observing is so valuable. Looking at the leaf shape, above and below ground growing habits, smelling the crushed leaf, smelling the root, noticing the life stages (a seedling can go though many changes to get to dried seed bearing stalk) You can know a plant very well before you know it's name for sure. A good plant ID book will get you familiar with the poisonous plants so you know what to be most cautious of. Time spent out there observing is well spent.
 
Benton Lewis
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Tyler I was reading a thread you started about permaculture staples. Here is an excellent article mentioning many potential wild staples http://www.eattheweeds.com/finding-caloric-staples/

Roberto, I'd like to know about which traditional crops would reseed themselves in my area too. Not sure a good way to find that out except experimenting myself.

Here are some foraging tips if anyone is interested in learning to forage, far from comprehensive!:
1. Focus on scientific names since there are many common names for the same plants
2. Learn the deadly plants in your area first, such as maybe water hemlock.
3. Don't use the universal edibility test. It can kill you if you try it on plants such as water hemlock.
4. Always try a little first, even if you are certain the plant is edible because you don't know how your specific body will react to it (allergies)

I plan to get as many wild edibles as I can on my property. Of primary priority is those than can be regarded as staples. I saw a hill in a city absolutely matted with chickweed today that no one planted!!! Would not eat because someone probably sprayed and cities are contaminated.

When I try to find out what plants, wild or domesticated, will grow in my area, I google something like "lambs quarter hardiness zone" for example. What is the best method for finding out what plants grow in your area?





 
Tyler Ludens
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USDA Plant Database: http://plants.usda.gov/checklist.html
 
Benton Lewis
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Thanks Tyler! I just bookmarked that. I've been just googling it and that site is much easier, even a nice picture and other relevant info. Maybe BONAP.org does that too? Been in back of mind to check that but have not yet.
 
mick dipiano
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You could just Transport and let nature do the work
 
mick dipiano
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I don't really forage for weeds. Just fruit and wild grape leaves.
 
Benton Lewis
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Yep looks like Bonap.org is an exceptional site for identifying which plants are in your area and even has a part that tells of its edibility. Looking forward to delving into this resource.

It might be difficult to get seeds of all the weeds I want. I live in the county but actually the city is far more dense with edible weeds that follow man around. I'll keep learning and adding them one by one to my beginning food forest!
 
Benton Lewis
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Oh and it can be difficult to learn about plants and use resources like BONAP and usda hardiness zone if you don't know about scientific names. Kind of confusing at first as I have zero botany background prior to my own learning pursuits. The first name in a scientific name is the general name of related plants like a persons last name. the second name in a scientific name is like your first name, except if you are a plant nobody has the same first name as you. Hope that helps someone. The analogy helped me.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Thanks for these resources.

I do have a considerable knowledge of plants, however I am new to this interior region. The climate, though still technically a rainforest is considerably drier than where I grew up, considerably colder on average at any given day of the year, and in more of a transition towards and intertwined with boreal forest. I do know pretty much all of the poisonous wild plants and mushrooms from this area, but it's the random weeds that are the hardest to figure out. They come in with the hay seed, and animal feed, and the roadside trucks, and the trains. I live in a farming area, and there is a lot of livestock\feed\pasture and such nearby. The highways and railways probably bring in nearly as much as the farms though. I am definitely going to ask people at our Seedy Saturday event in the end of winter for recommendations of self seeding annuals (not just ones that produce seed, but that seed readily comes up from plants left to go to seed on their own), as well as weeds they eat.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Check this study out. might be useful: Einkorn and Emmer wheat and weeds, Neolithic style!

Here's a quote near the start:

"As some plants have been observed to behave differently in different climates, it has long ago been advised to use local ecological studies(Wasylikowa 1984). Relevant ecological information on arable weeds in the Carpathian basin (a region on the fringes of continental, Mediterranean and oceanic zones) is almost nonexistent. Thus, the primary aim of our ethnobotanic fieldwork in Romania was to document responses of weeds to sowing times and weeding of einkorn (Triticum monococcum) cultivated under surviving traditional farming practices in the foothills of the Carpathians in Transylvania."
 
Miles Flansburg
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I like this Youtube channel. Eat the Weeds.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLRDaR2ywG1APiwUzeTwrJw[/youtube]
 
Miles Flansburg
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And Skeeter has some good vidoes on the subject.

 
John Saltveit
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My garden, weed, and identifying, feral vegetable experiences are very similar to Matu's. Similar but not quite as cold climate.
JohN S
PDX OR
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Eat the weeds! My favorite! Just in case you haven't discovered Green Dean's FORUM on edible weeds.
http://eattheweeds.com/forum/index.php
Take a look at babyboomermike's posts. (not me) He has good descriptions on details that are difficult to tell from his detailed pictures.
 
Matu Collins
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Eat the weeds! My favorite! Just in case you haven't discovered Green Dean's FORUM on edible weeds.
http://eattheweeds.com/forum/index.php
Take a look at babyboomermike's posts. (not me) He has good descriptions on details that are difficult to tell from his detailed pictures.


The registration process for this forum was hard for me! They are discerning and expected me to be, too! One of the questions was "What color is the sky?" And I answered gray, which is true... I am a concrete thinker.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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he he he...
 
Benton Lewis
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Yep the eat the weeds forum is very helpful. Deane is an expert on wild foods so its great to have him as a resource and he actively participates in the forum and identifies weeds based on pictures people post. Other members are excellent as well and will help identify plants too. I highly recommend membership. You can go to the archive section on his website and see that he has written thousands of articles on various "weeds". I think it says there are over 1,100 plants on his site. He also does foraging classes.

Always check with a local expert before you eat any wild plant. I just discovered another thing the BONAP.org map can do. Under the Taxonomic Data Center Query (TDC-Q) page, you can put in your zip code or state and do a search customized for a certain quality in the plants in your area (see bio. attributes section). I searched for edible plants that grow in my zip code and it gave me a very comprehensive list, complete with photos of the plants, whether they are native or not, native american uses, what parts are edible, etc. Takes a little fiddling, if anyone needs better details I can give better instructions on how to get the list of edibles in your area if asked. By the way, I would not rely on this reference and then go out eating. Always check with a local expert before you eat any wild plant.
This source is subject to errors as well.

I wander if the usda hardiness zone website lets you do a customized search for confirmed edibles in your area. I'll fiddle around to see that later.

Anyway, I'm glad to know about this reference for tyler http://plants.usda.gov/checklist.html and the BONAP because its important to have good sources on what grows (edible weeds included) in your area. That way I know what plants are available for planting in my yard. If anyone knows of any other sources for knowing where plants grow, let me know.

I just wish is was as easy as finding the edible weed I want and then typing its name in google and easily buying the seeds. Maybe native nurseries and public seed banks are a good place to search. I'll try to transplant from the local area but I know it will be difficult to let the weed go to seed without eating it first!
 
ev kuhn
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Benton Lewis wrote:Always check with a local expert before you eat any wild plant.


where will I find such an expert?
 
Benton Lewis
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Olga Booker
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I, too, like to forage in my garden. The most common weeds I find are of course nettles and dandelions, but I also have chickweed, hairy bittercress, perennial wall rocket, common mallow, fat hen, wood sorrel, ground elder, common sorrel and wild strawberries. If I walk just ten minutes around my property I can find, wild garlic, dog rose, blackberries, elder, sweet chestnuts, walnuts and hawthorn. I am sure there are more, but I am not all that knowledgeable.

Self seeding in the garden is purslane, strawberry spinash, amaranth, rocket, buckshorn plantain, lamb's lettuce, swiss chard, achocha, jamaican callaloo, poppies, various lettuces, calendula, tomatilloes, cilantro, nasturtiums, even tomatoes and probably more that I forget. I do plant a few annuals like carrots, potatoes, corn etc but mostly I just let nature do its own thing and give a helping hand sometimes if needed. Even cucumbers have been known to surprise me and appear all by themselves in the spring. I love it. I know it is not everybody's cup of tea but it works for me and there is always something to discover in some corner of the garden.
 
Benton Lewis
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Glad I started this thread. Self-seeding traditional garden plants is a great topic I want to learn more about.

I checked this article out:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-techniques/self-seeding-zmaz10aszraw.aspx

It states that:

"34 Easy Self-Seeders

Herbs: basil, chamomile, cilantro, cutting celery, dill, parsley

Vegetables: amaranth, arugula, beets, broccoli raab, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, orach, mustards, New Zealand spinach, parsnips, pumpkin, radish, rutabaga, tomatillo, tomato, turnips, winter squash

Flowers: bachelor button, calendula, celosia, cosmos, nasturtiums, poppies, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, viola"

"Self-seeding flowers, herbs and vegetables that show up in early spring include arugula, calendula, chamomile, cilantro, dill, breadseed poppies and brilliant red orach (mountain spinach). Nasturtiums, amaranth, New Zealand spinach, and even basil or zinnias appear later, after the soil has warmed."

"The first group of plants to try as self-sown crops — both because they’re the easiest and they’ll be ready the same year — are those that tend to bolt in late spring. If allowed to bloom and set seed, dill, radishes, arugula, cilantro, broccoli raab, turnips and any kind of mustard will produce ripe seeds in time for fall reseeding in most climates. Lettuce will take a little longer, but often gives good results in Zone 5 or warmer."

"Many annual crops will reseed themselves if you leave them in the garden long enough for the seeds to mature and the fruit to decompose. Annual veggies that frequently reseed and provide volunteer seedlings include winter squash and pumpkins, tomatoes and tomatillos, watermelon, and New Zealand spinach."

"Several useful herbs and greens reseed with such abandon they must be handled as potentially invasive plants. Plants behave differently depending on the climate, but in general, expect the following crops to become obnoxious if not given appropriate discipline: borage, chives, garlic chives, edible docks and sorrels, herb fennel, lemon balm, horseradish and valerian"

"If you can get them through winter in good shape (a challenge north of Zone 7), openpollinated varieties of beets, carrots, collards, kale (especially Russian strains), broccoli, parsnips and parsley can be added to your list of self-sown crops. These crops produce their seeds in the second year. Cold frames or low tunnels work surprisingly well at enhancing the winter survival of these plants, or you can try replanting stored beets, carrots or parsnips in late winter, as soon as the soil thaws."


The article also mentions methods to encourage self seeding, and warns against possible garden takeover.

The point of the thread was mainly to learn people's success with weeds because of little effort and free food. This can also apply to traditional garden crops that you can buy once and then they act like weeds.



 
Tyler Ludens
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possible garden takeover.



I wish!
 
Cris Bessette
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I've given over a whole bed to volunteer lamb's quarters.  Looks like I'm going to have a lot of that this year.
Every fall I make sure to leave the dead plants standing so that they can re-seed themselves naturally in the Late winter and early spring.

Something I haven't seen mentioned is violets.  They spread like crazy around my property.
I use the flowers and leaves in salads, on sandwiches, in soups,etc.



 
Anna Tennis
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Along the lines of garden takeover, I'm not sure how to manage the calendula that has thickly taken over almost half of the small garden plot that's available to me these days. Any ideas?
 
John Saltveit
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Make medicine.
John S
PDX OR
 
Angelika Maier
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I don't really eat the native Australian weeds. They are hard, and not very enticing. But there are plenty of exotic weeds and some I even planted like nettles.
However, I would not create a garden around weeds, first you mainly produce green leaves and few starchy roots. Second, while some weeds produce a huge quantity,
overall your vegetables will outcompete the weeds. And most important: weeds are all tedious in the kitchen.The work saved in the garden is nothing what you do in the kitchen later!
So weeds are good and very healthy but I want my tomatoes, fat carrots, green lettuces etc.
 
John Saltveit
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In my case, I find very little work in the kitchen with weeds. If I grow mustard greens as a veg from seed, I cut them up and put them in rice or beans.
If I gather plantain, shotweed, dandelion, or wild turnip greens, I also cut them up and put them in rice, beans, or casserole. I just get a lot more food.

With leeks, which have gone wild more than a decade ago, I just grab the clean top green part, cut them up and put them in rice, beans or casserole. Easier than onions.


For my skirret or sunchokes/Jerusalem artichoke, which have gone wild, I dig them up, clean them, cut them up and eat them. Same as carrots or beets.


Same amount of time for me.
John S
PDX OR
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