I have an ethical conflict. I want to let Ragweeds flower and produce seed, for grain. I have given some to neighbors, to feed their chickens. I have used some for soil amendment. I am not a doom and gloom apacolypse type person. Well, maybe a little. Yet, before corn was introduced, there was giant ragweed for grain. Tons of protein and nutrient dense. I have worried about this all summer and now as they begin to flower, I feel torn. Any thoughts?
Jane Southall wrote:I have an ethical conflict. I want to let Ragweeds flower and produce seed, for grain. I have given some to neighbors, to feed their chickens. I have used some for soil amendment. I am not a doom and gloom apacolypse type person. Well, maybe a little. Yet, before corn was introduced, there was giant ragweed for grain. Tons of protein and nutrient dense. I have worried about this all summer and now as they begin to flower, I feel torn. Any thoughts?
While it is usualy common ragweed (A. artemisifolia) that gets mentioned as the bane of pollen allergy sufferers, is it not true that giant ragweed triggers the reaction also?
If so, I would say that making life difficult for any ragweed pollen-sensitive people in your neighborhood carries more weight than getting practical experience with ragweed as a food source.
Especially since if it so happens that you one day say eh well, that was that... And are not interested in experimenting anymore, the ragweed will still be there (and will possibly have spread since it tends to do that).
In my country it's made compulsory by law for land-owners to eradicate ragweed (the effectiveness of such a law is very much up for debate of course) and it's not the only European country that has such a rule. Yes, I know, Europe tends to take the "big nanny state" approach. But the problem is real. Let me describe just one part of it.
I'm a hobby beekeeper. Recenly while on a tour of the surrounding fields I've noticed that there was a great hum of bees to be heard. That made me happy since we've had several months of heat and drought and not much in nature was available to bees - even normally attractive plants tend to shut down in such conditions.
Since I was passing several fields of sunflowers I thought, well, of course, sunflowers! ... But that was not it. Neither were there bees in force on goldenrod despite it being, uh, goldenrod - the late summer favorite. A buckwheat field had quite some traffic, yes, but that still did not explain the persistent sound which indicated there was really a very large number of bees in the air.
Finally I've noticed that on the edges of the sunflower fields there's quite some common ragweed - and this is what the bees were after. Ragweed is pollinated by wind so the bees do not collect honey liquid on it. It does however produce super quantities of pollen which the bees particularly need at this time of year (raising the long-lived winter population that will carry the hive into spring).
Now, the bees do separate the pollen and the honey in the frames inside the hive - it's not everything just mixed up. But the separation is of course not total. And as allergic people have been known to react to really low doses, I would be worried about giving my honey to customers which might be sensitive.
Bees forage over a large area - it can be abstracted as a circle with a 2-mile diameter. That's a lot of land with a lot of various forage sources. But when the conditions are right, one source can dominate. And when you notice ragweed with bees on it, you can't tell whether they belong to you or Joe or Jane along the road. All you can do is say hmm, maybe they're ours, better be careful now. But there is not much to be careful about - there is no traffic control for bees. All you can do is help to hold ragweed back from getting more widespread if you notice it on your land.
I'm sorry if I've come across as alarmist. You did ask for opinions so now you have one
I love giant ragweed and have it growing all around. Most people wouldn't believe it without seeing it, but I have ragweed 14 feet tall all around my house to block the sun from coming in my windows and making my house hot. It creates truly enormous amounts of biomass for compost with no care at all. Now that I know it can be used for grain, I'll be using it for my chickens. And bees love it as well? Perfect.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
Yes, I just harvested a huge patch. Some were at least 12 ft. I took a bunch next door for neighbor's chickens. They love the greens. And going to use the rest for sheet mulch. I don't want to cause anyone allergy problems. I am sure I will find some in field next door for seed for bread. Also, drying some leaves for allergy tea. Like cures like.
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