Weeds are great when they’re planted in the right place. When we typically talk about weeds we talk about “invasive plants” and we thought we should flip the coin and look at the many weeds with benefits instead!
Everything you read talks about how to prevent weeds from spreading by mowing or trampling before the seeds form. But did you know they actually help the soil?
This post is a Q&A with one of our experts and nursery department head. if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to stop in and ask our staff about the weeds you can eat!
A Q&A with Granville Goff, Nursery Department Head,
Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
Q 1. How do weeds repair the soil – generally speaking? What do weeds do that’s good?
A 1. “Weeds” add biomass to the soil and as they die they help create topsoil and available nutrients for other plants not to mention feeding the microorganisms present in the soil. Additionally, they help with moisture retention which keeps the soil alive and provides habitat for beneficial and nonbeneficial insects which encourages birds. Plant-like Comfrey drive down deep taproots that mine minerals and other nutrients thus reinvigorating the nutrient cycle.
Q2. Which of these have culinary potential and can be used in everyday meals? Like Dandelions?
A 2. Dandelion (root, leaves, flowers), Burdock (roots, stems), Lemon Balm (all aerial growth), Miners Lettuce (shoots, flowers), Chickweed (all aerial growth) can all be used in daily cuisine.
Q 3. Do they really fix nutritional balances in the lawn?
A 3. Refer to answer for number one! Additionally, Poly-culture, as opposed to monoculture (i.e. lawn), has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be more ecologically sound and beneficial for soil health and pest management than any other “method” of cultivation. Let nature lead the way.
Q 4. When removing these weeds – is there a “best practice” or method that should be used?
A 4. If you are removing non-native, invasive imports from your landscape, garden, or natural area a couple of things to keep in mind: “Weeds” as we term them are very advantageous plants that are more than adept at adapting to changes and capitalizing on beneficial conditions including your removal of them. If a weed has gone to seed, be sure, it will be back- bend stalks into a paper bag before lopping off, to minimize spread, you can burn them later. When digging up a weed, remember that many have deep taproots and if you don’t get the whole thing it will grow back, also bear in mind that when you disturb the soil, other seeds that have been dormant will gain a foothold in the “limelight” and you may see new visitors that were previously unknown to you. BEST PRACTICE: suppression= sod flip, sheet mulch with cardboard or other biodegradable light blockers, cover with bark mulch and straw, in this way you rob the unwanted plants of light and begin building a healthy topsoil layer for yourself.
Q 5. Why do dogs seek out Cleavers? And what’s the benefit of the sticky/velcro leaves?
A 5. Cleavers are one of my all-time favorites. They are very advantageous, have medicinal uses, and are actually very easy to remove once you get unstuck from them, of course. They are a close relative of our native Sweet Woodruff also. The hairs on Cleavers allow them to climb to light they require to spread, also since their structure is very fragile it allows them to hitch a ride on passersby and take root some distance away thus spreading its territory. Dogs are likely eating it for the same reasons humans tincture it. It is noted as a blood builder/cleanser, lymph mover, diuretic, coagulant, and anti-inflammatory, basically a great spring tonic to help clean you out and detox your system. Spring is its prime season and this is a good time to flush the system and our canine friends are innately aware of this.
Eight Weeds with Benefits
The info above in number 5. Can be found in tincture and tea blends.
Found growing just about everywhere. Broad and Spear leaf varieties abound in lawns, city parks, forest roads, etc. This is not the banana cousin that goes by the same name. Plantain is an antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nutritive, making it one of the best wound healing herbs out there. Effective when used on insect stings, bites, cuts, scrapes, and even eczema. Fresh leaf is best.
Leaves, flowers, root used. One of the more popular weeds that people will eat and uses as an herbal remedy. Great for detoxing and supporting the liver, however, has some contraindications when used in conjunction with blood-thinners due to its anticoagulant properties. Also useful in helping treat kidney and urinary ailments including infections, due to the magnesium and zinc content it is good for promoting clear skin, can help maintain proper blood sugar. Roasted root is a great coffee substitute.
Leaves and Root used. Demulcent, expectorant, mucilaginous: lung support, wound healing, intestinal support
Attracts bees in the garden. Leaves, flowers, and stems used. Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge, antibacterial (internal and external), antiviral. Good for heart and liver, mood improvement.
Postpartum depurative, emmenagogue, galactagogue and circulatory tonic. Helps regulate blood flow generally and specifically in relation to menstruation, increases breast milk production, also help with itchy skin.
Use as a salad green. Miner’s lettuce is pleasingly crunchy, mild-tasting has large leaves, remains tender even when in flower, and is so loaded with vitamins it will cure scurvy. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of miner’s lettuce — about the size of a decent salad — contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron.
Roots and stalks, young growth is tender and easier to eat and prepare. Keep moist if cooking. Aids in digestion, detoxifying the liver and balancing hormones. It is also good for improving skin quality, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure. Similar to Dandelion Root. Can be found fresh in some health food grocery stores, as a tincture, and dried herb.
I bet you didn’t know this about weeds! Perhaps you’re a chef or you simply didn’t know what to do with your dandelions – but consider serving them up in a meal instead of weeding and throwing them into the compost pile this weekend.