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August 14, 2012 > Pat Kite's Garden: Weeds?

Pat Kite's Garden: Weeds?

By Pat Kite

Rick says I should write about weeds. However there are Yuk weeds and these are weeds that some people like. For example: Dandelions. Frankly I enjoy blowing the little puffy tops off dandelions. Some childhood memory recalls that blowing all the seeds off with one breath will grant you a wish. So I stand there, purple faced, adult, blowing seed parachutes into the wind. One seed always remains, like it is glued.

For the last 1000 years, dent-de-lions have been used for both food and medicine. European immigrants introduced it to North America; Native Americans used it for a tonic, and as our pioneers moved along, they encouraged dandelion blossoms as food for their bees. Dandelions have protein, calcium phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins A, B1 and C. You can find recipes on the Internet and at your library.

I must say I don't like Chickweed, which does wander around my rose patch with great enthusiasm. Some people apparently eat it in a salad or steam it in omelets. Herbalist John Gerard, writing 400 years ago, stated, "the leaves of Chickweed boyled in water very soft, added thereto some hog's grease, the powder of Fenugreeke and Linseed, and a few roots of Marsh Mallows, and stamped to the forme of Cataplasme or pultesse, taketh away the swelling of the legs or any other part... in a word it comforteth, digesteth, defendeth and suppurateth very notably."

There is also Groundsel, also called Ground Glutton, Ragwort and Senecio vulgaris. This is the 10-inch high weed with the little yellow-topped flower cups, and later tufted white seed heads. Stowing away on European immigrant travel worldwide, one groundsel plant can bring forth about one million others within a year. Although once sporadically used in medicine, this is not recommended. To get rid of it, you have to pull it out. On a somewhat more positive side, it attracts aphids and therefore ladybugs like it. So I sometimes leave one.

A more miserable weed is Stinging Nettle. This is the 3-foot plant that I once accidently grabbed when trying to yank out something else. All plant parts are covered with stinging hairs. Brush past it, or grab, the needle-like hairs instantly pierce. The scientific name is Urtica dioica, the Urtica coming from the Latin urere "to burn." However nothing is without use in Nature. Nettles were once used to make an excellent cloth. A poet once praised, "I have slept on nettle sheets and dined off a nettle tablecloth..." In World War I, nettle cloth was used to make uniforms and wilted leaves fed to cavalry horses. In theory, a batch of nettles in the kitchen deters flies. I haven't tried it. I still have arm scars from cactus spines.

Every weed has its purpose in Nature. Even just providing a bit of green where nothing else will grow. Positive thinking helps with toleration. Have a nice Autumn.

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