Saturday, March 19, 2011

Useful Weeds


Useful Weeds

Cardamine ( Spring Cress, Hairy Bitter Cress )
Harvested during cool weather when they are not bitter, they are excellent eaten raw in salads or used as a pot herb.

Chenopodium album ( Lambs Quarters )
Originating in Europe and now spread around the world, this colonizer plant or seed is a close relative of Spinach. The young growth can be used in salad and this plant is rich in Vitamin A, Bs, C as well as Phosphorus, Iron and Calcium.

Cichorium intybus ( Chicory )
A member of the Aster family, the Chicory was originally native of Europe but is now found growing wild in much of North America.
The flowers are bright blue and this plant can in some cases be used as a landscape plant as well.
The leaves are very nutritious and bitter just like that of the Dandilion. They are very rich in Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium as well as Vitamins A & C.
The young leaves are the best for use in salads, the older leaves become tough and bitter. Chicory can be used as a green drink but can be extremely bitter unless mixed with other juices.
Chicory prefers full sun and light, fertile, moist soil however has much wider soil tolerances. Propagation is from seed and it often seeds itself.

Glechoma hederacea ( Ground Ivy )
The leaves on young tender shoots are rich in Vitamin C and minerals and can be added to salads. The leaves can also make a great tea though you may need alot to get good flavor.
The plant is a diuretic and considered to be a blood purifier.

Malva ( Mallow )
The young leaves can be cooked as a pot herb or eaten raw. Malva has among the highest Carotene content of all plants, with as much as 16 000 i.u. per ounce. The human body converts carotene to Vitamin A.

Osmorrhiza ( Sweet Cicely )
They prefer fertile moist soil. Propagation is from division or seed.
The entire plant can be used for tea. The seeds when immature can be eaten in salads.

Oxalis corniculata
The foliage contains abundant Vitamin C, you can add a few leaves to a herbal tea. They can be boiled as a pot herb which removes much of the oxalic acid. Unfortunately this plant should not be used fresh or in large quantities since it has up to 7% oxalic acid content. Large amounts of Oxalic Acid is toxic, damages the kidneys and inhibits calcium absorbtion.

Plantago major ( Great Plantain )
The tender new foliage is spring can be boiled as a pot herb or eaten fresh in salads or sandwiches. The nutritious greens are rich in Vitamin A and C.
All Plantain are edible. Plantago fastigiata, P. maritima & P. macrocarpa can be used in the same way.

Portulaca oleracea ( Purslane )
Should not be used excessively due to Oxalic Acid content but used sparingly, Purslane contains abundant Vitamin A, C, iron and omega 3 fatty acids.

Pueraria lobata ( Kudzu )
The foot a day vine! Should never be planted but this Japanese native that has taken over and ruined over 11 000 acre of land in the southeast U.S. has a few used. In a single season Kudzu can overtake a 100 foot tree and eventually starve it from lack of light.
In the southeastern U.S. it does not die down to the ground during winter unlike in its native Asian territory. One way to control Kudzu in the southeastern U.S. is to remove lower branches from trees along the forest edge and use chemical sprays to remove shrubby plants to give Kudzu nothing to climb onto in its search for the light in the sky.
Kudzu isn't entirely useless however. The foliage is very nutritious, as much as Alfalfa but more palatable, making it an excellent forage crop for livestock while it enriches the soil with nitrogen. The sugar rich Kudzu roots can be used to produce alcohol and the vines can be fermented to produce 5 cu ft. of methane gas while the residue be used as fertilizer. The drought tolerant, tuberous roots of mature Kudzu plants can be MASSIVE, weighing a few hundred pounds.
Kudzu produced its own nitrogen thus enriching the soil. The harvested plant can be used as compost.
It can also be used to cover sheds and roofs of small homes during summer, thus providing natural air conditioning ( recommended to cut back hard during autumn ).
Kudzu is easy to grow once it is established. Propagation is from seed soaked for 24 hours in water after the hard shell is nicked.
It is not necessary to dig up all the roots to get rid of Kudzu but definately do get rid of the first foot. This plant can easily regenerate from the root crown but not from deeper roots.

Silybum marianum ( Milk Thistle )
A nutritious plant that can be eaten cooked or raw. This plant should be grown organically since it can accumulate nitrates.
The seed can be used to protect the liver from toxins and even help it recover if damaged. The extract is sold in most health food and vitamin stores.
Milk Thistle is also reported to reduce growth of cancer cells in prostate, cervical and breast cander.

Smilax ( Greenbriar )
A genus of plants that are part of the larger Smilacaceae family.
They are typically vines and many bear both tendrils and thorns which is rare in the plant world.
Considered by many as noxious weeds in the wooded landscape, they can be used in the kitchen. The growing tips during spring and early summer or the tender young leaves can be cooked like asparagus or eaten raw in salads.

Sonchus ( Sow Thistle )
All species are edible and the tender new foliage of this Lettuce relative are rich in Vitamin A & C. They can be used in salad if the spines are removed.

Stellularia media
Native to Eurasia but now worldwide, the Chickweed is a cool season annual. It germinated during autumn, tolerates temperatures as low as 10 F and luxuriates at 40 F. During hot summer weather if disappears. They grow fast from seed and produce their own seed in as little as 30 days. Only mildly flavored, Chickweed can be eaten and is rich in Vitamin C.

Trifolium pratense ( Red Clover )
Originally introduced from Europe, is now the most common Clover in North America.
The leaves don't taste all that great, but the young spring leaves are very nutritious and can be eaten either raw or cooked fro 5 to 10 minutes.
DO not eat Trifolium arvense ( Rabbits Foot Clover ) which is not edible.
The fresh nectar rich flowers are used to make a slightly sweet tea. The flowers are highly valuable for Honey Bees.
The plant may have some tumor inhibiting properties.
The roots of clover fix nitrogen in the same way as Alfalfa, making this among the most valuable of all cover crops to rejuvenate tired old farmland.
A single acre of Clover may produce between 100 and 500 pounds of nitrogen in a year.
CLOVER IS 100 TIMES BETTER THE COVER CROP FOR FRUIT ORCHARDS THAN GRASS. Clover will increase growth of the crop while turf will severely impede it. Clover is also more drought and cold tolerant, staying green long after the turf turns brown.

Trifolium repens commonly invades lawns and itself is an excellent lawn substitute providing luxuriant green and white flowers while enriching the soil.
The foliage is high in proteins but do not eat foliage off lawns that have been sprayed.

Tropaeolum majus ( Nasturtium )
The leaves are great used as a pot herb, in soups, stir fries and eaten fresh in sandwiches and salads. The seeds before ripening can also be eaten in salads.
It also makes a great ornamental plant, staying green all year in mild climates, an annual in cold climates.

Urtica dioica ( Stinging Nettle )
A very vigorous perennial weed that is widely distributed in North America.
The Stinging Nettle is covered with stinging hairs that act like hypothermic needles injecting formic acid into anything that brushes up against it. The sting is irritating to the skin but wears off quickly. Few animals eat Stinging Nettle.
Strangly enough, Stinging Nettle is not only edible but also very tasty.
Only the fresh young shoots during spring are edible and they need a few seconds of cooking to get rid of the stingers. Stinging Nettle can be used in the same way as Spinach, producing an excellent tasty potherb with just a few minute of steaming or boiling.
The dried leaves can be used to make a very nutritious tea though it isn't particularly tasty. The dried leaves can be powdered and added to bread and soups to increase their nutritional value.
Stinging Nettle is very nutritious. It contains abundant chlorophyll, Vitamin A, multiple Bs, abundant Vitamin C and D and more protein than any other green leaf.
Stinging Nettle also has among the highest Iron content of any plant, as well as containing calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and sulfur.

Valeriana edulis & officinalis
Roots can be cooked and eaten or boiled in a change of water ( makes great tea ).
The root tea is a great bedtime mild sedative. Valeriana ciliata, dioica, obovata, occidentalis and sitchensis can also be used in the same way.
Propagation is from seed, division and soft cuttings.

Viola contain beta-ionone, a natural fungicide, which can be used to treat skin diseases and even cancer. The tender spring leaves can be used in salads and are very rich in Vitamin C as well as Vitamin A.

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