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Rough Fleabane in a Pinch

Lyssa McKenry 

Rough Fleabane3

Did you know this plant receives its name from an old superstition that dried bundles of the plant could repel fleas from a home? Unfortunately the superstition is not true, but it does have some interesting qualities that would be helpful when trying to live off the land.

I feel bad for the weeds we have growing around our neck of the woods. It seems weeds always get a bad rap whether they are growing in the garden, pasture or yard; people just want to eradicate them.

It seems like maybe we should focus on the positive aspect of weeds (at least for a few moments prior to spraying them with herbicide…).

Rough fleabane is common in all parts of North America. The little white and blue “furry” flower usually makes its home alongside roads and fences. I’m sure you have seen it around.

It is considered a weed, but it has been known to be used for ulcers, itchy skin, and other skin problems. I am planning to try rough fleabane on poison ivy the next time it strikes (hopefully never)!

The plant not only has medicinal properties, it can also be consumed. I don’t know what you grew up eating, but my grandmother would fix greens from what seemed like random, sometimes poisonous plants, such as poke. (American pokeweed, or poke for short, is another fun weed with purple berries that are extremely poisonous to people and animals. It grows abundantly in east Tennessee.)

I was never impressed with poke since it is so bitter, even when mixed with eggs. It may have something to do with the fact that it can make you extremely sick if not cooked properly. But I can say I have tried it and lived.

In a similar fashion, the leaves from rough fleabane are the only edible part of the plant and are best enjoyed mixed with other cooked greens due to their bitter flavor. They are also a little "hairy" when raw, which does not make for good eating. I would recommend trying them with a mixture of other spring greens such as chickweed, wild onion, dandelion, and winter cress. Now that is true “living off the land!"

This could be considered useful information if needed in dire circumstances, or you can try some new food! Give those weeds a second chance!

All that talk about greens made me hungry for fall greens too! Here’s how I cook my fall/winter greens:

1 part kale greens

1 part mustard greens

1 part rape greens

1 part turnip greens

According to my grandmother, you “look” the greens first, meaning you check them for bugs (no extra protein needed here, thank you very much!). Afterward, you wash them with cool water 2-3 times. Place all greens in a large pot and cook them down. Once cooked down, place greens in a large frying pan to sauté them with some oil and salt. Enjoy with vinegar, a large bowl of beans, and cornbread. Yummy!