Backyard Bohemia

Edible Weeds

Kelly

We recently purchased a new property (Yay! More on that later!) and are in the process of tidying up the landscaping. By “tidying up,” I mean actually doing the landscaping that has needed to be done for the last, um, probably 40 years! One of the plants I kept finding in all of the overgrown flowerbeds was this purple fuzzy...weed?

Deadnettle2

After some searching, I found that this was purple dead nettle and while technically a weed, it is an herb in the mint family that can be eaten both raw and cooked. This website has interesting information on how the plant has a unique relationship with ants (of all things):

https://chestnutherbs.com/185/

Should you wish for a more in-depth description of purple dead nettle, you might check out this website:

http://purdueturftips.blogspot.com/2013/04/aprils-weed-of-month-is-purple.html

This got me thinking...was there anything else edible in the yard? That sounds funny, but if I could eat purple dead nettle what else might be growing wild on our new farm that could add nutrition and or flavor to our meals. Here’s a list of some other very common weeds and wild edibles you might find in your yard:

Dandelions: Dandelions can be eaten cooked or raw and even made into a tea that has mild diuretic properties.
Clover: Another weed that can be eaten raw or cooked and made into a tea.
Plantain: Plantain can be applied topically to soothe minor skin irritations, and can also be boiled or sautéed and eaten. This is not the same as the tropical fruit that resembles a banana!
Chickweed: Every part of this weed is edible, even its tiny white flowers. It can be eaten raw or cooked as well as dried for a tea.
Stinging nettle: Some people use nettle tea to ward off seasonal allergies. Be careful foraging this one because the “stinging” name does it justice. It has little prickles on it that can irritate some people’s skin. Best to wear gloves and long sleeves.
Wild violets: Just as lovely as the ones you plant on purpose, wild violets can be used for tea and to add subtle flavor to baked goods and salads.
Mallow: Mallow can be added to salads or soups or in a stir-fry.
Fiddleheads: I’m not sure how anyone can resist the temptation to pick fiddleheads because, let’s face it, they look so cool. They are also edible — preferably cooked.

I am certain there are more items I could add to this list, this is just a start from some quick research. It’s amazing to me how plants can provide so much to us if we just take the time to learn about them. It’s a whole other secret world. I can’t tell you how many weeds and edibles I found just weeding those aforementioned neglected flowerbeds. Incredible!

P.S. If you don’t find purple dead nettle as lovely as I do, don’t fret — you can easily pull it out by hand or wait until the weather warms up, the plants won’t last past the June heat. Just an added tip for you!

Top 5 Herbs for the Homestead

KellyWith winter in full swing I have been busy doing a lot of reading, dreaming, and planning for the planting that will need to be done before we know it. I have been doing a lot of research on herbs — their uses, how to grow them, and just other general information about them. I have found that herbs are truly fascinating! So, along with vegetables this year, I think I will try my hand at growing some herbs. You do not need a lot of land — or even any land, really — to grow herbs, as they will grow in patio pots or in a sunny windowsill.

Herbs  

Here is a roundup of the top five herbs I am going to try to grow this year. Side note: as part of my “research” on the subject, I did visit a local herb shop to see how they use their herbs in teas and other concoctions. As they noted (and I will echo their sentiment), while the use of herbs can aid in overall general health, my suggestions for their uses are in no way intended to treat or cure any disease or ailment. Disclaimer aside, here are my five:

Chamomile. Chamomile is so pretty; it resembles teeny tiny daisies. The flowers can be used in a tea as a mild sedative for relaxation and can also soothe upset tummies, especially when caused by excess gas and bloating. Good to know after eating all of those holiday goodies!

Lavender. Lavender seems to be the most common herb that people know about, and for good reason. Besides its obvious beauty and lovely scent, it can be used to assist in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and headaches. Lavender can also be used as a culinary herb for adding flavor to baked goods and drinks. If you have never tried lavender lemonade, I highly recommend it!

Raspberry. I know what you are thinking ... raspberry is a fruit! And yes, you’re right! But besides the luscious berries a raspberry tree provides (excellent for making jam, by the way), the leaves of the raspberry tree can be used to make a tea that strengthens the uterus during pregnancy, can be used to ease diarrhea, and even to help with a sore throat. I like that the raspberry tree has two parts that can be used for something — very thrifty! We have a raspberry bush in our yard that needs some tending to, so I already feel ahead of the game on this one.

Rosemary. Rosemary is a popular herb that is very easy to grow (I hear). It can be used in an oil tincture to help heal wounds and to assist in hair growth.

Mint. Oh, the smell of fresh mint! Mint is also very easy to grow (my husband swears when he planted it a few years back it took over the yard, so be careful!) and has multiple uses, including aiding in digestion and as a natural bug repellent. Peppermint oil used topically has a cooling sensation that helps with headaches. I like to put fresh mint in my water with some slices of cucumber. It feels like you are at the spa, and you are aiding your digestion. Win-win!

A thorough book about herbs and their uses is The Complete Herbs Sourcebook: An A to Z Guide of Herbs to Cure Your Everyday Ailments by David Hoffman (the book I’m currently reading). Books about growing herbs are next on my list to seek out, then after that I’d like to read some books on making teas and tinctures. Any suggestions?