Wilderness Wednesdays - " Redefining How We Think About Weeds " ~ by: Ethan Peters
We have all had horrible experiences with plants in a variety of ways but we are going to focus primarily on the outdoors. If you have a garden there are so many unwanted plants that can get in the way of what we are working on cultivating. Even a yard can pop up unruly plants conducting all kinds of unwanted behaviors. However, many of these plants that we begrudgingly pull out of the ground are edible, nutritious and even medicinal. There are so many plants that we could go through, but to keep it short I will go through 4 common plants.
Wood sorrel is a very common plant that grows everywhere in the country and throughout Texas. This best way to enjoy this plant is raw and on salads or in a tea. All parts of this plant are edible, the leaves, seed pods, flowers, stems and even the tubers. It is high in vitamin A and C but because of limited amounts of oxalic acid it is recommended to eat a handful a day. It has a lovely tangy, lemon flavor but the tubers are a bit milder which can also be eaten raw, in a stew or any other way you would eat a carrot. Traditionally it was used as a poultice for mouth sores and sores on the body. A poultice is a lovely way of chewing on the leaves into a paste and then using that paste to spread somewhere on your body or someone else's, sounds gross but it really works! The tea was also used for urinary infections, scurvy and high fever.
These are current pictures, the berries and flowers are in season in February
Agarita is common shrub that grows throughout the Southwest and is often removed because it is prolific and prickly. The most edible and useful part of the plant are the berries which typically fruit in February. Also high in Vitamin C, the berries can be enjoyed raw, cooked, made into jam or jelly, wine and even syrup. You can find recipes for agarita jam and wine online. The leaves can be used in a tea or a tincture to help with nausea, I do not recommend trying them raw! For other medicinal uses we can turn to the wood of the plant which is traditionally used for anti-diarrheal. There are high quantities of berberine found in the bark which is often used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood-pressure. There are many, many native uses of this plant which all involve poultice, teas, tinctures, yellow dye for hides and more. The roots were used as a laxative, wood and bark were used to treat wounds, and even scorpion bites. The list goes on and on!
This is one young plant that is in our yard, as it grows the leaves become less fuzzy.
Plantain is a prolific plant that grows everywhere, you will even see this popping up on sidewalks in major cities, but it is not just a weed! Also, this is not the same as the banana looking fruit. Identifiable by the straight lines running up the leaf and the large, seedy flower stalks. The leaves and flowers are edible raw but they are best when they are young as they tend to get tougher and more bitter over time. These are excellent in a salad raw or slightly cooked. However, this plant is mainly used as a medicinal plant for its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory benefits. When it is made into a tea it is used for ulcers, upset stomach and heartburn. More often it is used topically, with a poultice to treat insect bites, rashes and small cuts. If the idea of using poultice is still disgusting it is great to use it as a salve to help with healing, itching, rashes and other skin problems. In this way it can be combined with other medicinal plants as well. So many uses for a simple backyard plant that we pass by everyday!
I do not have pictures of the flowers, but this is often mistaken for dandelion
Cat's Ear, also called false dandelion is a great plant unless you have a well manicured lawn and can't stand all of the beautiful yellow flowers it pops up. This looks very much like dandelion and even has many of the same benefits and uses, so if you misidentify it you are good to go, which is not always true for many plants! One distinguishing feature is that cat's ear has hairy leaves and many flowers per bunch, whereas dandelion has no hairs and only one flower. Every part of this plant is edible raw and cooked, however cooking always removes the bitter taste, but this is enjoyed in salads, stews or even cooked like asparagus or spinach. Medicinally, it has been used to treat kidney and liver functions typically as a tea or tincture.
This is a tiny scratch on the surface of the plant world that surrounds us. In the future, I will go more into other plants, what is in season, toxic look-a-likes to avoid as well as other nature connections that we can have right in our backyard or neighborhood.
The more we know about the plants around us the more "the wall of green" starts to become clear and understandable. When it becomes more understandable it becomes less frightening and confusing which leads to invitation, familiarity and connection. It is that link which we are seeking, to be connected to nature because we are nature.
"When we can truly be ourselves, it is quite relaxing!"