Guest Post by James Smith: Eating Weeds – Wild Urban Foods
I am so excited to share a guest post that is a topic that is near and dear to my heart! I think it’s so cool that we can eat the weeds and this article is a great reminder to learn more about your wild edibles. I hope you enjoy this guest post by James Smith as much as I have!
Plants are vital to our existence. Some we choose to cultivate and some others we call weeds. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the mid 19th century American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement once posited that a weed is only a
“plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”
Influenced strongly by the concepts of”self-reliance” and independence, philosophers like Emerson and his long-time friend Henry David Thoreau- spoke of reconnecting to nature with deep appreciation.
Many of us fear what we don’t understand. This leads modern kitchen gardeners and urbanites -with their lack of specialized knowledge about virtuous, invasive, or poisonous plants in their native environment – to fear and distrust of all the plants they have not yet personally “discovered.”
It can also lead to poor choices, not just in what they plant (like bamboo in an urban setting), but in what they allow to flourish, consume, and what they choose to kill – and how! The prevalence of lawn “weed” killers like Round-up and others is shuffling us closer to an unbalanced poisoned existence lacking natural bio-diversity and straight into the hands of corporations who are ready to “save” us with their GMO crops….but that’s a post for another time.
The benefits of wild foods are well-known – many are medicinally powerful as well as nutritionally dense. You may not have ever stopped to consider that current garden variety plants were originally developed from wild specimens. Over time, the seeds of these plants were selectively saved and replanted year after year to produce, via farmer selection and preferences, sweeter, stronger, and more pest-resistant varieties.
There many ways to grow and forage our survival foods and medicines. Some folks grow woodland gardens, native medicinal, culinary and medicinal herbs, mushrooms. Some families recognize their wild varieties of, for example wild husk cherry/ground cherry on their properties, but let it persist. And still others make a concentrated effort to include these native bushes and plants in the cultivated permaculture structuring of their farm.
Some of the more common edible plants include: Lamb’s Quarters, Dandelion, Plantain, Chicory, Wild lettuce, Clover, Nettles, Woods sorrel, Sheep sorrel, Burdock, Arrow-root, and many others.
Now if you are a bit put-off by some of these names, or feel like you’ve slipped into some witches’almanac, don’t be scared! I’ve been there myself. Many of these plants may be unfamiliar and we’ve be trained as a species to fear the unfamiliar and not eat it until someone we trust says it’s safe.
All of these plants are safe to eat and many are quite easy to find – you probably have at least 2-3 in your own yard or kitchen garden bed right now. When you open up your horizons to include the abundance of medicinal and wild plants around you to forage, cultivate, and eat, you take a walk on the “wild” side and open up more diverse culinary possibilities.
Some edibles may not catch on as the next cultivable agricultural crop – and are certainly an acquired taste (wild plants tend to taste more bitter then their sweet cultivated varieties). It’s hard to picture young Daucuscarota roots winning out as a cultivatable edible over the more common agricultural carrot – but it’s interesting to note that it is a good companion plant for tomatoes. The species is documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby, and it can also provide a micro-climate of cooler, moister air for lettuce, when intercropped with it.
So weeds are not always what they seem – and planted to benefit our other crops can provide lasting benefits and reduce this relatively new concept of monoculture farming. We also need to be wary of over harvesting wild species like Allium-tricoccum – a North American species of wild onion native to the Appalachian mountain region.Some wild edibles are simply edible, and may be more a novelty item, or of cultural importance. Other plants like Stellaria media (common chickweed) for instance, could catch on and are going to have greater acceptance as food, because convenience, availability, and palatability strongly influence the average diet.
In a sometimes frightening and unstable world we also have to be prepared for our long term survival. That might mean storing massive amounts of canned and vacuum-packed calories for quick consumption in case of a natural disaster or other seriously unstable situation. However, those who are truly prepared for long-term survival will be ready to grow their own foods, educated on their local flora and fauna, and able to harvest from their natural habitat to ensure life, health, and vitality.
I hope you enjoyed this article James wrote for Lil’ Suburban Homestead readers. James love sharing his knowledge on preparedness and wildcrafting and make sure to investigate his link on benefiting our other crops it’s extremely insightful.
I wish you all a beautiful week, until next time!