It has been a wonderful spring to grow everything from lettuce, to fruit, brambles, strawberries, grass, and weeds. But it is the weeds I want to talk about right now. Everyone complains about the weeds. A weed is nothing more than a plant that is someplace we don't want it to be. In my garden, the area which I've set aside specifically to grow vegetables, I work hard to keep "weeds" out, chiefly because they will compete with the deliberately sown plants for light, food and water. Secondarily, I figure those "weeds" are survivalists and have the rest of the 205.5 acres on which to grow. "Stay out of my garden poke, lambsquarter, and dandelion!" I command to an audience that snubs their lush, green leaves at me.
The last few years, I've decided not to fight anymore battles I can't win. One of those is the battle of the weeds. This strategy will not likely rid my world of weeds, but it will save my limited physical energy, save money at the grocery check-out, and will save money on seeds for things like spinach, turnip greens, chard, kale, and so forth. Following is a very brief lesson on each weed and how to harvest and prepare them from my experience.
LAMBSQUARTER. Best to harvest leaves and small stems when young, early in the spring. Later in the spring just harvest the leaves. Wash then braise, stir-fry, or steam leaves and tender stems for no more than 4-5 minutes. I like to throw them into Pad-Thai at the very end where they basically just get warmed through. They can be used in any dish that calls for spinach, kale, chard, or turnip greens.
POKE. There is a lot of scary warnings about poke. So many people say, "Ohh! I won't even mess with that!" But, it is soooo simple to work with! Here's all you do: pick only leaves that are 6" and under. Throw them into a pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Take them out of that water and transfer into another pot of boiling water. Boil another 5 minutes, drain, and they are ready to eat or use in a recipe. At this point, I have let the leaves cool and put them into freezer bags and put them into the freezer for a nice winter's meal. Poke can be used in any recipe that calls for greens. I've even thrown them into spaghetti sauce for added nutrients.
PURSLANE. Pick, wash, and this prolific spreader is good raw in a salad, or lightly cooked in any of the above dishes I've mentioned. Wonderful in Mexican dishes for added nutrients. Throw a handful in with a pot of beans or rice.
EASTERN PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS. (Aka Nopal) It takes some care and preparation for this goodie, but for authentic Mexican dishes you've got to have it. Pick a paddle and char the outside it in a dry cast iron skillet. With tongs, scrape off the needles and charred outer skin. Then slice the soft insides and stir fry or add to rice and beans. Quite nutritious!
We have a jumble of "weeds" here. A mature dandelion on the left mixed in with some lambsquarter. In the middle is oxalis which has sour leaves and banana shaped fruits. On the right is common, white clover. Dandelion: pick leaves and flowers early in the spring. Both can be used lightly cooked or raw in a salad. Oxalis: use it sparingly to add tartness to salads. Clover: use the flowers in a salad, sparingly--they add just a touch of sweetness. However, the best use for clover is for our honeybees! We need to preserve our pollinators.
POPPY SEEDS. Lastly, and I know that poppies are cultivated, but mine reseed themselves every year and come up like weedy cousins. I harvest the seeds when the pods dry--in late July or early August here. Then I use these in baking breads, rolls, muffins, cookies. I also blend a spoonful into homemade dressings. Contrary to urban legend, you can't get high on casual use of poppy seeds.
Well, that about sums up our botanical lesson for the day. Save your energy--Eat your weeds!
who are we?
We are avid seamstresses and crafters since the ORIGINAL 1970's, and we're still going strong. We're also yarn, fabric, and pattern hoarders. ("Speak for yourself," protests Alice.) We, ok, I haven't parted with my stash in over 40 years until now. Maybe we'll have something that you just can't live without! Enjoy browsing!
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