I don't know about you, but I hate weeding. I am motivated by the reward, the fresh fruits and vegetables. I was visiting with my mother this summer and she showed me a few of the weeds that you shouldn't pull, but use for high quality food and medicinal purposes that you can use for survival situations.
Many of the weeds that we pull out of the garden are not only edible, but very good for us. Besides that we can always use weeds as composting material instead of just bagging and trashing.
There are some amazing salves you can create for medical purposes or infuse them with oils to benefit fully from the so-called weeds that surround us.
Here is a short list of some internationally common weeds that can be put to good use in your kitchen or your medical cabinet.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is normally weeded out due to its painful, stinging hairs, but the leaves and stems can be made into a nutritious tea (brew for 5 minutes then strain) or they can be blanched and eaten like spinach to treat a wide range of conditions, for example, hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis.
Mallow (Malva spp.) has mucilage and polysaccharides and the whole plant can be used to soothe irritated mucus membranes like a sore throat or chest congestion. It’s a strong anti-oxidant and is effective against certain microbes and inflammation.
Brew a small handful of fresh or dried roots, leaves, and/or flowers in hot water for 5 minutes. You can also add the leaves and flowers to a smoothie for a delicious treat.
Dandelion (Taraxacum spp.) is entirely edible; from root to seeds from the top to the bottom. Leaves are best blanched before eating to remove some of the bitterness due to the small amounts of white latex in them. The flower petals are often used in salads by the highest quality restaurants.
Brewing a tea from the leaves and flowers or grinding the roots with warm water makes a caffeine-free alternative to coffee which can produce anti-diabetic and anti-tumor effects.
Catsear or False Dandelion (Hypochaeris spp.) is entirely edible, although not as bitter as dandelion so it can be eaten raw. It is high in sesquiterpene lactones which have an enormous range of proven medicinal benefits and are best extracted via oil.
Chop up and dry the entire plant then infuse it in oil for 2 weeks. Strain and ingest a teaspoon of the oil. It is NOT recommended to use it topically due to potential skin sensitivities.
Dock weed (Rumex spp.) leaves and roots are high in antioxidants and phenolic compounds such as anthraquinones and flavonoids, which have numerous health benefits and are best extracted into an alcoholic tincture.
Infuse fresh roots and leaves in 40% alcohol for 2 weeks then strain and take half a teaspoon of the liquid tincture every day. You can also eat fresh, new dock weed leaves in small quantities raw, otherwise, boil them to remove some of the oxalic acids.
Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) is a common weed in crops and gardens but the entire plant is edible; both raw and cooked. It is also high in sterols which can treat high cholesterol.
Goosefoot (Chenopodiastrum spp.) seeds, leaves and stems are all edible and nutritious. High in both glycoside and aglycone coumarins such as scopoletin, it is used as a treatment for diabetes and depression in the form of both a simple tea brewed for 5 – 10 minutes as well as an alcohol tincture like dock weed above.
Plantago (Plantain spp.) is from the family that is very high in verbascoside which is a strong anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, as well as chlorogenic acid which can help to reduce blood pressure.
Both compounds are soluble in hot water, so it’s easy to brew half a handful of leaves and flowers for 5 minutes into a simple tea. It is also a proven wound healer, so can be infused in oil to make a salve.
Take a look around your yard and neighborhood and see what weeds you can find for survival situations
, to use for food or medical use. These weeds could potentially save your life.
My daughter and I went camping a few years back, we got lost and had to spend the night in the High Uinta's with no food or water. Luckily we had water filtration straws, so we had fresh water to drink, but we had no food with us. I was so grateful to find a field of dandelions and juniper berries. We were able to start a fire and create an interesting, but life sustaining soup. This got us through the night and we were able to hike four hours out to safety in the morning.
Knowing what you can or cannot eat in the wild is so important. If you don't want to memorize them, at least get a small portable book of edible plants in your area and take it with you whenever you hike or camp.