This information may not be seasonally relevant for those in climates that are snowy and freezing… but here in California, where we are so extremely happy to be getting some winter rains, you can already see the wild weeds in full bloom!
What is usually under-recognized and appreciated is that wild weeds have so much to offer us medicinally. When we recognize their benefits, we reap the rewards and don’t have to give up our ‘perfect gardens’ either.
Galium apparine – aka: Bedstraw, Goosegrass, Catchweed, Everlasting Friendship, Grip Grass, Mutton Chops, Scratweed, Stickywilly, Zhu Yang Yang
Nature’s way of saying, this is a good time to do a yearly lymph cleanse! This is primarily used to clear lymphatic congestion, of the warm type.
Cleavers has a very distinct signature of being very clingy. This is from the little ‘teeth’ on their leaves. In all stages of growth, cleavers will cling or ‘cleave’ to anything it can, including you as you try to harvest it.
Harvest cleavers when they smell sweet like vanilla and before they go to seed – their seeds are better known as those obnoxious little sticky balls that get stuck in your socks as you hike by or get stuck in your dog’s fur when they play anywhere outside your home. Harvest the fresh greens and consume as a cold tea infusion, make a tincture or use fresh in a topical application for skin issues that are hot and itchy or have eruptions.
Interestingly enough, with all the measles debates taking place, this little wonderful weed can be used to help with measles treatment and if used each season should in theory also help prevent it and similar illnesses. In general, cleavers helps keep your body clean and supports health or healing when your body suffers from heat and toxic diseases (i.e. underarm odor, tonsillitis, swollen glands in your ear or neck region, jaundice, fever, scarlet fever, trauma, infections, pain in the body or bones, scrofula, measles… to provide some examples).
Without going into a full lecture on the benefits of cleavers, when you see it growing in your yard, granted you live organically and sustainable without pesticides and herbicides, harvest what you will use before it goes into flower and seed mode. Always let about 1/3 of the plot stay and go to seed. This will ensure you have more for use next year. If you don’t like where it has planted itself… either uproot the whole root system and re-plant it somewhere new when it is very young and able to survive a transplant; or collect the seeds once they drop and plant them where you like. If you choose the latter option, uproot the whole plant after harvesting the seeds.
I will usually make some fresh cold infusion tea (put 2-4 oz. fresh greens per cup of cold water, let sit over night and infuse, then drink 3-4 times daily) for the family right at harvest, then use the rest in a tincture. Always tincture this herb fresh to preserve its medicinal powers!
To be safe, use only 2 weeks at a time then take a break for a few weeks before starting use again. There are conditions where longer term use is recommended, but always consult your herbalist before use
Claytonia perfoliata – aka: Spring Beauty, Winter Purslane, Indian Lettuce
Yes – the nickname sums it up! This is a tasty treat to add to your sandwiches or salads!
Supposedly, about 100 grams of miner’s lettuce – a size of a decent salad – contains a 1/3 of your daily requirements for vitamin C, 22% of the vitamin A (as beta carotene) and 10% of the iron! That is a great gift from a little wild growing herb! Eat this wild weed fresh – it does not like to be cooked like spinach.
Taraxacum official – aka: ‘Tooth of the Lion’, Priest’s crown, Swine’s Snout
While some feel these pesky weed flowers are ruining their perfect lawn, those like myself relish, in their glory and existence.
I love the sight of dandelions growing. Every summer I let some dandelions grow through their flower and seed cycle. I happily spread the soft white furry floaty dandelion seeds everywhere I can. My wish is always for a great dandelion harvest for the following year!
The whole dandelion can be used as food and/or medicine… today I am only going to address using the greens.
Their leaves are a liver tonic and diuretic. They clean out the gut and gallbladder and help purify the blood. Their jagged teeth-like looking leaves contain a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals that can benefit your body and mind greatly. Dandelion greens contain vitamin A (as beta carotene), vitamin K, calcium, iron, important flavonoids, vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. There is a good reason the genus of this plant, Taraxacum, translates to ‘disorder remedy’. Not so bad for a little ‘ol weed – eh?
Munch on the new growth greens or add to them to your salads or sandwiches. Treat the older, bigger and tougher greens like kale and cook them. Or enjoy them as a fresh tea! The new growth and the older growth greens will provide different tastes… the older the leaf, the more bitter the taste and the stronger the digestive functions too.
Remember to only harvest a bit from many plants if you want to keep the dandelions growth and givings alive.
So, as you have read, there are many reasons to want weeds! Many provide us with nutritious and delicious food and medicine.
We should be thankful they grow where they do. May the rains come back soon and stay long…