I pretty much think everyone detests the invasion of spring weeds. It always seems to me that one day the yard is in a winter holding pattern and the next, big giant weeds are everywhere. However, before you start pulling out the weed and feed, DID YOU KNOW
Chickweed. Now, myself, I have always thought of chickweed as an invasive, annoying, frustrating, evil weed. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it is considered an herb. And, even more surprising – you can get chickweed seeds and have to pay real money for them. All I can assume is that it actually freezes in places (like maybe Antarctica) so it never becomes the pest I think it is. So, according to many, chickweed is very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked like spinach. Medicinally, made into an infusion, it is used to relieve constipation, coughs and hoarseness and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. Actually, new research indicates its use as an effective antihistamine. A decoction can be used as a medicinal poultice externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers and itchy skin conditions. You can also use it to feed chickens, pigs and rabbits.
An infusion is what you do when you put a tea bag or tea ball in a cup of hot water and allow it to steep a couple minutes before drinking. A decoction requires boiling for at least 10 minutes then allowed to steep for several hours.
Plantain – Please note – I am talking about the common grass weed, not the big banana. Yes, another annoying, invasive pest with all sorts of surprising uses. Plantain has astringent properties, and can be used to treat minor skin irritations such as stings, bites, burns and cuts. You can chew up several leaves and slap it right on the afflicted area. The leaves can also be made into a tea or tincture, and to help with indigestion, heartburn and ulcers. In addition to insect bites, Plantain has been used for snake bites, and as a remedy for rashes and cuts. A tea, tincture or salve made with plantain also greatly eases the itch of poison ivy, oak, or sumac. The leaves are actually edible and again, somewhat similar to spinach, though slightly more bitter. Use the leaves in salads as they don’t do well being cooked. I have plenty in my front yard if you want to try some!
A tincture is made by putting an herb into a jar and cover with Vodka or Everclear. The jar is left to stand for 2–3 weeks and shaken occasionally. You take it by dropperfuls – usually 2 drops to an eight-ounce cup of liquid. You can make a salve using coconut or olive oil and beeswax as a carrier.
Wild violets Now, I have to say, I love wild violets and they grow EVERYWHERE in my yard. Note - I’m talking about Wild Violets here, not African Violets which are NOT edible. Given the opportunity, they will take over your flower beds. Keeping that in mind, wild violets can add color and a sweet flavor to your favorite salad or sandwich. You can use them to decorate desserts as well. The flowers can be used to make violet vinegar, violet jelly, violet tea, violet syrup and even candied violets. Try freezing a few in ice cubes for a pretty looking drink. They are rich in vitamins A and C. Violets can act as a mild laxative so I wouldn't eat two double hands-full. They are also known to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. Eaten or taken as a tea, they can help soothe sore throats, colds, sinus infections and other respiratory conditions. Native Americans made a poultice from violets to treat headaches. A violet tea can also be useful in treating insomnia. Pretty (sorta invasive) and useful.
Dandelion – I always like to include dandelion because it is such beneficial herb. OK – first of all, this is a really old the plant, believed to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc. It has been used to help digestion, anemia, nervousness, and relieve symptoms associated with the common cold and PMS. Dandelion sap can be used to remove corns and warts. And it is currently being looked at by researchers for treatment of liver disease. Dandelion can consumed as a leafy vegetable, whether cooked or eaten raw (the young leaves are less bitter). Flowers are used to make wine and jam, eaten raw in salads, or dipped in batter and fried. The root can be dried, roasted and ground as a coffee substitute. When placed in a paper bag with unripe fruit, the flowers and leaves will release ethylene gas ripening the fruit quickly. A dark red dye is obtained from the root. Wow – just a little bit of everything.
OK so everyone remembers the rules, right? You don’t want to eat something unless you are certain WHAT it is, WHERE it came from, and HOW it can be consumed. So, the best thing is to carefully identify, make sure it comes from a place with no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, and consume small portions to make certain you don’t have some sort of undesirable reaction.