It's amazing really, to look around the yard and see all the things that insist on growing there. Many of these things are considered irritating weeds by the dilligent yard warden.
When coming across these varieties of greenery in the yard, I always feel amazed at how lucky we are to have such awesomeness forcing it's way into our little manicured parcels.
In today's world, we are greatly dependant on the stores to supply us our daily sustenance. There is also a great reliance on the drug stores for our medications.Now, I am not going to get into a big argument about pharmaceuticals here. They have their place, and many of those things originated from a natural growing source at one point . Think of foxglove, "The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds), although the leaves of the upper stem are particularly potent, with just a nibble, being enough to potentially cause death." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitalis . The extract Digitalis Purpurea from this plant has gone on to do wonders in congestive heart failure and is widely appreciated in the medical world. There are less dangerous and more commonly helpful plants that grow amongst the posh and showy garden decor.
In my yard there are a few that grow happily all on their own; Plantain, Self-Heal, Lambsquarters, Quackgrass, Great Burdock, and varied Docks. These are all able to be eaten.
Quackgrass is similar to any other grains, and in fact it is one of the biggest pains-in-the-butt for farmers. The roasted root can be used as a coffee substitute, a cereal mash can be made from the seed, and the young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw in salads. They do become more fibrous upon age, so leaves and shoots should be eaten when the plant is young.
Lambsquarters leaves are lovely when steamed like spinach. They are also edible raw, though they contain oxalic acid and saponins, so cooking is a safer way to eat the leaves, or eat in smaller quantities if raw. The seeds can be cooked into a mash quite easily. Cooking the seeds, or rinsing and soaking them overnight is a good way to reduce the saponins. I've enjoyed this plant a lot this summer.
Plantain is one of my favourites for making salves. I also often will pick a peice and bruise/crush it for immediate application on mosquito bites when we are outside. Plantain is a pretty amazing plant and is my favourite. I do not enjoy eating it as much, but this is possibly due to the fact that I don't pick it soon enough and end up eating it when it is too mature. At that point it is a bit bitter for my liking, but steamed with other leaves and/or veggies balances it out. I drink plantain tea also. As a tea, for external use, it is extremely safe and helps all sorts of ailments. Studies done for it's effect on high blood pressure and high blood sugar are very promising. It is also sooths coughs, bleeding gums and a myriad of other things. Iuse it in salves (as mentioned) and really, just adore this plant. It's wonderf that a plant with so many proven benefits makes itself so at home in the most unlikely places. Near sidewalks and exterior walls, along walking trails and in unhappy looking soil, plantain is a hardy plant. Not surprising really, given the strong fibres that run through the leaves. If you pull a leaf off to use, the 'strings' extrude, and giving a tug on these, one can understand why they were used for sewing and binding things together.
The Burdock (and various docks) have varied uses. There is some evidence that they are good externally for skin problems, but they are quite edible as well. I normally steam them along with the plantain and lambsquarters and have them all together. I hack off the burs of the Burdock before they grow because they attach themselves quite happily to passing children and animals...both which are always poking about in that part of my yard in which the burdock grows most abundantly. The taproot can be cooked as a root vegetable and is still popular in Asia.
The other Docks; yellow, curled etc. are edible as well. Their leaves should be washed in a few changes of water to remove the oxalic acid, or if eaten raw, do so in small amounts.
Self-heal is a cute little plant that reminds me of clover. The little purple flowers on it never bloom all at once, so if you're waiting on it to fully bloom before eating, it won't happen, :) Just pick it and toss it in a salad with some raspberry wine vinegar. yum!
I also have a few other things that are growing. Comfrey (much discussion regarding ingesting it. I will leave that up to the reader to decide) is a fantastic plant with many uses. Until recently it was quite accepted to use internally as well, but it is no longer recommended due to the possibility of liver damage. Though quite a bit of the plant would have to be consumed, and the greatest amount of the toxic alkaloid is found in the roots. Comfrey has amazed me with it's ability to diminish a bruise, and inflamed skin due to bites etc. Because it can heal so quickly, it is not recommended to use on open wounds because it can close the outside of the injury up while bacteria still remains inside. There are so many benefits to Comfrey , I was positively tickled when a friend of mine brought comfrey over for my garden. I had had no luck sowing it from seeds, but now I have three, huge bushy plants growing! :)
I would love to have some Mullein, but none is growing close by. I have some hyssop, some Valerian, and a WHOLE BUCH of Lemon Balm.
My dream is to be able to allow the Natura Mater the ability to landscape my yard for me. Let things grow in my yard that LIKE to grow in my yard. Rather than altering the environment to suit the trendy garden ideal, I want to alter my previous choices of greenery to adapt to the environment at hand.
If we would allow things to grow in our yards that are MEANT to grow there, there would be a lot more 'food and medicine' available to us on a personal level. Communicating with our greenspace, finding out what does best there. There are so many things that grow happily and they get yanked out as weeds... meanwhile these things will be our absolute best allies if disaster stikes our economy.
Ok.. enough typing for now. I have to get into the kitchen and make some dinner!