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Edible weeds

Eat your weeds!

Sunday, July 21, 2013 by: Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D.
Tags: edible weeds, purslane, yarrow

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(NaturalNews) It's that time of year when home gardeners are tasked with a lot of weeding chores. It doesn't matter if your penchant is growing vegetables or flowers - we all grow weeds.

The whole concept of a "weed", actually, is pretty interesting. We have a rather erroneous idea about what constitutes a "weed". For the most part, people consider a "weed" as anything that they don't want in their lawn or gardens.

Some of these "weeds", though, came to America from the Old World, where they were considered vegetables. Others were Native American edibles or medicinals that contemporary industrialized consumer culture doesn't recognize.

So, while modernity fumbles around in a haze of ecological amnesia, they simply get categorized as "weeds". But, it's really not that simple.

Let's take a look at a sampling of the "weeds" (sometimes generously called "wildflowers") that gardeners are currently pulling and tossing (hopefully to the chickens).

Dandelion: were well known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for over a thousand years. Dandelions probably arrived in North America on the Mayflower - not as stowaways, but brought on purpose for their medicinal benefits. These greens are loaded with calcium. Just one cup of chopped dandelion greens has 103 milligrams (10% of the recommended daily value) of calcium. That's slightly more than kale.

Purslane: its use as a medicinal plant has been recorded since the time of the ancient Egyptians and has been popular in many cultures since then. These succulent leaves have more omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils, making them ideal for vegetarians.

Lamb's Quarters: grew in Britain in the late-glacial and post-glacial periods. Neolithic, Bronze Age, and early Iron Age people ate it, and the Romans and Europeans used it extensively. People once regarded lamb's quarters as one of the most delicious of all vegetables. In spring they gathered the young plants, boiled them until tender, and served them with butter, salt and pepper. (So do I, incidentally!) Seeds of common lamb's quarters were dried and were ground into flour for bread, cakes, or gruel. The pioneers added lambs-quarter seeds to breads, pancakes, muffins, and cookies . A one cup serving has over 11 days worth of vitamin K.

Yarrow: was always part of the sacred 9 herb bundle. Originally a pre-Christian tradition, the church initially attempted to ban the gathering of herbs. But when it became apparent that this would be impossible to enforce, they sanctified the practice and even blessed the women's herb bundles in the church on Maria Ascension day, the 15th of August. A special soup of herbs became the traditional dish for Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. This soup contained 9 holy healing herbs, one of which is yarrow. This soup was believed to ward off all sickness and disease and dispel all evil influences for the whole of the coming year. Not bad! We now know that the bitter parts of the yarrow and the fatty acids encourage bile flow out of the gallbladder, triggering what is known as the cholagogue effect. The free-flowing action improves digestion and is reported to prevent gallstones from forming.

So, when you are pulling weeds, think twice. It might be that your chickens are eating better than you are.

About the author:
Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., is a socially engaged philosopher and cultural sustainability advocate. Her new book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle explores critical issues from this perspective. At the end of each chapter is a list of things that you can do to create a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. For more information: http://www.sherryackerman.com
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