When Life Gives You Lemons…

By Bonnie Grant | March 21, 2021
Image by Cheryl Ramalho
by Bonnie Grant
March 21, 2021

 I am an absolute terror when it comes to weeds. I live near an open field which merrily produces copious quantities of weeds and their attendant seeds. Due to our wind patterns, these seeds float into my mini orchard. We don’t use herbicides, which means a twice a month battle hand removing these invaders. It drives me nuts. Therefore, I don’t have a favorite weed but, due to a book I received as a gift, I have some appreciation for these pests. 

In my area we have a plant called Puncturevine, or Goatsweed. It has taken out many a skateboard or bike’s tires. It ends up in animal paws and has even penetrated my garden clogs. It is an evil, evil plant and there is nothing good to say about it except a grudging admiration for its tenacity and cute little yellow flowers. This is just one of many annoying plants that pop up in my garden and are a literal thorn in my side. However, I got a present of a book called “Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West” by Gregory Tilford. It has opened my eyes to the myriad benefits of weeds. 

Beneficial And Edible Weeds

This book is chock full of interesting tidbits on beneficial weeds. It is a forager’s handbook and also contains information on edible weeds. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea there were beneficial weeds beyond dandelions, which I also hate. Within its pages, I developed some sense of awe for my nemeses. I have even gone so far as to utilize some of its tips for making my own astringent, pain reliever, and other minor medicines and cosmetics. 

I can’t find a use for Puncturevine, but apparently it is a libido enhancer, which may make some happy to find the icky little devil.

One of the interesting beneficial weeds is Salsify, or Oysterweed. You can eat the root and leaves just as you would its cousin, dandelion. The roots can substitute for root vegetables like parsley and are used in soups and stews. Among the weird benefits of weeds are their medicinal properties. Salsify was once used to treat gastronomic distress.

The bad thing about these edible weeds is their spread. Salsify produces pretty yellow flowers similar to dandelion blooms. But, they spread the same way with little parachutes of fluff that carries far and wide. That means a single plant can populate my whole yard in just a puff of wind. So instead of harvesting their apparently tasty roots and eating them, I dig them out and destroy them with a zeal akin to combating a locust invasion. We all have our weak spots, and weeds are one of mine.

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