It’s a familiar story; we spend months fighting weeds in our lawns and gardens, only to lose the battle when the plants return year after year. Maybe it’s time to consider letting weeds grow, as some offer numerous benefits in the garden, and the kitchen, too.
Many weeds may offer medicinal benefits, but always check with your physician or herbal medicine expert first. Never eat weeds that have treated with herbicides, pesticides, or other toxic chemicals.
Here are five beneficial weeds to grow in your garden:
- Dandelions – These are good weeds for gardens. Dandelions have sturdy roots that loosen hard, compacted soil. The nectar-rich flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. The entire plant is edible. The nutrient-rich leaves are sautéed, or added to soups and stews. The flowers can be battered and fried or fermented for dandelion wine.
- Clover – A familiar plant with trifoliate leaves and cheery little blooms, clover draws bees and other beneficial insects to the garden. Clover is a legume, and like other legumes, it pulls nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, making it available for neighboring plants.
- Lambsquarter – When letting weeds grow, don’t forget to include this plant. Young, tender leaves can be cooked like spinach. Keep in mind, however, that although lambsquarter is a nutritional powerhouse, the uncooked leaves contain oxalic acid, which have been associated with kidney stones and other health problems. In the garden, lambsquarter is a useful companion that gets along well with a variety of plants, including cantaloupe, pumpkins, zinnias, peonies, and marigolds.
- Purslane – Succulent purslane leaves are rich in nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, and are very beneficial weeds to grow. Purslane is delicious steamed and served with butter, added to omelets, or tossed into soups or salads. Herbalists claim that purslane can help with insomnia, stomach aches, and minor skin disorders, and that it may strengthen bones, and improve circulation. Keep in mind that purslane contains oxalic acids, which have been linked to kidney stones; however, boiling removes much of the compound.
- Plantain – Young, tender plantain shoots are often sautéed in olive oil, which enhances the slightly nutty, asparagus-like flavor. Native Americans brewed strong plantain tea to treat skin irritations such as insect bites, sunburns, and minor cuts. Herbalists claim the plant may help with diabetes, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.