I can recall the summers I spent shaking my fist at those pesky zombie-like dandelions that would pop up overnight and those other plants with the annoying sticky stickers. Those weeds are only good at getting in the way!
Well, actually, those weeds are good for something. And that something is you (your body more specifically) and your garden. My grandmother used to say that it’s only a weed if you don’t want it in your garden. Here’s a cool article by Tenth Acre Farm that talks about the benefits of certain “weeds” (beyond their edibleness) for a garden that is often overlooked.
Or perhaps you are more like me where the green thumb seems to be missing in action and a garden is the last thing you’d want to try to do on purpose. So let’s take a closer look at those “weeds” and plants that are right under our noses. Dandelions, burdock (the stickery sticker plant that inspired the invention of Velcro), clovers, plantains (not like the banana), wild violets, wood sorrel, and creeping charlie are all considered “weeds” to most, but each of theses plants is edible and has nutrition qualities that rival or surpass the greens we eat from the farmers market or produce department.There will probably be at least one or two plants that you’ve seen for years and had no idea what it called or that it could be eaten!
Going beyond your garden and out onto a trail and into nature, we are surrounded by nutritious, edible plants. We are also surrounded by not so edible, down right bad for human consumption plants (see the disclaimer below). The trick is knowing what you are looking for. Once you learn to identify plants properly then you can learn how to harvest and prepare them. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the FREE nutrition that is all over nature?
When it comes to proper identification, that’s where Erica comes in. Erica is the Camp Director at Camp Michigamme and one of her passions is flora and fauna. She has spent hours and days out in the woods, wetlands, fields, and streams learning about plants, how to properly identify them, how to identify potential poisonous lookalikes, how to harvest them in an eco-friendly way, what parts to harvest and prepare, and how to prepare them for consumption. One of her other passions is sharing this knowledge with others. She developed the wild edibles outdoor education program at Camp Henry for their year round retreats and school groups. She has also learned from several professionals in the field including Lisa M. Rose, author of Midwest Foraging, and Luke McLaughlin, founder of the Holistic Survival School.
Erica will be leading introductory wild edible sessions that focus on identification and foraging during Harmony Retreat this August. In one session, you’ll walk away with at least five plants you can identify confidently. You’ll have the chance to try several plants during the session and you’ll have the opportunity to harvest your own wild greens salad! If the season is right, you may even have the chance to make pink lemonade without a single lemon!
Disclaimer alert: Do NOT consume a plant unless you are 100% sure of what it is and how to consume it properly. This includes how to properly harvest, what parts are edible, and how to prepare it. When in doubt, don’t eat it. As with any new food, your body may take some time to get accustom to it, therefore it is always recommended that your introduce a new plant into your diet gradually. Certain plants, like Sweet Goldenrod, are known for the havoc they cause some folks with seasonal allergies and therefore should not be consumed by those folks.
Interested in learning more about those weeds (I prefer to call them free veggies!) that will be popping up in your yard this spring before Harmony Retreat? Check out these websites for more information!