Eat your weeds
As a weed scientist, the most common question I get is: “what is a weed, anyway?”
The simplest definition is: “a plant out of place” or in other words “a plant growing where it is not wanted.”
“Not wanted” by whom? Oftentimes one person’s weed is another person’s flower, or even vegetable or medicine.
There are hundreds of species of weeds that have been defined as problematic to human enterprise, but in all my research I’ve not encountered a single weed that does not have some redeeming quality.
I remember well the catchy title of a Langley Field Naturalist talk by naturalist Al Grass — “Bad Weeds Gone Good.”
He waxed eloquent on some of the virtues of local weeds, including a weed that is notoriously difficult to control in our area, forming dense thickets guarded by its persnickety prickles.
The redeeming qualities Grass ascribed to blackberry included its potential to provide cover and winter food for local song birds.
But before you start planting blackberry, consider the recent master’s study in Vancouver by Caroline Astley. Astley found that blackberry provided poor habitat for birds in nesting season. Take home lesson: don’t mow blackberry down indiscriminately, but don’t promote its growth either.
Such prickly weeds spring up to punish us says Genesis — yet sometimes help us.
Consider how the thistle became the symbol of Scotland. In 1010 the Danes tried to capture Scotland by overtaking Stain Castle. Assuming the moat would be filled with water, the Danes removed their shoes and jumped in.
To their horror, the moat was filled with thistles and their cries woke the guards and the castle was saved.
Then there is one of the best-known weeds of all — the dandelion. Special projects co-ordinator, Kim Greenwood of Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) points out that fresh dandelion leaves contain calcium, Vitamin A, C and K. Not only that, young spring dandelions taste pretty good.
“Like any vegetable, the timing of harvest is important to the flavour,”says Greenwood.
If you want to sample some weed salad and find out more about how to use weeds and other vegetables for good, LEPS is organizing a salmon friendly garden seminar March 16.
“You can easily grow your own super foods” says Greenwood.
“Carol Pope is currently writing a book on growing your own super foods and she will be one of the presenters at the seminar”.
To register for the seminar at the Langley Civic Centre in the Fraser River Presentation Theatre on Saturday, March 16 from 1-4:30 pm go to http://www.leps.bc.ca/events
David Clements is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University.