Will Brake for Weeds

I know exactly how I became fascinated with the native plants around me.  It stemmed from (no pun intended) my bent towards frugality and being a homebody.  Actually a lot of what I do on the homestead stems from those two traits.  Red clover was the first weed I looked at years ago and thought, hmm, what can I use that for?  I’m sure God put that here for something.  So basically I love free food and free medicine without having to go to the grocery store or pharmacy to have them.

My kids pick dandelions for $.01 per plant so I can dry for teas and add to stocks. Young leaves may be added to salads. It’s a bitter green which makes it good for digestion.
Comfrey is nicknamed “bone knit” because of it’s skin healing capabilities. It can be made into a skin salve and also fed to homestead animals.

These are just a few of the plants that I have come to know over the years.  They are some of the basics that can be spotted all over our countryside, towns, and parks.  I feel comfortable calling them by name and knowing how to use them.  I love decorating our home with them.  I love that my children are growing up with this knowledge for their future.

Plantain is turned into a salve that my family uses for anything you’d turn to Neosporin for. We call it “green stuff”. If you’ve ever seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s our windex. It can be chewed up fresh and applied to insect bites and stings for relief
I’ve had a wild lettuce tincture in the medicine cupboard for a couple years and we use for congestion and headaches.

Like other spheres in my life, I gravitate towards the quick and simple.  So while there are many ways to use a particular plant, I just scratch the surface so I can get to an end product.  I can handle picking a plant and hanging it to dry for future use in tea.  Or I can make time to drop herbs in a mason jar and cover with oil for an infusion to turn into a salve.  It takes no time to cover a plant in alcohol forming a tincture that is shelf stable medicine for years to come.

Snacktime at the mulberry tree on the edge of the woods
This wild asparagus will come back year after year for us in the spring time.

It may sound complex but the bottom line is this: pick plant, get that plant’s nutrition into a medium (water, alcohol, oil, vinegar), consume as is or make into an end product.  Of course if it’s a food like a fruit tree then we just enjoy the bounty.

Lamb’s quarter is called “wild spinach” and is a great substitute for spinach in recipes.

I do love reading about the properties and constituents of a species in books like Midwest Foraging, Heal Local, The Kid’s Herb Book, and anything by Rosemary Gladstar.  It truly is fascinating to read about what vitamins and minerals and healing capabilities a plant has.  But I am not a doctor, herbalist, scientist, or botanist.  I’m just a mom and a novice gardener and homesteader trying to make use of what’s around me.  So I guess that makes me armed and dangerous.

The infamous yarrow. It can be used fresh to relieve stings and also a tea or tincture to bring down a fever.

Here’s a funny story…

On our last homestead we did not have much yarrow.  I knew of a spot down the road though and so I kept an eye on it in the spring time.  I remember saying to a big kid, “now watch the little ones for a few minutes because I want to drive down the road and check something out”.  It’s the end of the school day and I drive my giant E350 van down the way but I never could spot the yarrow patch.  Instead of driving on toward a crossroad or a driveway so I could turn around and head home, I chose to do an ambitious U- turn.  However, once I was perpendicular in the middle of the road, I went back too far and got stuck in a big ditch.  It was one of those palm to the forehead moments like who the heck gets stuck in a ditch scouting wild weeds?!  I headed home on foot to come up with a plan.  Of course the school bus and other cars were already having to awkwardly pull around my van mostly blocking the country lane.  Hayden and I loaded the ATV with sheets of plywood in hopes of wedging them under my car to gain traction.  Half way to my van the ATV ran out of gas.  The same school bus passed the other way, with children that we knew.  It was quite embarrassing.  At just that moment Mike pulled up to save the day.  Another vehicle with two men stopped to help as well.  So little ol’ me stood on the side of the road watching the others get me out of this pickle and I couldn’t help thinking there needs to be a bumper sticker that proclaims “Will Brake For Weeds”.

Stinging nettles are even more nutrient dense than spinach and high in minerals. They can be dried for tea or sautéed and used like spinach. They sting when fresh though!
Mallow is loaded with minerals and can be added to spring dishes like quiche.

I think more than anything, more than gathering food from the wild or making healing concoctions in the kitchen, recognition of the “weeds” and plants on my homestead is just one more way that I can marvel at God’s beauty and healing in creation.

Peace and blessings,

Angela

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