Common Weeds and Their Uses

Posted on: July 1, 2013

Sunshine Brewer is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to primitive living skills and Native American survival wisdom. She has spent her entire life learning how to live off the land. In this new blog, she will share with our readers not only quick tips and tricks but in depth information on wild edibles, medicinals, and otherwise useful plants.

The list of common weeds that are tasty may not be lengthy, however the variety of edible weeds that provide more than just food is very long. The common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), for example, provides food, a variety of home remedies including those for minor conditions like constipation, improving urinary flow and wart removal. An assortment of beverages can also be made from Dandelion including wine, breakfast beverages and specialty beers. The dried petals can be used to color other foods plus they make pretty nice beads. Chasing after and trying to catch the airborne seeds is a great way to exercise while improving one’s eye hand coordination. A reddish brown and a green dye for plant fibers can also be made from this plant.

The average untreated yard contains a wide variety of weeds that can be used for more than one thing. Allowing weeds to grow in tandem with your grass gives you a self sustaining source of food, medicine and other items that might prove useful in an emergency situation.

Many of the wild edible plants are bitter in taste. Young leaves are more palatable than older leaves. There is a trick to eating your yard with less bitterness. Snip off all the leaves and pick the newly growing ones for food. On average, a clipped Dandelion or Plantain (Plantago major or minor) will re-grow new leaves in two to three days depending on the season and geographic area. Poke (Phytolacca americana) is another quickly growing weed that is jam packed with nutrients. One cup of unsalted cooked Poke contains 33 calories and over 200% of the USDA daily requirements of Vitamins A, C and K. Poke is high in fiber, low in sugar plus it contains measurable amounts of Folate, Vitamin E and almost four grams of protein.

Regardless of where you live, weather impacts your growing season. Too wet, too dry, too little or too much rain will all impact how a garden produces. A late frost can kill fruit tree blooms, cause developing fruits and berries to drop to the ground and kill frost tender seedlings. Many times, wild plants will rebound from these conditions where domestic ones won’t. Knowing which weeds pack the most nutrition punch is an important aspect of self-sufficiency that becomes more important during an emergency survival situation.

At my house, poke seedlings seem to appear overnight and are fed in abundance to poultry as well as us. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), Chickweed (Stellaria media), Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium various species and common names), and the Plantains are also fed in abundance to all humans and the livestock. These same weeds have many other useful and beneficial properties.

Learning about the properties of the most common weeds in your area is a boon on many levels. In our geographic area, if a warm spell hits in the middle of winter it is common to find these plants sprouting leaves in a few days. Fresh greens is a welcome change from home canned and winter root foods.

One of the more challenging tasks for the self-reliant is diet fatigue. Last fall, we ate sweet potatoes and greens for months on end. There are only so many ways to prepare sweet potatoes and greens, while nutritionally valuable they can only be cooked so many ways. Salt and pepper are kitchen staples but sauce mixes are easily overlooked. A packet of cream based soup starter, dry marinade packets, and dry salad dressing mixes can make or break the “greens for dinner again?” syndrome.

Self reliant people should know their own backyards as well as the back of their hands. Anyone who is interested in emergency survival should also learn about edible, medicinal and utilitarian plants. Studying and learning the properties of one plant per week would give an individual a wealth of dietary choices plus a wide variety of dye colors for twine and an assortment of remedies for minor medical conditions.

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