You might be thinking … Wonderful? Weeds? Really!!!
But yeah I think they are wonderful, not just in how they conquer and adapt to situations but beyond their lesson in persistance, they have some great atributes that holistic gardeners can utilize.
We all know that nettles can be made into a nutritious spring soup and that nettle tea or the leaves fermented in a bucket or barrel provides a nutritious meal in the form of a foliar feed for the herbaceous border …. But did you know that the same fermented concoction will provide an insecticide for treating not just aphids but also lice that infect pets and people.
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) all be it poisonous and rampant, indicates fertile soil and attracts beneficial insects. It Is rich in Iron and makes a great foliar feed. A decoction of roots and plant parts imparts a healing soak for chapped hands.
Hairy bitter cress (Cardamine hirsute) is far from poisonous and makes a tangy salad crop that is a sweeter alternative to watercress.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) Has edible Aerial parts that can be gathered in summer for use as an Herbal condiment. Dried or fresh it is suitable as a stuffing and seasoning of dishes that require a bitter spice. Back when Irish monks were educating the world and saving civilization it was cooked as a vegetable and utilized to improve metabolism and stimulate appetite.
Other Monastic vegetables include
Fat hen. (Chenopodium album) a potherb noted for its high content of b1 and b2 calcium, iron and as a source of protein. All in Quantities considerably higher than found in spinach or cabbage. Incidentally, Fat hen’s cousin ‘good king Henry’ (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) is cultivated as a spinach-like crop and populates many herbals and books about herbs.
Ground elder. (Aegopodium podagraria) another spinach-like offering, delicious simmered in butter, that has the benefit of being Remedial to Gout, intestinal diseases and conditions of the kidney and bladder. Compresses of the crushed leaves can be applied to cuts and abrasions of the skin as well as inflamed areas caused by arthritis and gout. It has the vernacular name of ‘gout weed’.
In the pantheon of remedial weeds are
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) of which the herbalists praise as a spring tonic as it causes the body to eliminate uric acid but what they never tell you is it is one of the few Non potassium-depleting diuretics. Dandelion is Remedial to all forms of water retention, poor digestion, indigestion, heartburn and pregnancy constipation. The plant has an affinity with the female reproductive system. Consumption of the plant is linked to reductions in serum cholesterol. The sap is a cure for warts.
Couch Grass (Apropyron repens) contains mucilage and agropyrene; which is noted as an antibiotic. Traditionally it was used in anti-infective poultices. It is Diuretic and has been utilized for urinary tract and bladder infections – its healing action is soothing and cleansing.
The lawn Daisy (Bellis perennis) is a purposeful plant too, once the feature of many herbals but losing favour over the years to other herbs with more potent attributes, it is still one of the best plants for providing petals that soaked in bathing water condition the skin.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) are known as a lymphatic and urinary tract clenser and in holistic circles decoctions and poultices of the Areil parts of the plant are used for everything from psoriasis to cancer theraphy. If cleavers are present in your garden it indicates fertile soil. Cleavers is a natural Dyestuff with roots yielding a red dye. Red dye is also source from the roots of Dock Sorrel (Rumex acestosa) while Broad leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) provides yellow. Dandelion, nettles and bramble also provide dyes.
Many Weeds are dynamic accumulators of minerals and trace elements that will boost your composting endeavours, including nettle tops, Dandelion foliage and boiled up docks.
Far from the enemy weeds may be the true gardeners friends:
Docks for stings and bites and even the dreaded Field bindweed (convolvulus arvensis) acts as a magnet for hoverflies and ladybirds to come and devour any aphids that may be about their pernicious sap sucking. All of the weeds mentioned here attract various lepidoptera and pollinating insects. Many encourage birds to the garden to dine on their seeds. Weeds are the natural fist option for caterpillars and foliage munching insects and so help spare your ornamentals.
My personal favourite of all the weeds are buttercups (Creeping, Ranunculus repens & Bulbous, Ranunculus bulbosus), those natural colorants of Irish butter. As I recall they were always the most useful… Helping you get a first kiss while you checked for a fondness for butter. Try one under your sweethearts chin today.