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10 Weeds Worth Growing

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10 Weeds Worth Growing

“What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878

 

Keeping your garden tidy can seem like a never-ending duel between you and the crafty undomesticated plants we call weeds. But don’t forget that the ancestors of every common garden plant were once considered weeds themselves. That was until we discovered their merits and began to mold and tame their wild ways to suit our culinary or agricultural preferences.

Many plants that are still classified as weeds though have received a bad reputation due to their ability to quickly cultivate the barren earth. But was fertile soil really meant to be left bare?* Could it be that weeds are serving a much-needed purpose in your garden or lawn? And could it be that these pesky weeds are in fact just as nutritious, or more so, than the plants you’re “protecting” from them?

Let’s explore what some of these “pesky” common weeds have to offer for both your health and the health of your garden.

*Much of the nutrients in soil are lost to the elements when the ground is left bare, either by being baked out (by the sun) or washed out (by rain.)

NB: Although many weeds are beneficial to have in your garden, I am not recommending that you simply let them run rampant. Having a beautiful healthy garden is about maintaining a balance between protecting and nourishing the soil and managing the growth of all the plants you are caring for. We still weed our garden selectively, after the weeds have had a chance to break up and fertilize the soil.

 

“A weed is but an unloved flower.”

~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

This is my personal favorite weed. It is soft to step on, has beautiful flowers and protects and fertilizes soil at the same time.

Clover [Trifoliu]:

Companion plant for: Brassica (cabbage and its cousins like broccoli and cauliflower), corn, cucurbits (cucumber, squash, melons, gourds). Along with clover’s ability to bring nitrogen back into depleted soil (hosts nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its roots) clover also benefits many plants by stabilizing the moisture around their roots. 

Edibility: Clover is a high-protein legume, but is not generally eaten, although it is a viable food source.

Advisory: Do not grow near nightshades (tomato, pepper, eggplant).

———————–

This plant can overtake a garden quickly, but you get even by simply eating it.

Japanese Knotweed [Fallopia japonica]:

Companion plant for: Unknown. This is classified as a noxious weed and is unwise to plant purposely.

Attracts/hosts: Butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Edibility: This weed is edible and easy to harvest. Simply break off the new shoots and the top four inches of larger plants. They can be sautéed or grilled like asparagus. This plant is also compared to rhubarb and can be used in the same fashion.

Advisory: Do not intentionally plant this in your garden as it can quickly take over. Best to harvest for dinner if you see it growing on your property.

———————–

Stinging nettles are nutritious, make a wonderful fertilizer for your garden and contain many medicinal properties.

Nettles [Urtica Dioica]:

Companion Plant for: Broccoli, tomato, Valarian, mint, fennel.

Attracts/hosts: Bees.

Edibility: Despite its “sting”, much of the plant is edible, when blanched, steamed or dried. Stinging nettles are an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. They have been used to treat conditions like arthritis and seasonal allergies for many years.

Advisory: It is best to carefully dig this weed out of the garden (with gloves on) and keep it in a pot. Although this plant is worth having around, its sting is still painful.

Next: Dandelion, Plantain and more!

Japanese Knotweed photo by: thelazygardener

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

370 comments

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3:12AM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

Thank you :)

2:48AM PDT on Sep 3, 2014

ty

5:13AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Just skimmed through all 368 comments and fascinated that only one (other) person called you on the uses of purslane.

What did you MEAN to write where the computer printed "gastrula intentional gastro-intestinal disorders"?

2:58AM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

This was a 'hit & miss' of an article, as only a few of these are tasty and common. The inclusion of vetch was really weird, as it's considered a cover crop only.

I LOVE purslane and the even better lamb's quarters, which wasn't mentioned, is widely dispersed, and very easy to distinguish. These are among Spring's earliest and most beneficial pot herbs.

Pull lamb's quarters when no more than 12" high, long before it sets flower buds. Rinse it well, chop into 2" to 3" long pieces, and STEAM it very gently. When it turns from greyish-green to a distinctly green hue, it's likely done. Lavish it w/unsalted butter w/a light sprinkle of sea salt and oink out! It's FAR better than spinach, and has NO oxalic acid!

Go to http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/surprising-lambs-quarters/ for a good overview w/photos.

5:46AM PDT on Sep 7, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:39AM PDT on Sep 7, 2013

Rabbits are not the only pet that enjoys dandelion, tortoises do too :) I've always known ground ivy as creeping Charlie, and I also did not know it had medicinal uses. Thanks!

1:42AM PDT on Aug 9, 2013

None of these weeds really grow in my suburb but I do have a lot of ground Ivy, native violets (also edible), dandelion and clover growing as weeds!

There are others, including cobbler's pegs/farmer's friends (their seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids), nasturtiums (leaves and flowers can be eaten), sowthistle (flowers look similar to dandelion), and wood sorrel. Try google images!

3:57PM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

Thanks for the info!

4:08AM PDT on Jun 9, 2013

Thank you Alisa, for Sharing this!

9:42PM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Thanks

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