More Weeds to Let Grow in Your Garden
If you were able to embrace my ideas in a previous article, Weeds You Should Let Grow in Your Garden, then I have more weeds to let grow in your garden now! If you are embracing your weeds then I know you are a courageous soul and you are ready for more!
Remember that the wild plants we are talking about in this article are called weeds for a reason. They tend to be hardy growers and can pop up in areas of our gardens that we didn’t intend for them to grow in. So why not create a space to give some weeds–er, wild plants 😉 — to grow and go wild?! You don’t have to let the wild plants grow wherever they want to. I have planted numerous flowers just for their beauty that have reseeded and become weeds in my flower beds. Weeds are just plants growing out of place. So create a place for our wild friends and call it your wild plant garden! If you’re living in a neighborhood and care about what your neighbors think, well, bless your heart, you may need to make your wild patch in the backyard.
Disclaimer: Only eat weeds that you have correctly identified. If you have any doubt, throw it out. Always look up lots of photos and compare with any poisonous look-alike plants. Asking a local expert is the best way to know for sure. None of my suggested uses should be considered medical or dietary advice. It is up to the reader to research and get professional help as needed.
Here are Seven More Weeds to Let Grow in Your Garden
Amaranth, Amaranthus spp., is my new edible “weed” that I learned about last year. We bought a load of manure that wasn’t as composted as we thought it would be, and with it came a plethora of amaranth seeds apparently, because they popped up wherever we put the manure. These particular amaranths had large thorns and I didn’t want them to reseed, so I didn’t let them go to seed.
If you do let them grow to seed stage, though, you can harvest them as the seeds are highly nutritious and the cultivated varieties are becoming a rather prized grain substitute. The young leaves are delicious raw or cooked and are especially high in vitamins A, K, C, and folate. Read more about the nutritional facts for amaranth leaves at skipthepie.org. These plants can grow tall and somewhat bushy. I recommend harvesting the leaves when they are young and just keep harvesting through summer until it bolts.
I remember eating the “cheese wheels” off of the Common Mallow, Malva vulgaris, plant when I was a girl. It is the developing seed pod and it has a very mild flavor. I don’t remember who told me I could eat these, but I remember horrifying the neighbor kids at my audacity to eat a plant out of the yard. I know now that the leaves of the plant are edible and are also delicious, especially when young.
It seems to me that this plant loves fall and it’s fun to have some green leaves to eat even after the weather is too cold for growing other vegetables. These are low growing plants so are fine to let grow between other plants or rows. The whole plant is medicinal. The mucilage in this plant–leaves, roots and all–are healing to the lungs and digestive tract providing a moist coating to the dry and irritated membranes. The leaves can be dried for tea or cut up and added to soups. For more ideas check out Superfoods for Super Health.
You can tell from the name that this is indeed related to the Marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis: the plant that people originally used to make marshmallows. The marshmallows today do not have real marshmallow root in them, but you can make your own from the root of the marshmallow plant if you want to.
By nettles, I mean the dreaded stinging nettles, Urtica dioica. Gasp! I know. Twenty years ago as I dug those puppies up out of my flower bed I would have told you that keeping them in your garden is crazy. They hurt! But they are one of the most nutritious plants out there. Now that I want them, I’ve had a hard time finding them. I resort to buying them dried online from which I make nourishing herbal infusions and add to soups. Really, no one even knows they’re in there. You’re going to want to pick nettles gingerly or wear thick gloves, and then either dry, blanch or cook them. All of those methods will take the stinging effect away. I did watch a video of someone eating the leaves right off the plant by rolling them up just right, but I think I’ll pass.
I have actually started these from seed in a pot. This is the second year and the young leaves are coming out here in this photo. This is actually a great time to eat the leaves, but any time before they bloom is good.
There are other kinds of nettles that are edible and nutritious and they don’t have the stinging hairs on them. Two that grow in my area are Wood Nettles and Dead Nettles. Get to know the nettles in your area! I will say that nettles can look similar to other plants as they are growing up and before they bloom, so the stinging hairs of the Stinging Nettle are actually a very accurate way to tell that you have found the right plant and it is safe to eat! Blessings really are disguised sometimes.
Cleavers, Galium aparine, also known as bedstraw, goosegrass and a myriad of other names, is a fun plant to get to know and great fun for kids! When you find it, you will know immediately why it is called cleavers–because it cleaves to you like velcro! It has little hairs on it that stick to your clothes and to other plants that you’re adding to your basket. It seems to love it in bright shade in my yard at the base of trees and the edge of the woods.
Cleavers is a very fibrous plant and is best used or preserved fresh. You want the plant juice, so juicing it is one option. You can also blend the whole thing and strain the juice out, which is what I have done. Cleavers is excellent for clearing and supporting your lymphatic system and is a mild diuretic. To preserve the juice, known as a succus, to take throughout the year, you can add 25% alcohol and keep it in the refrigerator or another cool place. If you prefer, you can dry Cleavers to make tea, but be sure to use it up in a few months to get the most benefits out of it.
Garlic Mustard is considered an invasive species in some areas, but if you go to pull it all out, why not enjoy it! The whole plant is edible and it very good tasting up until the summer is hot, which is when it turns bitter. You can add the whole green and tops into your pot of cooked greens or soup and the flowers into your salads to add a garlic-y taste. Of course, these greens are very nutritious as other cultivated and wild mustard greens. The root is also edible and tastes mildly like horseradish.
Ground Ivy, also known as Creeping Charlie and other names, is a wild ground cover in the mint family which offers beautiful little purple flowers in late spring through early summer. If you let it grow, Ground Ivy will fill in between your plants and create a pretty mat of green leaves that comes up early in the year and stays green until a deep frost. While edible, Ground Ivy isn’t everyone’s favorite flavor. It’s safe to taste, so go ahead and see if you like it.
If you’re interested in herbal medicines, then it is worth knowing that well-known herbalist Henriette Kress has found it to be amazing at healing even stubborn tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Others use it for stomach and menstrual cramps, too. For this you could make a tincture, as I have done, to preserve it and to draw out its medicinal properties. Some herbalists also infuse it into vinegar to use on salads and cooked greens or dry it to make a medicinal tea.
I can’t grow Red Clover in my yard because the deer quickly eat it down. Along with violets, it seems to be one of their favorites. The deer have good instincts because Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, is nutritious and has been historically used as an alterative–an herb that improves general health! It is also being used successfully for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, to relieve hot flashes and PMS and even in alternative anti-cancer treatments for certain cancers. Red Clover has so many nutritional and medicinal uses that it is a plant ally worthy of our attention!
I drink Red Clover in my Nourishing Herbal Infusion blend regularly. The blossoms are also a lovely addition to any herbal tea combination. Pick the Red Clover flowering tops and lay them on a sheet pan to or screen to dry. These will last all year for you to enjoy. Read more about why I drink nourishing herbal infusions and you should, too.
What wild plants do you have in your yard?
Curiosity is a great motivator and is why I started learning about the plants around me. I wondered what a certain flower or plant was in the yard, and when I looked them up, I was amazed at how many of the plants we call weeds were either medicinal or edible–or both! So I have just kept learning as I have had time. It’s so empowering to know these uses and to be able to make your own natural healing balms, tinctures and teas!
You can do it, too! I encourage you to get out and walk around your yard, neighborhood or local park. See what you can find. Be a detective and learn about the amazing and miraculous plants that are all around you. You will start to look at your yard and plants differently and not be quite so annoyed by the weeds growing out of place. And who knows? You may even find more weeds to let grow in your garden!
You may also like my articles, Extensive Visual Guide to Common Edible Flower Blossoms, Coltsfoot Honey and St. John’s Wort Oil.