If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em

Our house was built in 1991. A cute little cottage on five beautifully wooded acres in the foothills of Lazy Mt. According to our neighbors, the original owners had landscaped the yard beautifully. I could see some of the remnants of flowers and berries mixed in with 10+ years of neglect. I have been battling weeds and tree shoots since we moved in!

While doing research on how to naturally eradicate these weeds, I kept running across articles suggesting there are many

Photo by Kim Neill

of these weeds that can be used for medicinal and edible purposes. I will be sharing a few ideas for the most prominent weeds in my yard. The information here is not intended to cure any medical problems and the reader is encouraged to do their own research before using these plants for medicinal purposes.

Horsetail Equisetum arvense

I will start with Equisetum arvense because it is everywhere in my yard. I feel like I am in a constant battle with it. Horsetail is very high in silica and can be used to clean pots and pans and garden tools. It can even help sharpen your hoes and trowels. I am an avid reader of Jeff Lowenfels’ column in ADN. He suggested using horsetail tea to help your crops combat pests. I have used it as a soil drench for my tomato plants and they do seem like they have fewer damaged leaves.

Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

Photo by Kim Neill

My grandmother made the best salad from dandelion greens. She actually bought them from a produce stand because her yard and gardens were totally dandelion free! She dressed them in a sour cream vinegar dressing that I still use today. The flowers make a delicious wine. Dandelion tea can be used as a diuretic, appetite stimulant and can settle an upset stomach. The steamed leaves have also been applied to joints to relieve arthritis. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, C and B6. They are also a good source of calcium and iron.

Plantain Plantago spp.

Photo by Kim Neill.

Plantago spp. is loaded with iron and other minerals. Although all parts of the plant are edible, the tender young leaves in the spring are especially delicious. Lightly browned in a bit of olive oil, they have a nutty flavor.

Plantain salves, applied to rashes or bug bites, relieves the itch. The Aleut people used the infused root of plantain as a tonic and the Alutiiq used the leaves in a poultice for skin trouble as explained in the Medicinal Plants of Alaska Natives. They also wrapped the leaves around their feet overnight to heal cracked skin and bunions.

Photo by Kim Neill

Pineapple Weed Matricaria matricarioides

Pineapple weed tea is especially soothing. Be cautious how much you use though as it can have a laxative effect! It has also been said to help with menstrual cramps and hangovers (maybe from the dandelion wine.) It can be used in salads but can become bitter once flowering. Pineapple weed is also a natural insect repellent.

Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium

This is my favorite weed of all! I allow a few to grow in my flower bed because they are so beautiful. They add color all through the season. Perhaps my favorite foods made from Epilobium angustifolium are jelly and fireweed honey and ice cream. The blossoms add lovely color to salads and applied to frosted cakes for a unique decoration. The fibers of the stems can be used as an insect repellent or to draw out skin infections.

Photo by Kim Neill
Photo by Kim Neill

These are just a sampling of the weeds I have made the best of. It helps me feel like they have a purpose other than overtaking my gardens, flower beds and yard. There are as many uses for weeds as there are weeds themselves. The internet and library are full of articles and books that provide more helpful information along with pictures for identification. Picking the wrong weed could have disastrous results! As I stated earlier, do your research before ingesting wild plants.

About kkneill
I live in Palmer, AK in the foothills of Lazy Mt. I am currently a student in the Master Gardener class through UAF. I have been gardening by trial and error for most of my adult life. Plop a seed in some dirt and cross my fingers has worked pretty well so far but not as efficient as I would like it to be. I am looking forward to learning so much more!

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2 thoughts on “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em”

  1. I’ve been getting more interested in using weeds, and have many friends who make things like dandelion and fire weed jelly. I attended the Calypso Farm Open House this year and tried some Chickweed Pesto. Apparently it grows in abundance on their property, so they decided to make use of it.

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