Mid-May and with so much rain, the challenge is weeds. As an Edible Landscaper, I allow for Wild Forage food plants and medicine in all my gardens.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) is the toughest challenge. She really doesn't know how to control herself. She is sacred to Asians, Europeans and Native Americans. She can be burned and smoked in ceremony. I make a delicious vinegar with her leaves and also use them in my Wild Salad. In the past two years I have dried the leaves for tea. I have been hedge-trimming her at Flora's the last couple of weeks and I don't think she likes it so far only returning in patches. I do maintain her in sections at Flora's and Hiddenbrooke. Mugwort is good for our Moontime and to ease the Great Change (Menopause), but should not be used by pregnant women.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Biennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia, Europe) is the most dominant weed at Sargent-Downing. I did harvest two pounds of leaf once for cooked greens, but it took mighty long to remove the midrib of the leaf which can be too fibrous to enjoy. I consider it a survival food, very sweet and delicious, but too time consuming to process for a regular meal. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. The root and leaves contain mineral electrolytes and can provide energy when exercising. Spikey stalk and leaves. I have an electric mower at SDG so I just keep Bull Thistle mowed.
Ground Ivy (Glechoema hederacea, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island, Caucasus, Europe) is a beautiful blue mat of flowers in Spring. I like to have her around for her flowers, but I weed her out of the beds. She is a strong flavored green for Wild Salad and can also be used for tea, blood cleansing, tonic and diuretic. Topically, the leaves can be used for bruises and inflammation.
Stiltgrass or Sasa as a Japanese student said it is called in Japan (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Annual, South Asia, East Asia) is a new challenge in the beds. Last year completely covered Anise Hyssop and Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke, though the plants were there underneath. The young leaves are edible and sweet. I once head up Mt. Beacon (1000 ft) without food or water, bonked three quarters of the way up and there was Sasa on the side of the path beckoning me to eat her. I ate five leaves and head up to the peak, refreshed and fortified. The leaves become too fibrous later in the season.
Flora Jones Garden is my Wild Salad garden. A variety of edible wild plants occur that have beautiful flowers. Aster (Aster ericoides, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is an edible leaf with a white spray of flowers in Autumn. Aster macrophylla is also a tasty leaf with a lavender spray of flowers in autumn. Red Clover, (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Perennial, Europe) has a pink flowerhead in Summer. The leaves and flowers can be eaten in our Wild Salad both containing iron. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is much smaller and usually grown for hay. The flowers were once used to make bread.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northern hemisphere) is thought to have been brought to Turtle Island 600 years ago by the Vikings (who weren't interested in conquering). Dandelion along with Ground Ivy and Violet are the bane of the grass enthusiast. I consider their flowers a lovely addition to the boring green lawn, a symbol of wealth brought to us by the English. American lawns are considered English envy. Dandelion is like a multi-vitamin. The leaves are iron rich with vitamins A and C and minerals. The flowers can be made into a nutritious wine and the buds can be pickled. I make a Dandelion Soup with the leaves in late Spring. I am taking root tincture through menopause now to support the liver.
Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Perennial, Europe) has taken over the driveway at Flora's. Beautiful heart shaped leaves and purple flowers can both be eaten in Wild Salad. The flower and leaf can also be made into a syrup for cough, headache and is mildly laxative.
Burdock (Arctium minus, A. lappa, Asteraceae, Biennial, Turtle Island, Europe) is one of my earliest allies as I have had digestive issues throughout my life. I have taken the first year root tincture for an ulcer, used the leaves put up in vinegar topically to reduce swelling and just recently used the fresh root for tea as a Spring Tonic. The leaves grow to an arm's length and in the second year, Burdock is multi-stemmed with purple Thistle-like flowers. Those burrs on your clothes that you come home with after a hike are Burdock seed heads, the inspiration for Velcro. Our plant Family has multipe uses so when you find your Allies, research them thoroughly.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, R. crispus, Polygonaceae, Perennial, North temperate and Arctic regions). Here is a case of cultural bias as the native R. obtusifolia (the leaf has a red midrib) is rarely included in herbals while R. crispus is always included. Both plants have the same properties. An iron rich root that can be made into a decoction, especially good for women. I find R. obtusifolia most often. The seeds can be made into a vinegar. I used leaves for Nettle soup in early Spring.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Cruciferae, Biennial, North Africa, Asia, Europe). Garlic Mustard leaves taste like Garlic and the flowers and seeds taste like Mustard. A spicy addition to our Wild Salad, like Dandelion quickly flowering in Spring, but there are usually first year leaves available at the foot of the second year plants.
Field bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis var. arvensis (broadleaf), C. arvensis var. linearifolius (narrow-leaved) Convulvulaceae, Perennial, Asia, Europe). Field Bindweed is the bane of my existence the last two year's at Flora's overtaking Vetch. Related to Morning Glory (Ipomea hederacea, Convulvulaceae, Annual, Vine, Turtle Island to Argentina), Field Bindweed does contain glycosides and purgative properties. I have used the leaves of Morning Glory in salad. The dried seeds are thought to be hallucinogenic and are used in Asia for worms, constipation, as a diuretic and to stimulate menstruation. I. tricolor and I. violacea seeds have compounds similar to LSD and were used in Aztec rituals.
Vetch (Vicia americana, Leguminosae, Perennial, Turtle Island). Vetch seeds and young stems are edible, tasting like Bean Sprouts. The plants contain cyanide so use with caution. Sweet pink flowers in Summer. So prolific I was shocked when Field Bindweed overtook her. She was the first "weed to find her place at Flora's so I thought I would always have her. A succession plant lesson would be useful here.
Dare I say, if we used all of these plants mentioned here as food and medicine, they would be less invasive.