To be weed or not to be a weed? That is the question…

There are “weeds” that run riot in gardens yet are left there by gardeners because the flowers attract bees, or because they’re edible or even a great wild herb.  So when is a weed not a weed?

On clearing a big patch in the veg bed for sowing veg seeds (from the Oxford Permaculture “Seedy Sunday” seed swap at Barracks Lane Community Garden) – we faced a quandary..

Some favourite urban foraging finds have made themselves home in the veg patch – sticky weed/cleavers/gallium aparine sits next to last year’s kale, garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata – a good runner for the plant with the best harry-potter-spell related latin name) stands proudly tall and straight next to the rosemary bush and dandelion flowers awash the grass around the bed with sunshine yellow.

A veg patch is to grow food to eat, (the rest of the garden is wild for whatever else wants to grow) so it was easy to decide to:
– leave the garlic mustard in, until the top leaves taste too bitter, when I can replace them with seedlings that are old enough to go outdoors.
– Use the cleavers can make tinctures * for illnesses a change in season often brings and soothing teas for the cold nights, &
– Use the dandelions, whilst in full bloom for making cordial* – ready for summer or dandelion jelly* for toast whilst we wait for strawberries and early summer fruit to come in for more jamming.

Are you pulling up weeds that can be added to your harvest basket? Look out for these easy-to-spot 3 forageable goodies….
Image   photo garlic mustard  dlion

Remember to only forage where there is an abundance, and not to pick more than a 1/3 of the plants you find in any one area. If you were going to pull them all out anyway then it’s different, but think about the bees!

Don’t pick anything if you aren’t sure you know what it is! And definitely don’t eat it or offer it to others if you aren’t sure!
Our tips for being sure on the greens above:
* Sticky weed will stick to your clothes and have weak roots
* Garlic mustard when rubbed in your hands or crushed slightly will give off the smell of garlic

If you’re interested in foraging and learning about lesser known edible “weeds” and plants, Abundance’s foraging group will beare always keen to have more people joining in. At the moment they’re doing lots of recces to find the best spots, and then will soon be running a skill-share. If you want to have a look at the photos from the last recce, please look at the Abundance Oxford facebook group and look out for an upcoming blog post…

If you’ve got foraging skills to share and know your Chickweed from your Fat Hen** then please email with FORAGING in the title, to join the foraging group, or why not come to meet some members at the Abundance Social (every 4th Tuesday of the month, at The Star, 6:15pm – 9:30pm, the next one is 22nd April)  

* Disclaimer: We’ve not yet tried any of the recipes we’ve linked to, so if you try them, please let us know how they turn out! We’ll hopefully be trying some recipes very soon so we can post in full some tried and tested ways of using up the weeds you might otherwise have pulled out. In the meantime, remember to only pick a maximum of the third of the dandelions in any one space, to leave plenty for the bees!

** It’s relatively easy to tell Chickweed from Fat Hen, they look rather dissimilar, the reason for their comparison is more for the poultry pun… (Fat Hen is also known as Lambs Quarters)




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