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Friends or Foes? The Plants You Pull.

Kate exposes the dark side of Homewood Kitchen Gardens.

Perhaps the most sinister activity undertaken by Homewood Kitchen Gardens is our nefarious plot to make our customers eat weeds.

A weed, of course, is just a plant in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Transplant a weed from my garden to yours and it may transform miraculously from unwanted garden guest to prized VIP. But in the meantime, it’s in my garden, not yours, and it has to go. Since I don’t use herbicides, that means pulling it. If I’m lucky, it also means dinner.

There is a primeval satisfaction to eliminating weeds by eating them – and a subversive pleasure in getting other people to eat them too. At the risk of undoing three years of stealthy weed-pushing on unsuspecting H-F innocents, however, let me introduce you to a few of my favorite edible pests.

Garlic Mustard: Imported to eastern America as a culinary herb by European settlers, garlic mustard is a highly invasive plant threatening our native woodland flora. It’s also a good source of vitamins (including A, C, and E) and essential minerals.  I find it best as a cooking rather than salad green; try sautéing the leaves in olive oil & balsamic vinegar, with a little sweetness like raisins or citrus thrown in to offset the mustardy bitterness. The roots can be ground and mixed with vinegar to produce a horseradish-like sauce.

The garlic mustard (and cookbooks!) sold at HKG’s stall at the farmers market have been harvested from Irons Oaks Environmental Center and all proceeds are donated back to Irons Oaks.

Purslane: This is a wonder weed! It’s packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in brain development and may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, such as breast cancer. Since purslane is already growing through your backyard, you can get your omega-3s for a fraction of the price of walnuts or flaxseed, and without the disgusting aftertaste of cod liver oil. The flavor is mild and slightly lemony; add raw leaves to a salad or use them as a flavor additive and natural thickener in soups and stews.

Wood sorrel: You want to call it clover or shamrock, but it’s not. Wood sorrel has three heart-shaped leaves joined at a central crease, whereas clover’s leaves are round or oval. Unlike many species considered to be weeds, wood sorrel is a native American plant. Sorrel leaves have a delicious lemony tangy taste and make a lovely garnish for salads and soups. The flowers are edible, too.

Please visit Kate at the Homewood Kitchen Gardens stall at the Homewood Farmers Market, every Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm in the . Email us or find us on Facebook!

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Linda T June 06, 2011 at 02:23 AM
Last spring my oldest daughter and I timed a visit to my mom's in SW WI to coincide with a day-long wild foods and wild medicinal foods seminar - so interesting! Nettles make a nice cooked green in spring (use gloves picking them - they lose their sting after cooking.) Following the seminar we helped prepare a very nice, tasty meal that incorporated all sorts of foraged wild foods, and I got a couple of books by Samuel Thayer - Nature's Garden, and The Forager's Harvest - both are subtitled 'A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.' Both have lots of photos to help with IDing edible wild foods. I learned that even daylily tubers are edible, (in case anyone's wondering what to do with all those daylilies when they divide them and have passed as many off as they can on friends and family. ;)
Kate Duff June 06, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Linda, that sounds like a wonderful event! I first got into edible wild plants as a grad student. On camping trips, we would swirl sumac flowers in our drinking water -- the taste is similar to lemonade and disguised the flavor of the iodine we used to purify the water. The book I carried with me was a well-thumbed Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Still have it, still use it!
Resident June 07, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Wow! Good to know! I have purslane and wood sorrel in various places around my home. I will enjoy!
audrey w June 09, 2011 at 02:40 PM
It would be good to get some photo shots that aren't just closeups so that the weeds are easier to identify. When I start my weeding again, I would definitely like to give it a try.
WA Mama July 26, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Now I have to check the back yard for wood sorrel. I had a window box full of oregano every year, which was attacked and completely taken over by pineapple weed last year. Which ended up being a good thing, because come to find out, you can dry the flowers and use them for tea - smells and tastes just like chamomile! I heart my weed! (not in a police blotter sort of way...)

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