Eat your weeds

For some reason, when I am interested in something and thinking about it, the universe seems to send me information. I know that sounds silly, but it is weird how often that seems to happen. About two weeks ago I wrote about mowing and how we really need less grass. Since then I have read so many things that are related to my need to have less grass. The first thing I found was Erin’s post about what she is doing to her yard to eventually have no grass to mow, which includes planting only perennials. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some grass. It is nice to have some to put out a blanket for a picnic. Although, after seeing the pictures on her blog I see how no grass looks and it does look lovely.

In my searches I found some interesting reads, such as this article about edible landscaping. Now, I’m not sure I’m ready to forage and eat wild things, but it’s definitely an interesting idea and a way to let things go wild. I already knew dandelions were edible. You can eat the greens, and according to Scott the Farmer, the flowers are pretty tasty if you deep fry them. The kids love dandelions, or “dandy lions” as they call them, and pick them for me all the time. They are pretty when they are yellow and the seeds are fun to make a wish on. I thought they weren’t so pretty when the seeds spread and all that is left is the reddish stems. However, today when we were driving up the lane, I noticed these pretty splotches of rust colored something which turned out to be these reddish stems of the dandelions. So they can be pretty, even after the yellow flower is gone. Besides, there’s no way to totally get rid of the dandelions around here without the use of heavy chemicals since they are everywhere. So I am trying to make peace with the dandy lions. 

Then Deborah at Antiquity Oaks wrote about natural lawn care and how she wants to really cut down on the use of the gas powered equipment. They have a scythe and goats. She moves her goats around in a movable electric fence. Apparently using goats is gaining in popularity since Deborah mentioned in the comments to her post that you can type in “google” and “goats” to a search engine and read about how Google has been using goats to mow and cut down on weeds. Really, just type those into a search bar and you will find plenty of articles to read. Onen commenter suggested that the founders of Google probably got the idea from another company that has done it for a long time. So, the idea is nothing new for farmers and homesteaders, and is apparently not that new for companies, either. Some combination of cows, sheep, and goats is in our future, and not just for lawn care. 

A copule of days later, Tom bought me the latest issue of Hobby Farm Magazine for Mother’s Day. It, too, had an article called “Food Foraging: Wildings you can eat.” Guess what that article is about? Apparently you can eat may apples (Erin, those pictures I took that you said looked like May apples definitely are!), but only when ripe. You can eat wild carrots, but you have to be careful not to confuse it with hemlock, which is highly poisonous. There are many other examples in the article and the website has a Safe Foraged Food Guide.

The final article I saw was while rereading Radish Magazine. There was a short, informative article about invasive, but edible garlic mustard plant. There were even a couple of recipes. Now that I think about it, there was an article about foraging in Mother Earth News. After searching for the article in my memory, I found the following:

Have I mentioned how much I love this magazine? I found all these articles, but not the one I had in mind (I remember what the picture looked like). I didn’t find it in Mother Earth News because it was in an issue of Vegetarian Times, and is called “Sink Your Teeth Into Foraging”

Foraging for wild foods is not exactly the same thing as getting rid of grass or even replacing it, but the ideas definitely overlap. You can get rid of grass by letting wild things grow, especially edible wild things. So many “weeds” are actually edible plants or have medicinal uses. Stinging nettles are a great example. I wouldn’t want to walk through a patch of them, but Scott the Farmer says they are also edible. Sometimes I wonder if he is pulling my leg, but so far he hasn’t. Stinging nettles are indeed edible and have medicinal uses, including conditioning your hair and getting rid of dandruff.

Replacing grass is good for the environment as it cuts down on gas usage for mowers and weed eaters. Replacing grass with plants that can be eaten, used medicinally, and/or grow back every year is good for your pocketbook and for the environment. As Erin says, selling annuals is a big business. It also cannot good for the environment since the seeds or plants would have to be shipped to nurseries. Also, the potting soil that nurseries use is made up of several ingredients, so who knows where those come from or how far away they come from. 

Now I know this post is already quite long, but to sum it up, it seems that there are several things you can do to replace grass. You can let it go completely wild, you can replace grass with perennials, edible weeds, medicinal plants, herbs and/or a garden. You can plant more trees and put a big circle of mulch or bark around the bases of the trees. If you have a few acres, you can plant an orchard or mini-orchard and grow your own fruit. It’s a good idea to plant things native to your area, whenever possible. Those plants will be best adapted to the soil, climate, and local animals. Also, try to use plants that attract bees, birds, and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs.

If you live in town and have a small yard, it should be fairly easy to replace a lot of your grass, though there may be regulations for weed control. If you don’t want to eat your dandelions, you can plant perennials and other ground covers instead. If you live in the desert and don’t want grass, there are alternatives to “desert landscaping” which is basically just a yard of rocks! We did have a couple of neighbors in Phoenix who had yards of wildflowers and other desert plants. I suppose they had rocks, too, but not just rocks. In the desert, going with native plants makes a lot of sense because it also saves on water usage. I always thought it was silly, not to mention a ton of work, to have grass in the desert. If you have a few acres or more, you can certainly keep some grass (or in the desert let your land go wild) and use it as pasture. Animals turn grass into foood, and even if you are a strict vegan, you could still raise sheep and goats for their wool.

Once you have less grass, you can go really low tech to decrease your gas consumption by using a reel mower, a scythe, or moving your animals around to mow for you. If you have a lot of acres, that might take some time, but I can personally say that is my goal. It will take some time to replace our grass, but it’s a lot better idea than my original idea.

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8 Responses to “Eat your weeds”

  1. Camille Says:

    Can I just tell you how much I really love reading your blog. I don’t get to it all of the time, but I usually spend hours catching up… I really could read it for hours and have! 🙂

    I miss you tons. xo

    • hippygirl Says:

      You know I love your blog, too. I’d love you to post more, but I totally know why you can’t! You are one busy mama. 🙂

  2. Local food (and a few recipes) « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

    […] P. S. While searching for rhubarb recipes, I found this blog entry, which has recipes for dandelions, including a video on how to make dandelion fritters. I still have not tried dandelions (and I think it’s too late in the season at this point, also), but it seemed to go well with last week’s post. […]

  3. Erin Says:

    Awesome post! I haven’t had time to do much reading lately, finally got to this. LOVE your ideas of edible wild plants…we are encouraging several wild edibles in our yard (did you know that daylilies are edible? Their roots even look like potatoes but I haven’t gotten around to tasting them yet :). I haven’t reconciled to the usefulness of garlic mustard though…I know it is edible but is it SO invasive I just rip it out and toss it in the weed pile. I def. want to check out some of the articles you mentioned. Thanks for condensing all this info into one post!

    • hippygirl Says:

      Thanks! I did work hard on that post so it’s good to know that someone liked it. I’d like to read more about it and write another post, but it will have to wait, I think. I do know the kids have been sucking the purple clover that grows since Tim showed them how to do it. Aidan says it’s sweet as honey and they love it. So that’s a start. Maybe next spring when I work up the courage to eat nettles or dandelion greens, they won’t think I’m such a freak. haha.

  4. Tammie Says:

    Wonderful article. I love eating weeds and wild plants and so enjoy reading about other folks being interested in this as well.

    • hippygirl Says:

      Tammie, thanks for your comment. I have to work up my nerve to try nettles or dandelion greens, but the thought is in the back of my mind for sure! 🙂 Right now I’m just busy learning about foraging. 🙂

  5. freeharvest Says:

    hi hippygirl…thanks for your post. i enjoyed it. if you’re trying to learn wild edibles checkout my post mentioning a few good books. also, please feel free to bounce any questions off me. thanks

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