Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chickweed Lookalike and Pockets of Edibility

Pockets of edibility among the weeds: taro, burdock, green onions, Swiss chard. 

Butterfly on the Mexican Sunflower.
The garden is shaggy, but pretty.
If you ask me what I grow in the community garden plot that I share with my friend Suzanne, I would give you a blank stare. Mostly weeds, some asparagus, and taro, I would say. 

Burdock volunteers that grew from the seeds of
another overgrown burdock in a past garden life. 

But after two months of negligence, I finally dragged my derriere to the plot at Hali'imaile and discovered pockets of edibility:  taro that ought to have been pulled out two months ago while my mom was in the hospital, burdock volunteers, some Swiss chard being attacked by a pest, green onions, a leek, some very pathetic and small beets, raging hordes of mint and what looked like chickweed, as well as lettuce gone wild. The plant equivalent of girls gone wild: leggy, bolting, overgrown lettuce in its reproductive phase with tufts of small white flowers. The lettuce is super bitter, as bitter as all get out

Salad anyone? Bitter, bolting lettuce.
I'll try to plant some of the seeds as an experiment. 

The green onions turned out to be very sharp, like regular onions with a bite, strong enough to open up nasal passages. I pulled out handfuls of mint and the chickweed lookalike, which I thought I would make into tea. Or maybe chop up the mint and freeze with a little water in ice cube trays to use for tabouli. Mint does not store well in the refrigerator. Like basil, the leaves turn black.

There was a vigorous and towering specimen of the Hawaiian Spanish Needle, Bidens genus. I ended up taking that home to make a medicinal tea out of, along with some Bala, another ayurvedic weed good for elevating the mood especially during times of stress and hormone fluctuations. At least, that's what I remembered from class with David Bruce Leonard.

 I think this is considered a "native" or endemic Hawaiian
variety of Spanish needle (genus Bidens)
The crown looks different from other Spanish needles. Ok, maybe it's not native, since it does have "hitchhikers," little needles that stick like velcro. 

When the garden is this sloppy, I try to salvage the edibility and usefulness from the plants that are growing there. It's a variation on growing what one eats: eating what grows. In my case, what was growing was a lot of weeds, of medicinal value, and overgrown veggies. 

Bala, an ayurvedic name for this plant. Can make tea from it. 

I ended up pulling up all the taro in a quest to find one big taro tuber. Each tuber was very small, which depressed me, so I pulled up another taro plant, to find another small tuber. And so on, until I had cleared the entire taro patch and was very depressed. I had simply let the plants go on too long, and they needed to have been harvested a while ago when the tubers were bigger. So I ended up bringing many small taro tubers home, to justify my taro-istic activities. 

Not chickweed! Scarlet Pimpernel plant running amok through my plot. 

Underside of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which does have dots, as mentioned in the plant identification site I used. 

The chickweed turned out to be a more toxic cousin, the Scarlet Pimpernel, so I'm glad I did not end up making tea from it. While the Scarlet Pimpernel may have some medicinal value in the hands of skilled herbalist,  I have already had enough herbal mishaps to know my limits.  By the way, if you are experimenting with making  teas or concoctions out of medicinal weeds, make sure to do your research first. Don't automatically believe anything I say!  


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