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Weed To The Wise

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Issue: 38 Section: Food Geography: Canada

June 28, 2006

Weed To The Wise

One gardener's enemy is another's dinner

by Moira Peters

dandelion2_web.jpg
Recognized in the West as a lawn and garden pest, dandelion is herbalists' top choice for treating liver damage, and is an unparallelled source of vitamin A and natural potassium.
Summers ago, when my brothers and I lived under our parents' green thumbs, our mornings were spent crouched between garden beds of carrots, corn, strawberries and spinach. With our winter survival in mind, my parents worked Cape Breton's mountain soil until neat rows of peas, peppers and Brussels sprouts marched the length of the raised earth beds. We kids, armoured with hats and bug-dope, were instructed to clear away the enemy, to rip and pull the tough invading plants -- weeds! -- from the soil. The garden -- a fantastic quarter-acre of child labour -- sprouted so many weeds! My mother's mention that lambs-quarters were actually delicious greens was lost to her demands that they come out of the asparagus patch – 'every Jesus one of them.'

Little by little, I began to pay attention to the wild plants in the garden -- plants like dandelion and chickweed -- that I had so ruthlessly ripped from the ground when they threatened to overtake the baby lettuce. I slowly discovered magic in the native plants; stubborn and wise, they survive trampled pathways and cling to the edge of my workspace. It makes sense that edible weeds are among the healthiest foods, belonging to the same soil, the same ecosystem, as we do.

One of the most satisfying moments in the garden is wandering through rows of cultivated glory to pick a summer salad for supper. My favourite is a simple mixed-green salad with generous amounts of chopped fresh herbs. Early summer is ideal for throwing them damn weeds into the salad bowl, as they are still tender and at their nutritious peak.

Weed Salad

rip:
arugula
spinach
lettuce
lambs-quarters – just the tender top whorl
chickweed
sorrel - the tiny leaves add a delightful lemon zing - be sure to pick lots

mince:
parsley
mint
basil
dandelion - young plants, roots and all, should be cleaned thoroughly of dirt and minced very finely as this weed has a powerful flavour

sprinkle:
sunny dandelion petals and sweet clover heads

add:
a simple dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt (be generous – it is important to replenish our salt reserves in the summer, and salt tones down the bitterness of dandelion) & fresh pepper

To be protein-wise, add crumbled hard-boiled egg, or left-over cooked beans and grains. Enjoy!

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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