There are many useful weeds or herbs. Three of my favorites are Dandelion, Plantain and Milkweed.
When spring arrives in my yard I look forward to the return of the Dandelion. Yes, I know this time of year strikes fear in many people trying to control this spunky spreading weed. But I love the color they bring to the yard and all the wonderful uses of the Dandelion. You can even order Dandelion seeds in some of the gardening catalogs.
Dandelion is also known as priest’s crown. The dandelion is one of the most useful and perhaps most misunderstood of common edible weeds. The dandelion is claimed to have six times more vitamin C and double the calcium found in garden lettuce. It is widely used for diuretic properties. Dandelion consumption is also said to reduce serum cholesterol and uric acid.
The roots, crowns and tops of the dandelion are edible.
I use the young greens of the dandelion in the spring. They grow more bitter as they get older and when they are mowed. The first frost can revive their sweetness so they can be harvested again. I also dry dandelion and crumble it and use it as a salad garnish and in tea mixes. Dandelion heads can be deep-fried and my favorite is making Dandelion Jelly. It tastes like honey and is a wonderful treat!
The dandelion is also a close cousin of the chicory root and thus can be used to stretch a supply of coffee.
Plantain is also known as lamb’s tongue, ribgrass or ripple grass. It is called ribgrass because of the ribs in the leaves and the fact that when you pick it there are very strong sting-like sections in the ribs that make it tough to break and tear. It can be found in open fields and high-traffic areas.
On my property it is all over and I have many different varieties; both the lower laying variety with broad leaves and the variety that grows taller with slender leaves. It also tends to pop up in just about any place where the ground is pierced, making it exceptionally unpopular with gardeners.
The young springtime leaves of this useful weed are delicious in salads and the older leaves are a soothing remedy for bee stings and bug bites when crushed and used as a poultice. I have used this for bug bites many times.
You can also use the leaves as a natural fix for a cut if you are in the woods and get injured. My nephew cut himself in the woods with a knife he was using to cut a path while we were cutting firewood. We were miles from the house so I had him grab some Plantain and wrap the cut until we could get off the hill and to real band-aids. Plantain is also dried for different uses and used often in natural cosmetics such as creams and soaps.
Milkweed has always fascinated me. When we were young we would wait until fall for the milkweed pods to open and blow the seed out and watch them fly. Milkweed is found growing in large patches in fields and roadside ditches, this late-spring/early-summer. It can be identified by its purple blooms and white sap, which is bitter and needs to be boiled away. The buds are edible in spring both before and after blooming — as are the very early shoots. Milkweed buds and flowers can be a nice addition to soups and stews. I myself have not used the milkweed as an edible plant, although I know many who do.
What I like about this plant is its crafting purposes! I collect them and use them in arrangements. I dry the pods and use them for crafting. (They make great Christmas decorations and are wonderful tied on packages.) I also tie them on a wire base and make wreaths.
Many weeds have various uses and it’s equally as fun to hunt for them as to use them.